Purely Economics

Today Margaret Thatcher was buried. I didn’t listen to the wall to wall coverage as I was in court, on a legal aid brief in the kind of case that would probably not attract legal aid if it commenced now (in fact there were dv issues, but I’m doubtful my client could have jumped the evidential hoops).

According to http://www.whichfuneralplans.com, the cost of the funeral will be around £10 million. As I write, George Osborne’s tear is selling on ebay for £10 million – a mere drop in the ocean compared to the recent cuts to legal aid and the level of savings the government hopes it will make (£350 million).

The Guardian Data Blog and the new Moment of Crisis blog have both pondered what else we could have done with £10 mill. They make thought provoking reading. Neither mentions legal aid.


Actually, I can’t tell you how much legal advice and representation £10 million would get you at legal aid rates. I had hoped to be able to give you a snappy stat. But the LSC is now the LAA, and the old labyrinthine but familiar website is gone and replaced with the labyrinthine and sterile justice.gov.uk where I can find even less useful information than even on the horrific LSC website. It’s like looking for a needle in a blindingly white haystack. And it’s late.

But I can tell you this. The same amount of  money we’ve spent on affording respect and dignity to the importance of one person on this one day could cover the cost of representation on many days for many people : making sure fathers are remembered, victims of violence get their dignity back, and that the rights of all are respected.

Today many mourn Thatcher. Others mourn different losses.

63 thoughts on “Purely Economics

  1. What rate do you charge for legal aid representation? Have you thought about working for less so you could continue your good work on the reduced budget?

    • Brian I charge what the Legal Aid Agency pay me, which is a fixed fee far below my actual hourly rate. Helpfully the government has given thought on my behalf to me working for less and has introduced cuts of (off the top of my head) 13% last year and 10% the year before, and 10% a couple of years before that. So I now have to work more hours to pay the same mortgage. Obviously in many areas of my work there is no legal aid to cut the rates on – because its just been completely axed from scope.

  2. Robert Whiston

    Legal Aid for women curtailed ? Well, for men it never existed yet they represent 27% of all DV victims (BCS, year after year). Baroness Scotland spent 10 years refusing to extend legal aid to assist male victims. So I guess both men and women are now equal at last – as are we all in death !

    • Of course legal aid existed for men, but men were always more likely to be over the income threshold if working, whereas women are more likely to be primary carers and therefore on restricted income. I was looking at a FOI request last night which showed a breakdown by gender and it was something like 90:70 female to male legal aid funding (sorry I can’t now locate the one I was looking at so I’m doing my best to remember).

  3. Well your focus is on legal aid subsidising lawyers wages to allegedly help people as many will see it; others might have thought £10 million would be best spent on a myriad of other charitable or other worthwhile projects than LA. So it’s a little bit of a nonsense to go through this exercise.

    Perhaps we could say the cost of the Olympics or the funding of the BBC or the extra cost of renewables could be better spent – We could go on and on…… but pointless to conflate them…

    The £10 mio figure is probably a nonsense anyway. As the 250,000 or so crowds attested to, the silent majority who have been drowned out by the vocal bitter tiny minority at times in the media will mostly think it is money well spent.

    • Chambers,
      It’s about priorities isn’t it? I was quite little when Maggie was on the throne but I remember a lot of talk about the importance of the rule of law.
      I’m not going to get drawn into a pro / anti Thatcher discussion, because whilst I have views on that it was not what the blog post was about.

  4. In the ‘adversarial’ system of the past 🙂 Legal Aid the majority of the time funded one party in private family law cases (usually the mother).

    The other party was left to fend for themselves and pay normal rates for a lawyer which was never sustainable for most fathers anyway.

    As most cases involving LA in the recent past were where money and assets were of little or no value, Legal Aid was funding one party (the mother) against the other unrepresented party (the father).

    Not particularly fair or helpful. Plus parties involved in proceedings were often forced by the system into not working or reducing their income, lying about their assets in order to qualify for LA. Now more difficult for many to do so they may very well not bother, although there is a real risk of the false allegation epidemic deepening considerably with the new rules.

