Sunday, 10 October 2010

ACCESS TO JUSTICE


Access to justice is fundamental to any civilised society. Recently however we had the absurd situation where the Law Society had to take the Community Legal Service to Court for a review of its tendering process for legal aid in circumstances where and by severely cutting the number of law firms that could offer a legal aid service, access to legal advice and representatives was crudely reduced. Although the Law Society won that round, we now hear rumours that legal aid will potentially no longer be available for many family cases and only on Thursday the Justice Minister, Jonathan Djangoly, indicated on the radio that people in family breakdowns are using court too often and that the Government is determined to look at this, with mediation being viewed as a positive alternative.

Of course lawyers came in for criticism, being blamed as lacking knowledge of the mediation process. Well I have news for Mr Djangoly, many lawyers, myself included, have trained as mediators and collaborative lawyers and invariably promote these methods as alternatives to traditional negotiation techniques or litigation. In my experience and for good reason not every client wants to go down those routes and without a commitment to the process neither mediation nor collaboration will succeed. However, just because those options are repudiated, doesn’t mean that everyone wants to go to court. In fact I would struggle to think of any client for whom the issue of court proceedings has been anything other than a last resort. Experienced family lawyers will always endeavour to encourage clients to settle disputes by whatever method is the most appropriate for their circumstances and, more than anyone, are fully aware of the cost and trauma that court proceedings can inflict.

3 comments:

John Bolch said...

I fully agree. The Government presents mediation as a panacea, which of course it is not, and jumps on the bandwagon of blaming lawyers for failing to promote it. The Minister is either ignorant of the work that most family lawyers do to encourage settlement or, more likely, playing to the public/media.

divorce online said...

I agree to what you say. but I also feel that any public service should never be exploited.

collaborative lawyer said...

mediation can be a really fantastic way of settling disputes, particularly in family law cases. it obviously doesn't work for everyone, but if you're separation etc is relatively amicable then it can certainly be much more successful than other methods