Alakazam!

Further to my post only yesterday about the proposal to revoke the implementing SI in respect of the Family Advocacy Scheme – it has already been revoked. As Tommy Cooper would have said: “Jus’ like that”.

It is said that this is an interim measure taken in light of the current position vis a vis the successful Judicial Review of the Legal Services Commission Family Contracts Tender. The MOJ says that “it reflects the fact that further consideration needs to be given to the position in the light of the judgment, and does not imply a decision by the Government not to proceed with the new schemes. It should not therefore in any way be taken as an indication as to what decisions may be reached in due course in respect of the contracts or fee schemes.”

Nice to see that, in the spirit of a unified approach to all flavours of lawyer that underpinned the FAS, the Government is so dedicated to ensuring an equal distribution of chaos and uncertainty across the breadth of the family law community in this way. Although it really wasn’t strictly necessary, because in fact the quashing of solicitor’s contracts has thrown solicitors and the bar alike into turmoil, albeit more acutely for solicitors. And solicitor advocates will of course be faced with uncertain terrain in all directions.

Sensible business planning by the legal profession is impossible in these conditions, but at one level this is nothing new. There has not been a time in my career when family legal aid was not under threat or review or when the long term future of the family bar was not a troubling question.

The original proposal was to simply extend the date for implementation by one month, but

“As the current position is that the LSC is considering the judgment and its implications (including whether or not to appeal), it was considered better to revoke SI 2010/1109 pending determination of the way forward in the light of the court’s judgment, rather than simply extending it for one month in circumstances where, depending on the ultimate decisions, SI 2010/1109 might well need to be revisited in any event. Proceeding in this way also provides space for consideration of the outcome of the recent litigation.”

Before today I’d have put a fiver on the LSC appealing the JR decision, having seen this I’m minded to chuck a tenner at it. Except I’m not sure I can afford a tenner because thanks to this little bombshell I once again have no idea what I will be earning in future. Happy days.

8 thoughts on “Alakazam!

  1. Hi,

    Re : fixed fees

    Can you let me know where I can find the legislation (or LSC statement of intent) which confirms that the planned fixed fee scheme has been put on hold / revoked pending the JR apeal/re-tender process. The LSC are not telling us anything officially – maybe in Bristol, your LSC office is more forthcoming. We need to know this so that we can cost files correctly….

    Hope you can help.

    Regards,

    Guy

  2. Provincial Solicitor

    Forgive me being a little dense (I am only a solicitor-advocate after all!) – but why are/were the FAS and new contracts linked? I simply do not understand why the FAS has fallen by the wayside.

    Unless, of course, more misery is about to be unleashed upon us…

    • Beats me. I think – in the most general of senses – they were part of the same grand plan. The same disastrous, ill thought through plan…

      At any rate the official line is that this is a postponement not a complete abandonment, but for reasons which I don’t need to spell out there is some doubt amongst almost everyone I have spoken to that this is anything other than a precursor to a reopening of the rates for advocacy. And that can only go one way I think – downwards.

      PS Pop quiz – you’re a solicitor-advocate – on a scale of 1 – 10 how annoying is it when counsel pointedly distinguish between ‘my friend’ and ‘my learned friend’? (I think I know the answer but had an interesting discussion about it at court the other day with someone rather more ‘old school’ than this comp. girl is)

  3. Provincial Solicitor

    Great question familoo!

    I think that I am probably a bit ‘old school’! I have to say that I have a very good working relationship with the local bar and appear in the local courts every day; everyone knows my status so it really isn’t an issue for me.

    I suspect that it causes more consternation to my more junior colleagues.

    The key to your question appears to be in the word “pointedly”. Frankly, I would consider such silliness would be more a reflection of a lack of confidence on the part of counsel. I have enough faith in my ability not to have to rely on such silly games. I really do not believe that lay clients even notice, still less care.

    More amusingly, I have had counsel (who I would describe as a friend as well as professional colleague) introduce me in court as Mr. Gareth, using my first name rather than surname. She ploughed on unaware, and wondered why the Judge and I exchanged a sly smile!

    So, in answer to your question, no it doesn’t bother me; but I would be interested to learn of other people’s views. It has to be better than reading about more doom and gloom!

    Keep up the good work, best blawg around.

    NB. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

    • You’re right, most clients have no clue any of this is going on – there is a whole layer of what goes on in court that is invisible to the uninitiated, which of course exposes the fact that referring to one advocate as learned friend and one as mere friend is for the benefit of the bench / the advocates – and is intended to mark oneself out from the lesser beings. I generally call all advocates MLF regardless of qualification (unless they are exceptionally un-learned when I might occasionally succomb to temptation and make an exception – in my defence at least I have insight into my weakness!). But then I shake hands and wear jogging pants around the house and write on the internet and do all manner of other things barristers are not ‘supposed’ to do. 😉

  4. Provincial Solicitor

    Shaking hands with fellow counsel…whatever next.

    And yet, somehow, the world still turns.

    Which reminds me of a an old joke – How many barristers does it take to change a lightbulb?

    Just one to hold it still while the world revolves around them!

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