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Family Advocacy - a message from Jo Edwards

Date:22 JUL 2015
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The below email below was sent by Jo Edwards, Chair of Resolution, to all Resolution members.

You may have seen over the weekend a letter from the Bar Council and the FLBA to the Minister for Legal Aid, Shailesh Vara MP, regarding family advocacy.

I wanted to write to you and let you know some of the background, and what Resolution has been doing in response.

For some time Resolution has been working closely with our partners in the family law community in particular the Law Society, ALC and LAPG in an attempt to work with the FLBA to understand their concerns around solicitor advocacy. A conversation that was initially centred around the decline in work for barristers since LASPO has now been conveyed by the Bar to the Minister as a concern about the quality of advocacy by solicitors. This is disappointing, and changes the nature of the discussion.

We were informed that a letter, focusing on quality, was going to be sent to the Minister, and were invited to sign it, with a deadline of 20 July. In fact, the letter was sent by the FLBA and Bar Council on 16 July and made public on Sunday 19 July, via a tweet by the FLBA. This was enormously disappointing, and on Monday morning we wrote our initial response, which was picked up by the Law Society Gazette and Jordans Family Law, among others, who were already writing about the subject. This was also tweeted and placed on our website.

Later that day, we also wrote our own letter to the Minister. We were in close communication with the Law Society, who also wrote to the Minister. In due course we will be writing a joint letter to reinforce how strongly we are united on this issue.

As Chair of Resolution, I believe that conveying an impression that the family law community is divided is counterproductive, given the current environment for publicly funded family law work. I also believe that, regrettably, the FLBA and Bar Council actions have contributed to any division. We have tried, over the course of many months, to avoid this situation by focusing the conversation on ensuring quality of family advocacy among solicitors and barristers.

As we said in our statement and letter, if there are issues around quality, we want to work with our partners in the profession in order to address these through routes including training and accreditation, among others.

In addition to our thousands of solicitor members, I am proud that Resolution counts barristers among our membership. I will continue to work hard to ensure we are representing all our members, and we are committed to continuing to improve standards and quality across the board, working with our barrister members wherever we can. I am keen to ensure that this does not descend into a conversation around the Bar versus solicitors, but rather, how we may work together to improve the family justice system and ensure access to good quality representation for all.

I would also reassure you that whenever any of our members are under threat, we will continue to stand up for you and fight your corner. These are challenging times for all our members, and it is important that we all work together in the best interests of our profession and, most importantly, the clients we help.

As ever, I am very happy to receive your comments on this or any other issue. Please do feel free to email me with your feedback.

We will keep you updated on any future developments in this area via the member bulletin and thank you for your continued support.

Kind regards

Jo Edwards
National Chair
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