Attendance of solicitors at LA Children Act meetings

The Law Society appears to have picked up on a bone of contention or area of confusion here, and has issued a practice note clarifying what, in it’s view, is the role of lawyers at CPC conferences and other CA meetings. It confirms that it is appropriate for LA solicitors to attend such meetings even where parents are represented but their representatives are not present at the meeting – and also sets out some of the limitations on what the LA solicitor can and cannot properly do in such meetings. It all sounds quite tricky to navigate, frankly.

Anyway, for those of you who attend such meetings or advise clients at these early stages – here is the guidance note.

2 thoughts on “Attendance of solicitors at LA Children Act meetings

  1. The LA lawyer playing a part in the decision as to whether to register at a Child Protection Conference is brand new, and I’d suggest wrong.

    It’s in para 3.1 You may also assist in the decision as to whether the criteria are fulfilled for making a child the subject of a child protection plan.

    It doesn’t spell out whether that includes having a vote, but the ‘assist in the decision’ suggests more than simply advising ‘The LA consider that there has been significant harm, or a likelihood of significant harm’ to me.

    I don’t like the idea of a lawyer having a vote in a decision-making process, or frankly, playing a part in that decision-making. Whether the threshold for a CP plan is met or not is a factual issue, not a legal one. (there’s a criteria, and it isn’t a very tricky one)

    If there is a voting right, as a lawyer, you’re of course taking instructions from your client, who in this instance would be the social worker. If the lawyer votes the same way as the SW then this is effectively a double-counted vote and unfair, and if they vote the opposite way then there’s a conflict of interest within their instructions.

    Lawyers advise, clients decide.

    [I think 90+ % of LA’s don’t send their lawyers to Case Conferences. I haven’t been invited to one in the last 20 years and would politely decline if invited now… On this guidance, there’s a risk of having potentially v useful lines of cross-exam closed down if you attend, and the parents say something significant]

    • I must admit I was surprised this was even an issue – I had thought lawyers rarely went to CP confs, which your comment confirms. The issuing of this guidance made me think I was wrong on that! It all sounds to me as if lawyers may well complicate the mix!

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