FLBA noticeboard .
The response makes good use of the work of John Eekelaar & Mavis MacLean CBE, Joint Directors, Oxford Centre for Family Law and Policy). In
“Legal representation and parental autonomy: the work of the English family bar in contact cases” (Hart Publishing, November 2007) (a chapter in a book called Regulating Autonomy: Sex, Reproduction & the Family (Cambridge Socio-Legal Group) they say
The main task of the day for the barrister is client and judge management, grounded in close attention to the detail in the papers, which leads to negotiation and settlement. All those with whom he deals are highly stressed. The only friendly face is likely to be the barrister for the other side who will be a colleague or friend, and the only person in court who understands what the day is like… lack of sleep, no food, no personal space, physical or emotional. And at the end of the day he faces the final authority of the judge to make decisions, which he may find satisfying or profoundly unhelpful.
and they answered the question what are the skills and qualities which the family law barrister needs?” in this way:
These are: charm, quick intelligence and articulacy, but above all stamina! … the workload is heavy and unpredictable. Even the experience of shadowing was exhausting … the inability to plan ahead puts pressure on the barrister’s own family life…
And sum up the challenges of being a barrister:
Papers on the case will be sent by the instructing solicitor, often not arriving until late on the day before a court hearing, often incomplete, and without page numbers. Pagination might seem a minor irritation, but in practice it is a major concern as it affects the ability of counsel to direct the judge to a particular point, or refute a claim by the other side during a hearing. Papers are in heavy lever arch files, ranging from 3 to sometimes 30 per case, to be carried by the barrister to the hearing. Barristers type every word they produce, are responsible for all travel arrangements, and their own tax liability. They are basically self-employed lone operators sharing offices with a group with whom they are in competition for work.
Incidentally Eekelaar and MacLean have a forthcoming book to be published in May 2009 by by Hart Publishing Family Law Advocacy: How Barristers Help the Victims of Family Failure (also available on Amazon .
Additional press coverage can be found in the Times - Plans for more cuts to legal aid put families ‘at risk’ and on the Bar Council: Vulnerable women and children bear brunt of cuts in family justice system .
And if you want to hear my thoughts please listen to podcast with Charon QC .