What family lawyers were talking about this week…

Family Law|Industry News|December 5th 2014

After the feast last week, this week has been a bit of a famine. Still, there were one or two stories of note:

As mentioned in this post, three council social workers have been criticised for “bias” by a judge asked to decide the future of a three-year-old boy whose mother had died. Judge Simon Jack was deciding whether the boy should be placed for adoption or allowed to live with his grandparents. He said North East Lincolnshire Council witnesses had been “visibly biased” and its case “severely undermined”. The council said the case highlighted “complexities and difficult decisions”. The report of the case can be found here.

Moving on, the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson has said that litigants in person are losing winnable cases, as reported in this post. Not, perhaps, the most profound piece of information that I have ever come across, but clearly Lord Dyson felt that those on the Commons Select Committee that is considering the impact of the legal aid cuts needed to be told. One would have hoped that our lords and masters were able to work it out for themselves, but judging from their knee-jerk reaction to the devastating effects of the cuts, it would appear that they were not.

Still on the subject of the entirely foreseeable, a survey by the Law Society has found that only four percent of young lawyers are interested in doing legal aid work, as mentioned in this post. Obviously, this is no surprise given the reduced scope of legal aid and the ever-reducing remuneration legal aid work offers. As was pointed out, this is even more of a problem for those entering the profession burdened with a large student debt. Nevertheless, it is also very depressing for the future of the profession and, more importantly, for the representation of the most needy in our society. It would appear that the future model for those lawyers wishing to help the less well off is to do non-legal aid work that will actually pay the bills, and offer what help they can to the needy on a pro bono basis.

Someone who is definitely not needy is wealthy French property developer Didier Thiry. Hehas has been ordered to pay his ex-wife nearly £17 million. In the course of his judgment in the case Sir Peter Singer used the words ‘manipulative’, ‘sadistic’ and ‘unprincipled rogue’ in relation to Mr Thiry. In fact, Mr Thiry’s conduct of the litigation is a model of how not to behave in the course of financial remedies proceedings, as I explained here in this post.

Sir Peter began his judgment by commenting upon how the bundle of documents prepared for the hearing had been substantially reduced, thereby in turn reducing the time required for the hearing. Over-sized bundles are, in fact, a common target for the opprobrium of judges these days, as witnessed by the case Seagrove v Sullivan, in which Mr Justice Holman complained of the “phenomenal amount of documentation”, including five large lever arch bundles of documents comprising over 2,000 pages, “two large bundles and one more slender bundle containing no less than 32 authorities” and, as if that were not bad enough, an additional five large lever arch files of additional documents, comprising another 1,500 pages. Mr Justice Holman ordered that if the parties were not able to settle the case then they must come back to the court the next day with one bundle of just 300 pages. The parties settled.

And there we are. Hopefully, enough to stop you from getting hungry this weekend. Have a good one

Author: John Bolch

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

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