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Negligence and the Family Barrister

Date:2 JUN 2009

Paul Pavlou, Barrister, 4 Brick Court, Temple, London

'The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for to-morrow which can be done to-day.' Abraham Lincoln.

The Bar Code of Conduct is surprisingly quiet on the issue of barristers keeping up to date with the latest sensations to appear from the higher courts. Paragraph 708(c) states:

'A barrister when conducting proceedings in court must ensure that the court is informed of all relevant decisions and legislative provisions of which he is aware whether the effect is favourable or unfavourable towards the contention for which he argues.'

And of course, in the first 3 years of practice, newly qualified practitioners are required to complete 45 hours of CPD, including at least 9 hours of advocacy training and 3 hours of ethics (the 'New Practitioners' Programme'). After the first 3 years of practice, barristers are required to undertake 12 hours of CPD each year (the 'Established Practitioners' Programme').

There is nothing, however, that suggests that barristers should be up to date with the law. That is taken for granted, of course, lest the shame of turning up to court, with your opponent furnishing a skeleton argument dripping with the latest offerings from their Lordships while you sheepishly tear up your own out of date version. Two recent decisions, however, bring into sharp focus what can occur when due diligence is not adhered to.

To read the rest of this article, see June [2009] Family Law journal.

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