    With the new ‘inquisitorial’ system coming into force 🙂 the need to continue to fund lawyer Champions with tax payers monies for one side only is limited as well as unhelpful many might say.

    Good judges (there are many of them) will be able to bang heads together and inquire of relevant matters of importance without having to go through the pantomime of lawyers putting forward their client’s nonsense claims and allegations paid for by public monies in order to delay or many times make progress excruciatingly slow.

    Result is quicker and more reasonable results plus little waste of the public purse.

    Thank goodness for the inquisitorial, good bye to the destructive and time wasting adversarial family law system 🙂

    • Chambers, You know I disagree with much of this – we’ve had this discussion before. Can’t be bothered to rehearse it again.

  5. familoo – my hourly rate is about £35/hour. I think Legal Aid for a barrister would be about £70/hour?

    If this is well below your actual hourly rate, how much do you charge normally?

    Do you think I should feel sorry for you? It might be argued that the legal profession has been too greedy and the government is putting the breaks on the gravy train.

    How do you think the legal aid rates look to a policeman or nurse who provide vital services to society?

    • No I don’t think anyone should feel sorry for me.
      But you asked the question about hourly rates, so here is the answer. I trained for three years to become a lawyer and have 10 years experience. My hourly rate on private work is probably around £150 p/h plus vat.

      So what do I get paid on legal aid? Well, if one converts the fixed fees into hourly rates it produces very variable figures – because we get paid a pretty much flat rate regardless of how much work we need to do in order to properly represent our clients. There are some uplifts for specific things but they don’t dovetail with the time spent or expertise required. So, for example – on an interim hearing in a private law children dispute we generally get paid the fixed fee of £172.40 (see table 12A). Typically we will have done at least an hours reading, drafted a case summary (say 1/2 hour), travelled for an hour plus and spent a couple of hours at court. So that’s 4 1/2 hours. That’s an hourly rate of £35 p/h from which barristers have to deduct usually around 25% chambers rent, income tax and NI, indemnity insurance, practising certificate, travel expenses (often not paid by LAA), CPD and legal library resources etc. Oh and pension (ha ha). And income protection if you can afford it (cos their ain’t no sick pay or annual leave or maternity pay). My rule of thumb is that by the time expenses and tax are deducted the bar take home about 50p in the pound. So that’s an hourly rate of around £17.50.

      Sometimes the court is only round the corner, the papers take half an hour to read and the rewards are better than this calculation suggests. Sometimes we can get an uplift to increase the fee. But more often I have 2 files of papers to read every night, and I spend the hours of 9-11pm reading those papers – often a case will take 3-4 hours to read through. Sometimes I must watch hours of DVDs or read pages and pages of transcripts, cross referencing documents. And much of the time we get paid nothing more than if we had simply shown up unprepared and winged it.

      Sometimes the hourly rate is ok. Occasionally it is more than the case warrants because of the quirkiness of a fixed fee system. But often it is barely profitable – for example where there is a vast amount of complex disclosure to grapple with, or where you do hours of pre-reading and are then out of court within half an hour of arriving because the court is overlisted and you’ve been adjourned – then you get paid £69.94. And we never know when it will be arriving in the bank account. So to those overheads I listed above – you can add overdraft charges.

      I’m not suggesting I’m on the breadline but just like doctors and nurses there has to be a pool of skilled and willing workers and you have to make it attractive enough for them to do the job. The reality is that this is our job – we work bloody hard, long unpredictable hours, often with self absorbed, rude clients, and heartbreaking emotionally draining cases. And we get it in the neck from others who think they can do the same job we do for a better hourly rate. Lawyers are not as dispensible to society as some people think they are. Just look at the Al Alas case and ask yourself if you would want to have been those parents facing those challenges without a highly skilled legal team.


  6. Even if we do not quibble about the figures and the time spent familoo. This merely show the model being used is unsustainable and it needs to be radically changed now the taxpayer is not able to throw money at it willy nilly.

    With the opening up of legal services the traditional model using solicitors and barristers is heading down the same route as the Dodo. People whether private or the taxpayers are simply not willing to fund this extravagant and wasteful system as they see it.

