Britain’s most senior family law judge has told family barristers they need not fear changes to the family court system if they are willing to adapt.
In a wide-ranging speech to the Family Law Bar Association, Sir James Munby discussed current problems faced by the profession and changes to the legal system, such as the transition to a single Family Court. He said:
“I know all too well that the Bar is facing enormous and daunting challenges. The criminal Bar is facing a great crisis, and the family Bar difficulties perhaps almost as great. But you are skilful and resourceful people. And with determination and courage and wise leadership I am confident that you will meet the challenge and overcome the crisis.”
The speech was delivered in Middle Temple Hall in central London, a building was completed in 1573. Middle Temple Hall is part of the Middle Temple Inn of Court, one of England’s four professional associations for barristers.
“Look around! This is not some gimcrack building on a 35 year lease funded by a PFI arrangement. It was built by proud and confident men; men proud of their profession; men confident of the future of the Bar; men building for future generations and future centuries. And here we are 450 years later.”
“We are the inheritors of great traditions – the traditions of the common law and the Bar. We – judges and barristers alike – are but the temporary custodians of something we have received on a trust conferred on us by generations long gone and held by us for the benefit of generations as yet unborn and for the centuries to come. We cannot, we must not, betray that trust. I know that there are siren voices, acting in good faith and in the conscientious belief that they are doing right, urging various actions to meet the current crisis. But we must take the long view. We must be careful that we navigate the storm without ending up shipwrecked on the rocks.”
The President declared:
“The Bar has little to fear if you are willing to adapt what you do and how you do it. As one door closes, another always opens.”
In November last year, Lady Hale, Deputy President of the Supreme Court , also addressed challenges facing the legal profession, specifically the cuts to family law legal aid implemented by the current government last year. She told her audience: “I wish I could see a way ahead in these difficult days.”