Thursday, 30 November 2006

Settled out of court

It has surprised me how much gets settled between the parties outside court, at least in family proceedings. The barristers play a crucial role in this, not least because they are sufficiently distant from the build up to the case and the acrimony that inevitably precedes any court case to be able to talk to the other side quite openly. Every Order I've witnessed been made by a judge so far (admittedly, that's not very many) has been nothing to do with the judge, it has been negotiated by the barristers outside court and presented to the court as a fait accompli.

The case management hearing I saw this afternoon provided an interesting example of the role of the barrister. The guy I was following acted for the local authority and was quite new to the case. Everyone seemed to be using him as a confidante. For example, the mother's solicitor was complaining about the social worker's manner and the disclosure of some confidential information. As go-between he raised this with the social worker, whose manager was present, in a very sensitive way, her account turned out to be very different and he smoothed things over very neatly. It had nothing to do with the actual hearing or the outcome of the case, but it will hopefully in a small way contribute to a positive outcome for the case and for the children concerned.

Basically, case management and Order renewal hearings are far more about the parties and barristers getting their heads together outside court in the conference rooms and open areas rather than what happens inside the court rooms. I'm sure the threat of a judge throwing the rattle out of the pram if someone does something stupid must focus the mind, but it occurs to me that it would be a lot cheaper if everyone just went to Starbucks rather than an enormous heated court building in central London.

No sign of The Master again today. I haven't seen him all week. Unusually he didn't pick up the phone at home, so I just saw the clerks first thing and sorted out someone new to tag along with today. The more members of chambers I meet the better, really. I've just left a few messages to let him know what I'm up to.

Lastly, one of the QCs in chambers has asked me to update her copy of Hershman McFarlane, the family law looseleaf practitioner text. There's a two inch thick bunch of papers to insert at various points in the three folders that make up this tome. Apparently I'm getting paid for it, so I should keep track of how long it takes me. I'm quite looking forward to this mindless task, I find to my surprise, so that sorts me out for tomorrow morning. And the money will come in handy, even if it just pays for a sandwich for lunch.

1 comment:

lo-fi librarian said...

Ah, loose leaf filing, the curse of the law librarian. Welcome to our world of pain. Has your pupil master sent you to the library with any impossibly obscure and, of course, partial references yet?