    It reminds me of the big bang in the City in the Thatcher era when she ripped apart the old boy’s network of privilege in the merchant banks and allowed all comers far and wide to take on these old Etonians and the ruling classes bringing in a huge growth in the financial services, jobs and tax receipts for the country. Whatever the problems relatively recently; over the last 30 years or so the monies from the City have meant the funding of profligate relatively unnecessary public services such as the huge expansion in welfare and legal aid since the 80’s. No-one can pay for it now so cutbacks are necessary and vital.

    There are twice as many or more barristers than 20 years or so as there are twice as many + solicitors – Simply not sustainable now that people are expected to pay their own way and not rely on state handouts to their firms and chambers.

    That’s the reality and no amount of lobbying is going to change this whatever the colour’s of government in the future.

    • For sure lots needs to change Chambers – and I think that business models are changing. It’s a sort of slow bang. You may be right that there are too many lawyers – one thing is for sure, there won’t be twice as many barrister or solicitors in a few years time. We may be worrying that we don’t have enough skilled lawyers rather than worrying that we have too many.

  7. I did a 5 years at university and I have over 20 years post-graduate experience. I work in electronics. You may have heard of Moore’s Law which in simple terms says that the performance of electronic systems doubles every 2 years.

    That means my job gets twice as complex ever 2 years, I have to find ways of being twice as productive and make half as many mistakes every 2 years.

    My pay doesn’t double every 2 years. My reward is to keep my job because the company I work for can remain competitive.

    In the last few years I’ve had to learn your job by representing myself. I regularly go up against barristers who charge £3k-£5k for a day in court and hold my own. The thing that always surprises me is that they charge so much, but don’t know the case. It’s asif they’ve tried to read the papers on the train journey in that morning. Most of it seems to be theatrical, just picking a few points which can be dramatised to the judge to make the case seem like a story from Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

    I wonder if you could learn to get by in my job in as short a time? I wonder if you could deal with real competition where failure meant you lost your job, not just that your client lost their case?

    • Brian I don’t expect to be paid more as I get more experienced. I don’t expect rates to increase. Like you I recognise that those who succeed will be those who are competitive, and I like to think I am competitive because I work hard and do a good job.
      The world you describe of barristers charging £3-5k a day is simply not the world I inhabit. Neither is the scenario of gung ho poorly prepped barristers – although we have all too often had to make the best of a bad job when our papers arrive the night before leaving us less time than we would like to prepare.
      I don’t doubt I would make a rubbish electronics person. I am however pretty good as a lawyer and I’d just like to get paid a reasonable amount and have a bit of job security. Like most people really. I don’t understand why it is only lawyers who are criticised for wanting to make a living. I don’t want to be a fat cat or a lazy cat. And I don’t expect my dinner on a plate.

  8. But Lucy – Legal Aid comes from the taxpayer, not from customers. The tax payer doesn’t want to pay for this any more.

    If a customer doesn’t want to pay for a service, no amount of telling them they need it will change their mind. You need to show the benefit and you’ve failed to do that.

    You should look again at what you’re offering, the taxpayer says it’s not value for money.

    Incidentally there’s a similarly callous evaluation goes on in healthcare. The value of a patient to society is estimated and if the treatment is more expensive than that, they don’t get it.

    I think Thatcherism is alive and well.

    • Brian,
      The government tells us the taxpayer doesn’t want to pay for this any more.
      Many of those who have benefited from legal aid are former current or future taxpayers. I would like to think if I fell on hard times the state would help me when in genuine need. The world is not divided into deserving taxpayer and undeserving unemployed scrounger.

  9. Brian, with respect, I would suggest “I wonder if you could learn to get by in my job in as short a time?” ought to be recast in the following terms?

    If you had a very experienced (say perhaps with 15+ years of experience) electronics engineer supervising you, who himself is supervised by a panel of three very very experienced people (say with 15+ years of practice, and then another 10 or so as first tier supervisors), in such circumstances as the first tier supervisor is required to ensure whatever solution you create is sufficiently workable that his supervisors don’t reject it (and who must do so up to the point of actually doing the work for you), when you occupy a position that you have an absolute legal right to hold that position that cannot be taken away from you, and a general entitlement to take up as much of your supervisor’s time as is necessary, could you learn to get by in my job in a few years?.

