Why didn’t I think of that before?

Pondering the irritations of being requested by a solicitor to attend court an hour before a hearing when the court has forgotten to order that early attendance, meaning we run the risk of attending for a hearing and being paid a pathetic £60 odd (that’s gross – rule of thumb net that down for tax and expenses by dividing by 2 = £30). There is a theory that the court can amend the order under the slip rule when the mistake is noted, but whilst this must be logically correct I’m not convinced it will satisfy the requirements of LSC logic (wherein technicalities are acceptable only as long as they save the LSC money). And some try and rely on the “local standing direction” thing, but again the LSC don’t like that much either (here I think they are right, it has to be in an order).

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind attending early – I like to do the job properly. I always attend 30 minutes early as a matter of  course – its polite and its good practice. But under FAS if you are at court for only 29 minutes after the listed time (which is quite possible if you do a good hour’s negotiation for free and then hand in a consent order) you get paid half a peanut. That half hour extra isn’t just half an hour – it can be have a significant impact on what we earn – the difference between financially viable and effectively working for nowt.

We were at court an hour early today, and as a consequence of our diligence knocked things on the head a little bit quicker than required in order to trigger a semi-sensible amount of money under FAS. I bought a twix and a tank of petrol on the way back from court that cost almost £60. So it matters.

So. As I say. Pondering at North Avon FPC, where all good ideas are hatched, we realised that it would be so much easier if at the first hearing the court made the direction that “For the avoidance of doubt advocates and parties are ordered to attend 45 minutes / one hour in advance of the listed time for all future hearings listed in this matter, unless otherwise stated.”

Job done, surely? I must be missing some obvious reason why this wouldn’t be an effective way of saving everyone a lot of effort and annoyance, but I can’t think of it.

4 thoughts on “Why didn’t I think of that before?

  1. Russell armstrong

    You have my sympathies, but in the words of a newspaper editor (or whoever said it) “why let the truth get in the way of a good story”
    I take it you talk about legal aid work?
    In the future except for cases that have allegations about domestic violence, all future legal aid funding will be withdrawn, is that correct?
    Now I may sound bitter but I do not mean to be, also I know you are honourable so you do not fit into this category but there are solicitors/barristers who would defend/represent a client who is plainly “swinging the lead”
    I think that the wholesale abuse of the system by these types of legal “professionals” has been rumbled by this government and given the age of austerity they are pulling the plug
    Maybe it’s the politicians revenge for the legal system exposing the expenses scandal?
    Honour amongst thieves and all that
    Just my thoughts for what they are worth

    • Russ I’m not sure what your point is in your quote about truth. I am talking about legal aid work, which will be withdrawn for private law family work but retained for public law work (care) even after April. Russ it is part of the job of a barrister to represent clients regardless of whether or not one suspects that they are “swinging the lead” (to adopt your phrase). It’s called the cab rank rule and to represent clients without judging them is a cornerstone of our ethical approach. I don’t propose to debate that here because I’ve done it extensively elsewhere on this blog. I don’t think legal aid has been withdrawn because the government thinks legal professionals are abusing the system (although I’m sure it does think that). It’s been withdrawn as I understand past governmental remarks because the government thinks parents are abusing the system by having the cheek to come to court with their petty contact disputes in the first place. It makes me sad and very concerned that the government trivialises the disputes that the courts are trying to help resolve or work through, which are not always of a parents own making.
      I don’t really see what the expenses scandal has to do with anything.

  2. Russell Armstrong

    Hi Lucy
    Here we have the crux of the matter
    The “petty contact” dispute that so exasperates the judiciary is born out of the very unwritten rule that give the main carer the power and control of decisions made on behalf of the children “in their best interest”
    I’m not having a go at you as I respect your commitment in these areas, however I have to use your words to formulate my argument, so if you will forgive me
    You said that it was “common sense” to give the MC the power and control. However in doing so it places that person in a position that they may/can and do misuse. Not every person but enough to make a difference
    Now the only way the non main carer can wrestle back some version of “control” is via the only way available to them legally, a court application.
    Then the NMC is asking the ultimate arbiter, the judge, to look at the circumstances “in the best interest of the children” and to judicially determine who is or is not being reasonable
    Therefore and by definition, if a judge grants a contact order in favour of the NMC they are agreeing that the MC has fallen short of their obligations and duties for vein in a position of power, otherwise their position would be approved in the granting of a status quo order would it not?
    So why are judges so slow in saying to the MC, you have not done well, you have not exercised your responsibilities well, please don’t do it again I will take a dim view
    Some might many don’t, those Machiavellian types have no consequences to consider, it is they who are blocking contact unfairly, it follows that it is those cases that are blocking the courts doors
    Deal with those types robustly and the problem will fade whilst leaving the doors open to the proper applications that need true intervention
    BTW the comment about truth getting in the way of a good story is just my bad ironic sense of humour defending a Machiavellian type based upon that types lies and untruths
    Sorry but if I had a parent who I knew was lying to block contact I would refuse to help them or get them to change their ways
    I’m sure that even an honourable solicitor would be able to refuse instructions on that basis wouldn’t they?

    • “petty contact dispute” is my way of summarising the govts apparent perception of private law children matters – it is emphatically NOT my view.
      you seem to be conceptualising contact disputes as essentially binary – right v wrong, black v white, good or reasonable parent v bad or unreasonable parent, controlling v controlled. It doesn’t work like that. Relationships, parental judgments – are more complex and nuanced than your analysis allows and family proceedings are not punitive for the sake of it. The courts may adopt a punitive approach where it furthers the end of enhancing the child’s welfare.

      Solicitors are permitted to refuse to represent a client in a way that barristers are not. I’ve explained the cab rank rule on this blog before and I don’t propose to do it again here – but if you pop “cab rank rule” in the search box it may become a little clearer. In order to ensure that clients are able to obtain independent legal advice, regardless of how unpalatable their case may at first blush appear, the bar are not allowed to refuse instructions except when limited exceptions apply. This is to protect the weak – quite often it works in favour of fathers in fact.

      A lawyer can advise on the law (not morals), and can advise strongly, but she is not responsible for the moral or other decisions of a parent.

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