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A ‘fat cat’ Family Court Judge has issued a so-called ‘public warning’ to solicitors and barristers to avoid ‘cross courting’ that impacts on the progress of a case. ‘We might start the case without you’, admonished the Learned Judge. The warning is rich on so many levels. Firstly cases get listed at increasingly short notice. Lawyers can hardly be blamed for that. Furthermore, the venues and dates of cases often get changed, sometimes without any notice at all. How’s that the fault of the lawyers? Moreover – and this really is ‘shock horror’ territory – double-booking a case, more often than not, can actually result in a saving to the public purse!

The last point is important given that apparently Judges are ‘mindful of cuts in resources that have impacted the listing of cases’. Indeed.

Since time immemorial, solicitors have engaged in the practice of accepting instructions in two cases in different courts (but the same building) on the same day, so long as Judges are informed of what is happening. This is known as ‘cross courting’ and obviously it can result in delays on the day. The problem is, so can insisting that layers don’t cross court, as there are a finite number of lawyers available to cover more and more family law cases, especially public law cases.

The practice has nothing to do with the mythical figure of the fat cat family lawyer, but everything to do with making the system work.

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