    I’ll bid “yes”. Because that’s the reality of what you experience as an LiP in court. Your hand is held, and the judge has to do his best to produce a result within the boundaries of his discretion. Regardless of how much help he is given. As an LiP you can’t get fired. So the analogy is fundamentally flawed.

    And, while we’re at it, if you’re describing a contact dispute I’d knock a factor of ten off those brief fees.

  10. £10 m equals 272 teachers – if the Guardian is correct – but how many Lucys?

    Quantify the benefit to the family justice if the average Lucys salary is doubled? halved ?

    • There is only ONE LUCY.
      And I don’t get a salary at all. I’m self employed. None of the perks of employee status for us.

  11. You can push the judge ‘holding the hand’ of the LIP line only so far…

    The problem is many of us don’t accept the argument that enough clients feel they have benefited from legal aid when they have had it, quite the opposite is the experience of plenty.

    If you look at the separated family as a whole then legal aid in private family law has exacerbated the damage to many in these families particularly children; as legal aid has simply been used to stall and delay a resolution for many months and years quite often.

    We’d have to be pretty naive not to understand that if one parent has legal aid then they can quite happily continue stalling and using every possible angle and allegation to frustrate movement forward with no financial sanction, while the other parent without is worn down emotionally and also financially.

    I agree with the Justice Secretary when he said recently –
    “Take the divorce courts. I have seen many constituents over the years have their lives wrecked by a court-based system of confrontation which has led to huge legal bills, bitter infighting and ultimately empty coffers to support the new lives of separated spouses and their children.”

  12. Northern Lights

    I’m always amused when the untrained- charging more for their dodgy services as “professional McKenzie Friends” and “Shared Parenting Specialists” (what in the name of God is that?)than properly trained and qualified lawyers start crowing about the public purse.

    How transparent can you get?

  13. But NL you are confused, surely all family lawyer’s should be shared parenting specialist’s?

    If they are not then they are part of the problem!

    If lawyers provide what clients want then no need for them to worry, if they can’t then it’s chips.

    The good lawyers have nothing to worry about, the naff even if trained and qualified better check out Sainsburys.

  14. I’m always amused when the “properly trained and qualified lawyers” start bleating about the lack of public purse monies in their bank vaults which previously had forced many parents to use these lawyer tax payer subsidised services. Plus the now lack of parents beating down these same lawyers doors for help now that it is not so easily wangled as a welfare benefit.

    How transparent can you get?

    • Parents forced to use legal aid lawyers? Er, what?
      Plenty of parents still with the same problems, fewer of them now have a way to resolve them. Some can find the funds, some can’t. A few won’t bother. I suspect that will include a fair few dads who will give up.

  15. Northern Lights

    I think you’ll find that lawyers in any discipline tend to deal with law, not nebulous concepts that have no legal status.

  16. familoo as you said earlier we are never going to agree on whether LA resolves problems in the main or exacerbates them. My apologies for a poor pastiche effort of a similar nonsense like post by another contributor to this thread.

  17. ‘Northern lights’
    The senior judiciary would I think benefit hugely from having you train them up to your elevated standard 🙂

    Case law is littered with shared parenting and shared care references which these supposedly “properly trained & qualified” Lord Justices have according to you strayed from the righteous path of law, I fully agree with you of course 🙂

    What about this abomination ‘Northern Lights’ – Shared Parenting is even in the case name:
    Re: Z (Shared Parenting Plan: Publicity) –
    Atrocious isn’t it? I agree with you ‘Northern Lights’ 🙂 The Honourable Mr. Justice Hedley, said that he was handing down the judgment in this case in open Court so that publicity could be given to the approach that the parents (shared parenting plan) had taken in the hope that others may use it as a basis for discussion and negotiation. How dreadful ‘Northern Lights’.

    Please could you urgently contact LJ Hedley and his ilk and inform them of your utter disappointment in their slipping of legal standards.

