You will forgive me, I hope, that this FLBMail is being sent out later in July than is normal to coincide with the approach of the end of term, although I know that some of you are already away as school holidays seem to begin earlier and earlier each year.
This is my sixth FLBMail as chairman of the FLBA.
As I write on Monday morning, the sun is streaming through the window in my study and we are forecast to enjoy sun and high temperatures in London for the rest of the week.
I cannot, I’m afraid, speak for the rest of the country, but here’s hoping the summer has indeed arrived.
I’m tempted to say plus ca change, given last month I also hazarded that ‘….perhaps the summer has finally arrived’ when such proved not to be the case. But, for reasons all too well known to you, I feel obliged to observe: tout a changé (although I doubt President Juncker will allow us to use that expression anymore after Art 50 has been triggered).
If only for the sake of future generations I should record that since my last FLBMail, the nation has voted (wisely or not) to leave the EU; a prime minister has resigned and been replaced with another in only two and a half weeks without troubling the electorate; MPs voted overwhelmingly to unseat the leader of the opposition, but he remains in post and faces a leadership election later in the year, thanks in part to some commendably ambiguous drafting in its constitution; the economy and sterling has tanked (or not, depending on which way you voted), and our new secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs – our diplomat in chief – bestrides the globe, or at least those bits of it which he hasn’t previously insulted in a previous life, given he too probably didn’t expected then that he’d be sitting where he is now.
And we have another new lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice: Lord Chancellor Liz Truss, the first female to hold the role in a millennium. Quite what her credentials are and/or what her policy objectives will be, no one knows. She moves from a relatively middle-ranking post as secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs (i.e. cheese) to hold one of the once great offices of state. But we should rejoice that another ‘glass ceiling’ has been shattered (mindful, however, of the fact that it is becoming less and less likely that a lawyer will ever be appointed to hold the post again). And, of course, it would be churlish to suppose that justice now appears to have become merely a staging post on the road to greater political ambition. But it is a road strewn with casualties, as we have seen recently. Lord Chancellor Truss will be sworn in by the Lord Chief Justice on Thursday 22nd July. We wish her well. Indeed, at this time of austerity and political upheaval, we need her to do very well.
And somewhere in the middle of all this, international family justice may, or may not, be on the brink of radical reform. I have written elsewhere, in Family Affairs, about the possible impact of Brexit on Brussels IIa and the Maintenance Regulation, the precise nature and extent of which none of us can currently predict. I don’t propose to revisit that here, not least because Family Affairs should be dropping through your letters boxes in the next few days. Suffice here to reiterate that the FLBA will do all we can to stimulate an educated debate so that our overlords and masters (i.e. the politicians) can make an informed choice about what should be retained, although I fear that such considerations may fall prey to higher political objective dictated by trade deals and the free movement of workers. And of course, once one leaves the club, one may be given an ‘all or nothing’ choice? How ironic it would be were the UK now to be obliged to embrace ‘applicable law’ (i.e. foreign EU law…) at the very point at which a majority has voted to leave the EU. We shall see.
And do bear in mind that the Commission has recently tabled its long-awaited proposals to revamp Brussels IIa principally in relation to children matters (including the free movement of judicial decisions and the imposition of time limits upon the length of proceedings in parental child abduction cases). I attach the link: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-2359_en.htm. Whether it will ever be applied in the UK, I have no idea.
But enough of politics (at least for now).
Wellbeing at the Bar: Practice Management, Resilience & Recovery
As I hope you will be aware the Bar Council has set up a Wellbeing at the Bar Program to highlight and address issues of mental health and wellbeing which for far too long have largely gone unspoken and unacknowledged at the Bar, and indeed around the world. On 5th September 2016 it is holding a seminar at the Parliament Chamber, Inner Temple commencing at 5.45pm to which all are most welcome: Wellbeing at the Bar: Practice Management, Resilience & Recovery.
Autumn Lecture Series 2016
As you depart on your holidays, I also draw your attention to the FLBA’s Autumn Lecture series which starts on 22 September and runs until 3 November. Yet again this year we are fortunate to have persuaded some truly excellent speakers to give of their time to deliver six talks on a range of really useful and interesting topics. Each lecture will take place at the London School of Economics (LSE) and starts at 6.15pm. They are free to FLBA members and cost only £15 per lecture to non-FLBA attendees.
I attach the link.
Please do attend if you can. These lectures are for your benefit and I am extremely grateful to each of our speakers for agreeing to give up their time to share their knowledge and expertise.
FLBA Events in 2016-2017
There are three dates for your diary by way of reminder:
The FLBA National Conference Birmingham 2016 will take place on Saturday 22nd October 2016 at the Malmaison Hotel in Birmingham.
The FLBA Annual Dinner will be held in Middle Temple Hall on Friday 24th February 2017.
The Cumberland Lodge Conference 2017 will take place on Friday 5th to Sunday 7th May 2017.
IFLA Children Arbitration Scheme
On 18th July I attended the launch of the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators’ new Children Arbitration Scheme at the Inner Temple. This marks an important step in non-court based dispute resolution, which hitherto had been restricted to financial remedies cases. In excess of one hundred financial remedy arbitrations have taken place so far, and the numbers are beginning to accelerate. I have no doubt that arbitration in children matters will prove even more popular having regard to the current allocation rules in private children cases. Hopefully this will act as a further catalyst in relation to financial arbitration cases. After all it might be thought somewhat illogical to arbitrate about the children whilst litigating about the finances. For those who are interested, further details (including of upcoming training courses) are available on IFLA’s website.
Together with the other executive officers, I recently met with a number of our regional association officers at 1KBW on Saturday 9th July. These annual meetings are always really worthwhile and informative and provide those of us who are based in London with an excellent opportunity to hear what is going on in the FLBA regions. It is remarkable, but probably no surprise, that the same problems come up time and again around the country. One of the things we have agreed is to share more news and information nationally, including about regional events, details of which I hope to include in the monthly FLBA Events Email.
If you are holding such an event, please do ensure your regional officers pass on details either to me or to Khadija Khan (our FLBA administrator) so that we can publicise what is going on, and hopefully drum up more support locally and regionally.
I wish you all a most enjoyable summer break. For those who wait breathlessly for the next monthly FLBMail, this will be on Tuesday 6th September 2016. By then, hopefully, we shall all be looking bronzed, revivified, resuscitated and reanimated. Enjoy the hols.
Please do not hesitate to email me directly in chambers at email@example.com, or call me on 020 7936 1500 if you have something you wish to communicate or simply get off your chest.
Administrative enquiries should be sent to Khadija Khan, at firstname.lastname@example.org or to 1 Garden Court, Temple, London EC4Y 9BJ.
Philip J Marshall QC