Mavis Maclean, University of Oxford:
The article argues that both lawyers, mediators and lawyer-mediators are facing difficult times following the reduction in scope of legal aid for family matters laid down in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act which came into effect in April 2013.
We are seeing a move away from traditional regulated and accountable professional client care within the justice system to a range of itemised services offered directly to the public by a much wider range of providers. These services may offer help with legal process but there are also other products: dispute resolution for disputes, counselling for emotional or communication problems, education for those learning how to parent after separation. The old debate about the advantages and disadvantages of courts and lawyers in dealing with family matters compared with ADR is being overtaken by a more fundamental struggle between professional court and lawyer based justice and private ordering supported by the rapidly developing market in specific services, including internet services. Does this matter? Are we seeing wider choice with more stress for vulnerable parties, or more choice with better access to fair and informed outcomes?
The full version of this article appears in the February 2014 issue of Family Law.