    Far worse ‘Northern Lights’ the government is talking about shared parenting legislation, what on earth have things come to, do they not appreciate your eminently sensible and rigid approach to family law?

    I’m with you all the way ‘Northern Lights’ and hope the COA and HC judges come to their senses as well as the government and never mention such things again such as shared parenting or shared care, bloody rascals…..

    Don’t they understand how difficult it is for you and me 🙂 to understand such a “nebulous concept”, scoundrels….

  18. Northern Lights

    Chamber pot,

    Perhaps someone else with a little more tolerance for sock puppetry (where’s the “irrefragable scientific research” or have you dropped that?) will explain the difference between a concept and an order for which there is provision in law but there is no such thing as a shared parenting order although parenting plans as such have been around and turned into consent orders for as long as we have had Family Court.
    The leading case law on this (unless I’ve missed something more recent) is S (A Child) [2010] EWCA Civ 705, courtesy of your old adversary, LJ Thorpe.In short, the court has no jurisdiction to make an order that is not phrased in the language of statute. (judges like to talk about parental cooperation and “harmonious relationships” too but they are just concepts and, noble as they may sound, rather nebulous and hard to define)That is why lawyers don’t apply for them-not because of any nefarious agenda; simply that they don’t exist as such to be applied for.

    But take heart: The Tories are talking about “Shared Parenting legislation” (no doubt they’ll be consulting the experts..) Do let us know how that pans out for you and the rest of the real families need fathers for justice or whatever. I’m sure outcomes will be radically different.

    • I’d chastise you for use of the chamber pot epithet, but everyone makes incessant fun of my own online moniker (and me generally) and I know Chambers is pretty thick skinned.

      But please don’t start lobbing grenades, buns or swear words you two.

  19. 🙂 No worries familoo.

    ‘Northern Lights’ has my deepest sympathies for having such an obvious struggle with the basics and in such an embarrassing way, poor thing.

    Name-calling says it all really, bless!

  20. Northern Lights

    Fair enough, Lucy. My apologies.

  21. http://www.city.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/law

    Is this the course you did Lucy? One year law conversion from “Humanities and Cultural Studies”?

    Then you did 3 years on the job training to get your bar qualification and then 10 years experience?

    • Not quite sure why we are having this discussion – but yes I did that course. I didn’t convert from Humanities and Cultural Studies. I did a Ba(Hons) in English Studies, then a MRes in Humanities and Cultural Studies. Then I converted my bachelors degree at City, did my BVC (now BPTC), then pupillage and have been in practice for 10 years since.
      What’s your point?

  22. I’m trying to understand where this claim of highly qualified legal professionals comes from. As far as I can see you did a 1 year course in law at what used to be Northampton Polytechnic and then did 3 years supervised on the job training to get to influence such critical decisions in peoples lives.

    If you do infact get paid £150/hr for private work (which I very much doubt by the way because this would make you cheap even for a solicitor, let alone a barrister) then you are very richly rewarded for what seems to me to be scant qualification.

    As a tax payer I’m trying to understand why I should be asked to continue to support this bottomless pit?

    Adults who allege Domestic Abuse will still get legal aid and so will children. If LIPs are having their hands held by judges then surely all they have to do is explain the problem and the judge will convert that into the legal aspects.

    Who, other than the legal profession themselves, is being put in jeopardy by the changes?

    • Um. City university is in London. Nothing to do with Northampton. I did a year’s law study, a year’s bar study, a year’s pupillage. And I quite agree that at that stage I was rather wet behind the ears. It is indeed a daunting prospect to be given responsibility for matters which do have such an impact on people’s lives. That is why we are highly selected, highly trained and highly regulated.
      On the one hand you seem to be saying that it’s ok because those who allege DV will get legal aid and on the other asking why taxpayers should fund such legal aid – the rather obvious answer I would have thought is because those who have suffered DV require legal representation in order to access justice and to protect their children (and this is true notwithstanding the fact that there are no doubt some who make false allegations). The taxpayer pays far less for legal aid than £150 p/h, and your surprise at how low the hourly rates of the bar are reflects a common misconception – that the bar are more expensive than solicitors, when in fact quite often the reverse is true. We are often instructed to appear at court precisely because we are either cheaper or more cost effective or both.
      The answer to your final question Brian is : the vulnerable.

