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LSC Funding Proposals

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The Legal Services Commission funding proposals for legal representation and advocacy in the Family Justice System is predicted to cause a disintegration in the body of hardworking specialist Family Lawyers presently working in that system.  The Family Law Bar and the Association of Lawyers for Children together with certain members of the Judiciary are united in their opposition to the proposals and dismayed at the timing with the deep public anxiety highlighted by cases like baby P.  No system can prevent a child murder but the present proposals are predicted to cause an exodus from the profession of young solicitors specialising in this challenging speciality.

The Association of Lawyers for Children highlights the comments made by Mrs Justice Hogg in a case concerning a father accused but exonerated of non accidental injuries to his baby daughter.  With assistance from all legal representatives in the case Mrs Justice Hogg was able to make a decision which enabled the baby to be returned to the parents within the 18 weeks after issue of the proceedings.  The timetable was condensed with the assistance from the legal teams and the Court Officials and Mrs Justice Hogg commented “I could not have contemplated forcing a 5 day hearing to a 4 day slot without the co-operation of the legal teams and the knowledge that Counsel were experienced in care work”.

One of the barristers involved in the case (Piers Pressdee) commented “This case shows the system working at its best precisely because all those in it – lawyers and non lawyers alike – knew what they were doing.  But you won’t get a case like this if the Legal Services Commission proposed advocacy scheme goes through.  For me this hearing was a 66 hour job all in, including 29 hours pre-trial preparation.  Under this new scheme I will be paid £28.92 per hour gross for my work with each hour of pre-trial preparation coming in at £8.93 per hour.  You would not get a newly qualified plumber working for those rates so I don’t see how the government can expect that experienced family advocates will”.

Further anomalies under the proposals for change include the provision that family advocates will be paid the same rate for 1 hour final hearing in the Family Proceedings Court as for a 2 day final hearing in the County Court.  What other profession could work at these rates and how is the profession to attract intelligent and ambitious young lawyers who would be better advised to train as plumbers?

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Written by Andrew Hodges

May 7, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Posted in Comment

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