Happy New Year to you all !!

This is my first FLBMail as chairman of the FLBA.

I confess that I embark upon my two years as chairman with some mild trepidation, but also with great excitement. As secretary, and then as vice chairman, I have had the pleasure to serve under four past chairmen – and six as a member of the committee – and know how much hard work the role of chairman involves. I am also very well aware of the exceptionally high standard I must try to live up to.

The very first thing I wish to do as chairman is to pay tribute to Susan Jacklin QC, our immediate past chairman, for all her exceptionally hard work over the past two years. She has been an excellent chairman of the FLBA, and we owe her a huge debt of gratitude for all that she has done. Her industry and dedication has been remarkable, and I cannot hope to live up to her extraordinary record of sending out an FLBMail every fortnight (without fail!)

I am delighted that Susan Jacklin QC has accepted an invitation from the new Chairman of the Bar, Chantel-Aimée Doerries QC, to co-chair RemCom, the Bar Council’s remuneration committee. I am confident that proper attention will be given at the highest level to the future of family legal aid. I expect to meet with the LAA with Susan in the very near future, and regularly thereafter.

FLBMails
I am told that only about 50% of members actually open FLBMails, falling to only 20% of our judicial affiliate members. That is a tad dispiriting, although, as a busy practitioner and joint head of my chambers, I appreciate that from time to time it can feel like we are inundated with a blizzard of email traffic, which we have precious little time to read. And so in an attempt to ease your burden, I intend to send out my own FLBMail ‘urbi et orbi’ (!) only once a month, usually on the first Tuesday of each month. I promise only to include things I think you need to know about. So please do try to read them (…please?)

Inevitably, there will be other things that we need or wish to advertise and/or bring to your attention, which cannot wait a whole month. These will be publicised either on an ad hoc basis (if they are really urgent), or in an ‘events’ FLBMail sent out on the third Tuesday of each month. Given the timing of this FLBMail, I hope I can be forgiven for advertising one such event here?

Please let me know if we are getting the balance right. I really do want members to read the FLBMails we send out, and not just ignore ‘yet another…’ email from the FLBA.

FLBA (Annual) Events
There are three significant events and dates for your diary, which I would ask you to note, please:

FLBA Annual Dinner : The annual dinner will be held in Middle Temple Hall on Friday 26 February 2016. I am delighted that Dominic Grieve QC MP, former Attorney General, and a great champion of human rights and the Bar, has accepted an invitation to be our guest speaker. I am confident that we shall be at full capacity this year, indeed in past years there was always a long waiting list of those hoping to be able to attend.

Further details will be sent out shortly.

Cumberland Lodge Conference : The Cumberland Lodge conference will be held on 6-8 May 2016. The theme for this year’s conference will be the ‘Modern Family’. The programme (which is ‘under construction’) will focus on a topical overview of modern family life, including cohabitee rights, same sex families, international (forced) adoptions, family movement across international boundaries, an introduction to child abduction, complex ‘tripartite’ parental rights (etc.).

We are currently debating how best to make use of Sunday morning. Attendance can be ‘patchy’ (to put it mildly), and it is not altogether fair to our excellent guest speakers, if, having worked hard to prepare their talks and given up their own weekend to attend, they find they are speaking to a virtually empty room. I would welcome your views, please.

National Conference : The FLBA National Conference 2016 will take place in either (late) October or in November in Birmingham. I am very grateful to Jeremy Weston QC and his regional committee for agreeing to organise this popular event. Traditionally the conference has always been held in late November, but November is a busy month, with other conferences (such as the ALC conference) and events, and so Jeremy and his committee are currently investigating the possibility of moving the event forward to late October (mindful, of course, of half-term dates and commitments).

Further details of the actual date will be sent out shortly.

Other FLBA Events
Joint FLBA/ChBA Seminar : The FLBA and ChBA are holding a joint seminar ‘Trusts and the Family Division: Current Issues’ on 1 February 2016 at 6pm at the London School of Economics. Please click here to download the flyer. 1.5 CPD points are available, and it’s free (at least to FLBA members).

I am exceptionally grateful to Mrs Justice (Jenny) Roberts who has kindly agreed to chair the seminar, and to our three (excellent) speakers: Christopher Pocock QC; Miranda Allardice and Harry Oliver. These are always very popular occasions and provide an invaluable opportunity to discuss topical matters with our compatriots at the Chancery Bar.

I encourage you all to attend. Please contact Khadija to reserve your place.

As indicated, a flyer is attached and further details will follow.

FPR 2010 Practice Direction 27A Questionnaire
Sir James Munby spoke at the National Conference in Cardiff of his intention to revise FPR 2010 PD27A, including in relation to the permitted length of various documents e.g. experts’ reports and counsel’s note (although not, as the President wryly acknowledged, the permitted length of the judgments). Speaking entirely for myself, I hope the permitted length of counsel’s notes is reduced significantly. Am I alone in this utopian ambition? Why not, in a finance case, 4 pages for a 1st Appointment, 8 pages for an FDR Appointment and a maximum of 12 pages for a final hearing (unless otherwise expressly directed)? The Court of Appeal specifies a maximum of 25 pages for an appeal, and (rightly) enforces this rule mercilessly.

The FLBA is undertaking its own survey to inform our response. I attach a link

The committee has already received suggestions for changes to PD27A, upon which we also seek your views. There is ample scope in the questionnaire for you to express your views on PD27A generally. Please do take time to complete it.

http://goo.gl/forms/ofAPFim1aB

Feedback
I know there are lots of demands on your time (both professionally and personally), but I’m keen to ‘revivify’ the membership’s participation over the next two years. The FLBA has approximately 1750 members, but we struggle on occasion to achieve full capacity attendance at Cumberland Lodge and the national conference, and even at the annual dinner, which historically was always well oversubscribed.

The FLBA exists primarily (perhaps, solely) for the benefit of its members. Please participate and support it when you can.

All feedback – good, bad, but hopefully constructive – is always very welcome.

So please do not hesitate to email me directly in chambers on pmarshall@1kbw.co.uk, or call me on 0207 936 1500. I can’t promise always to be immediately available 24/7, but I do promise to respond to all communications ‘soonest’.

Administrative enquiries should be sent to our excellent administrator, Khadija Khan, on admin@flba.co.uk or via 1 Garden Court Chambers, Temple EC4Y 9BJ.

Once again, I wish you all a very Happy New Year and a peaceful and prosperous 2016.

As ever,

Philip

Philip J Marshall QC