  23. Currently the course you did boasts the following areas:

    * Contract Law
    * Crime
    * Equity and Trusts
    * European Union
    * Land Law
    * Public Law
    * Tort

    I don’t see Family Law there, was it dropped or was it not part of the syllabus when you were there either?

    • No it’s not there, as with any other law conversion course – it covers the 7 core subjects. The BVC covers family law as an option, but I wouldn’t suggest this brings expertise in family law. The purpose of an LLB / Law Conversion is to teach legal principles and understanding of how law works. The purpose of the BVC is to teach procedure and skills used in practice (advocacy, negotiation, drafting etc). If you are looking for the part where a family barrister gains experience and deeper understanding of family law the answer is in pupillage, and subsequently by doing the work over a number of years. The thinking skills and understanding of how law works gained from the law degree and postgrad qualification enable a lawyer to become specialist in any specific area of law in time. In fact there isn’t a vast amount of basic law in the family field because it’s a largely discretionary jurisdiction, although one can specialise in particular niches which are more heavily dependent on technicality. To be a good family lawyer (as with other areas actually) you do also need some understanding of people, ability to empathise and a good dose of practicality. Family law is something though that you learn mainly on the job, which is why some cases call for a more experienced lawyer, whether that be a solicitor or barrister.

      Oh and of course all lawyers have to do ongoing CPD every year to continue learning and keep themselves up to speed. At their own expense of course.

  24. BTW the connection to Northampton is because of its address:

    University Building
    Northampton Square
    EC1V 0HB

    I thought you might have know this, but maybe you never visited that building.

    • Um. Really – where is this going? I do now remember that the university I went to 13 years ago has the word Northampton in the address. Thank you for reminding me. What I didn’t need reminding of was that it is NOT IN NORTHAMPTON. I’m pretty sure of this because I used to catch the number 73 bus from Stoke Newington through Angel to get there every morning…

  25. Chambers,

    As much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, “shared parenting” is a abstract concept, whereas “shared residence” is (or, at least, can be) a concrete order.

    But I’m not really sure what your point is. I don’t think it’s beyond dispute that an decent lawyer should be aware of the jurisprudence on shared residence (although, with respect, the Re Z you refer to concerns publicity, not the actual substance of the order, and so probably isn’t in most barrister’s playbooks), and again should probably also be familiar with how you can settle a case with something that the court can’t actually order by use of undertakings in the preamble (which, interestingly, a “shared parenting” specialist who isn’t legally trained may not know)

    Anyway, my point being, no, a lawyer should not be a “shared parenting specialist”—she should know all the relevant law!

  26. I think your argument is that “vulnerable” people, who are not alleging DV, will not have the support of expert family law representation because of the cuts in legal aid. What I’m saying is that it only takes a year of a generic legal course from a previous degree such as yours in Humanities and Culture, followed by a brief tutored experience to become an “expert” in family law. This doesn’t sound like any expert I would recognise.

    Why should such people be paid so well from the public purse when they cause so much damage to children by advancing one parents misguided selfish desire to remove the other parent from the children’s lives?

    • Ah well you see now your real argument emerges – its not about our qualifications or expertise (which, as I’ve been trying to point out are not one and the same, nor is one derived solely from the other) – its a different argument, about the role of lawyers in family law. And more specifically the role of lawyers in helping parents to withhold or restrict contact to the other – whether that is for good reason or not.

      Quel surprise.

  27. ‘Jim Nately’.

    Please try and keep up. Read back and you will note no-one has said shared parenting can be a “concrete order”, I’d hoped everyone on this thread would be aware of this anyway 🙂

    Shared parenting/care is perhaps however an ‘ideal’ that many parents would aspire to in separation agreements/Orders and has certainly been recognised numerous times by the senior judiciary as such.

    Most people (I hope) who have unfortunately had to enter the family law system with an application or as a respondent quickly understand the legal terms residence and contact, it aint rocket science.

