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Solicitors’ experiences of representing parents with learning disabilities in care proceedings: altering practice and coping with stress

Date:27 JUN 2014
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Family Law

RACHEL COX, South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS FT

ROGER EVANS, Liverpool John Moores University and South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS FT

BIZA STENFERT KROESE, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham

This article reports on an exploratory study of the role of solicitors acting for parents with learning disabilities (LDs) in public law proceedings. It draws on in-depth interviews with 11 solicitors and a subsequent focus group event. Five themes were drawn from the data, one of which, ‘Solicitor practice – altering practice and learning as we go along’ is described and discussed in this article. This theme focuses on solicitors altering their practice when working with this client group and the impact of this work upon the solicitor.

The results demonstrate that solicitors who have experience of representing parents with LDs will spend significantly more time with this client group than others without such needs and will alter other aspects of their practice to accommodate their client’s disabilities. Such time-consuming alterations in practice, which are not necessarily charged for but deemed necessary, are undertaken without guidance or training.

Owing to these issues, ‘normal’ stress experienced by solicitors is likely to be exacerbated when family practitioners advise and represent parents with LDs. Participants also identified other stressors related to practicing family law including lack of support and/or acknowledgement by the ‘profession’ of the stressful nature of the work undertaken and due to the perceived unfairness of the system.

The full version of this article appears in the July 2014 issue of Family Law.

Online subscribers can access the full article here.