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District Judge Stephen Alderson, in an astute pincer move with H H Judge Moir, is tasked to tidy up sloppy family proceedings. You now have the letter. “Stringent cost cutting”, “lean practices”, “reduced staffing levels”, “scrutiny of systems and working practices”, FPR r1.4(2)e, email communication, 48 hr and 7 day rules for draft orders, lodging times for Financial Remedy proceedings. Well worth a read, not least to save you and your indemnity insurance big bills.
Yes, costs sanctions have been threatened before, but in a climate where the Bar elegantly serviced the bench, and where government cuts did not challenge the viability of the provision of services and judicial office. Now, the invisible fingers of the Ministry of Justice twist the screws and determine the judge’s costs orders.
The rules with regard to draft orders are probably the most challenging, taking into account that tomorrow we have another case and have forgotten what happened the day before. Leave your draft for over two days and face execution, it seems. These appear to be the time scales:
- Except for final orders in Financial Remedies and interim DJ orders: submit your draft within 48 hrs of leaving court;
- Interim DJ orders: don’t draft unless asked;
- Final Financial Remedy orders: by 4.0pm on the 7th day after the hearing;
- All orders in ‘Word’ by email to the court.
The family finance practitioners won’t be surprised by their new guidance; after all, they have been historically subjected to various degrees of rigour by the FPR. But now comes the lash – to be administered if you don’t comply. In a moment of characteristic generosity, DJ Stephen Alderson relents to allow filing of documents required for the FDR no later than 2 (instead of 7) days before the hearing, but observes that this concession will not extend to final hearings, where final positions must be filed no later than 14 and 7 days before the hearing. This blogger is convinced that some members of the bar will in time face costs that eclipse their circuit wine bills.
Whether as reminders or sea changes, the directions serve to show the future landscape – leaner, tighter, sharper, more competitive, more accountable. The role of barrister is no longer a ‘gentleman’s’ or ‘gentlewoman’s’ profession. We are in business, with cost saving ethos.