    Similarly they are quite quickly put in the picture by their advisers and/or the Court (if it should come up) that shared parenting/care is not an Order that can be made whether by the Judge or By Consent. The legal terms being various types of residence (shared, sole, joint) and contact (indirect/direct). Anybody can understand this after it has been carefully explained to them (although they may forget later of course). Simples.

    Undertakings and/or the use of recitals in the preamble are helpful at times to record how the parties came to an agreement or to record agreements/intentions/promises that are not able to be placed in the Order section – But a Residence schedule would most commonly be in the Order section.

    Re Z also is concerned with a shared parenting plan, please see this helpful link from a partner of a firm of solicitors http://www.osbornes.net/objects/articles/7912_9748_the-case-of-re–z—shared-parenting-plan.aspx

    As has been said by a previous poster, every family lawyer should be a shared parenting specialist because going to Court inevitably means they will at times be negotiating and/or drafting an Order for the Court which will be of the shared parenting/care persuasion but of course it will be drafted in legal terms duh! e.g. shared residence order

    If a family lawyer does not understand what may be termed shared parenting/care and what is not as has been described many times in case law over the years then they have a problem, or more to the point their clients and opposing parties have a problem. It shows little empathy or understanding of their clients if these advisors are confused/annoyed by the terminology of shared parenting/care arrangements.

    Plus agreed, a family lawyer should know the law but I had taken that for a given, perhaps I am too optimistic sometimes.

    If you want to understand the importance of shared parenting/care arrangements and how it can be set apart from shared residence but still be crucial in decision making by the Courts then you could well start with K (Children) [2011] EWCA Civ 793

    Here’s a taster but do please read the whole judgment and of course other judgments along similar lines:

    “44. Of course that all now seems archaic given our shift from parental power to
    parental responsibility introduced by the Children Act 1989 and given the more
    recent emphasis on the value to children of shared parenting where the parental
    relationship and the circumstances are favourable.”

  28. familoo – Just to quickly butt in ref your conversation with Brian.

    I liked this from you:

    – “In fact there isn’t a vast amount of basic law in the family field because it’s a largely discretionary jurisdiction……………….To be a good family lawyer (as with other areas actually) you do also need some understanding of people, ability to empathise and a good dose of practicality. Family law is something though that you learn mainly on the job, which is why some cases call for a more experienced lawyer, whether that be a solicitor or barrister.” –

  29. familoo, also I enjoyed this insightful comment from you (I’m not joining your official fan club tho, you will be relieved to know):

    – “its not about our qualifications or expertise (which, as I’ve been trying to point out are not one and the same, nor is one derived solely from the other)” –

  30. well ms loo, now that brian has thoroughly debunked your claim to know anything about family law and the no 73 bus route, he will no doubt start on your french…

    brian’s claim to know anything about any kind of law whatsoever (as least as it happens on this planet) is somewhat jeopardised by the contention that:
    ‘If LIPs are having their hands held by judges then surely all they have to do is explain the problem and the judge will convert that into the legal aspects.’

    i guess on that premise everyone should just self-rep as it must be kinda easy. i don’t practise in family law (it’s the one field i could never stomach so my respect goes to all those who can) but, oddly enough, most of my clients seem pretty happy and grateful when we manage to keep them in their home or get it repaired so their kids don’t get ill all the time. i should probably have told them they would have been better off appearing in person.

    and by the way, brian, ‘as a tax payer’ you’re paying for that too. many thanks. and i don’t go to northampton much myself.

  31. Surely the judges know the law, don’t they? They know the CPR and the FPR inside out don’t they? And all the practice direcitons, case law and unwritten common practice?

    We from what I’ve seen, despite the fact they do this day in and day out, they don’t have a good grasp of the very information they need to do their job properly. How can you expect the judges to hold the hands of the LIPs if they don’t know this stuff themselves?

    If you need a solicitor or barrister to point the judge at the bit of law or procedure they think best suits their case and the judges don’t know it all, the quality of advocacy doesn’t rest on the fact or the law because “there isn’t a vast amount of basic law in the family field”, the decisions are “largely discretionary”, you don’t need a lot of specialised knowledge to go into the field, a general law conversion course with no family law content will do, this all seems to be pot luck.

    If you need a solicitor or barrister to achieve a decent result, and you can’t do that without one, then why isn’t legal aid given to all parties who access the Family Courts? Why aren’t the children, who have the biggest stake in the outcome, routinely represented with legal aid?

    Given the impressive array of talent advocating for legal aid to be maintained as it was, why have you not managed to persuade the government to support your argument?

    Back to the economics, it costs about £5,000 to educate one child for one year. The cost of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral could have educated 2,000 children for a year. That’s about 2,000,000 hours of education or roughly £5 per child per hour. How many hours of your time at £150/hour (£70/hour legal aid rates) do we get? 67,000 (142,000 at legal air rates).

    • So many questions Brian, to which I do not really think you want the answer. I’m afraid I have other things to be getting on with.

  32. Northern Lights

    I do admire your patience and tolerance, Lucy.

  33. Very similar scenario in our land of the long white cloud but less deep pockets for legal aid.
    New proposals which seek to fast track mediate parenting plans and greatly reduce the availability of legal aid are proposed (a good thing as far as I can see).
    Predictably the ‘usual suspects’ are claiming children will be unsafe in their droves


    we’ll see
    g’day and kia ora

  34. To get back a bit: if (1) a woman alleges DV and (2) the man denies it (3) both are eligible for legal aid as regards their means (4) she gets it and (5) he does not – am I alone is seeing Article 6 level playing-field issues?

    • No, you are not alone. Many individuals and most of the professional bodies made precisely this point when responding to the consultation that led to LASPO, and this issue was debated in Parliament as the act progressed – however there was a significant battle to get amendments simply to ensure that at least victims could get proper access to legal aid that the argument on the allied issue of access to justice for the alleged perpetrators simply fell by the wayside. The matter is equally serious for both the alleged victim and alleged perpetrator.

  35. Northern Lights


    By the same token, would that not be “alleged” victims?

    In response to another poster, there are also women who have had allegations of DV against them and been on the wrong side of ex parte occupation orders and non-mols. It may be less common but the issue
    is not entirely gender specific.

  36. Northern Lights

    My apologies, Lucy- I didn’t get the last sentence of your post on this phone- just the first mention of “victim” without the qualifying “alleged.”

  37. Lucy:

    “The world you describe of barristers charging £3-5k a day is simply not the world I inhabit.”

    Didn’t you recently successfully defend a defamation case brought against you? How much did your barrister charge for that?

    • Brian,
      With respect I don’t think that is any of your business, but I will say this. The market rate for counsel in defamation proceedings is nothing like the market rate for family proceedings. The discussion we were having was about the sorts of fees charged in family proceedings – I am not a defamation lawyer and do not earn fees equivalent to a defamation lawyer. If I were a defamation lawyer perhaps I would have represented myself. In the case you refer to I was a litigant in person for much of the proceedings, although I did have to incur legal costs which to date I have not recovered.

  38. The word complainant is even better!

  39. But if you had paid for a barrister at the rate of £3-5K per day then you would certainly be fully aware of the rates I said were being charged.

    I know those sort of rates are also routinely charged by family law barristers. Maybe not yourself, but certainly by your compatriots. It seems strange to me that you would be ignorant of something which you have much more exposure to than I, would it not?

    • Brian,
      This blog is not intended to be a platform for you to interrogate me. I have answered quite a lot of questions out of courtesy but I think we have come full circle, so I’m going to draw this to a close.

  40. Sorry to continue the debate, and if Lucy does not want to perpetuate the comments on this section I entirely understand. However I am a Family Law Barrister working in Liverpool, exclusively on children cases, mostly on legal aid. I can assure you that I have never ever at any single point in my career charged or received that kind of sum or anything like it.

    If you want to know what my and many of my colleagues’ lives are like, you would do well to read the following blog: http://abarristerswife.wordpress.com – just substitute “family barrister” for “criminal barrister” and you will have an accurate picture of my partner’s life.


  41. Northern Lights

    Then there was that book you wrote for LIP’s, Lucy; another example of your grasping, venal nature.

    Jesus wept.

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