In my post about the Bruce Hyman case I suggested that most family lawyers uphold the highest standards of the profession and work hard to reduce animosity by adopting a constructive non-confrontational approach, especially in matters involving children. Whilst I still believe that this is the case, I wonder if the number of 'bad pennies' is rather higher than my experience suggests. I have today received information about another incident of appalling behaviour by a family lawyer (unfortunately I am not able to give details), adding to a significant number of reports I've come across of similar experiences, particularly by litigants acting in person.
As I say, my own view is based upon my personal knowledge, gathered over more than twenty years of doing this work. Certainly, there have been times when other family lawyers have behaved in an unnecessarily aggressive or confrontational fashion (for example when they have become overly involved in their client's case), and occasionally some have been less than professional, but generally most I have come across have adopted the approach that I have mentioned above, especially those who are also members of Resolution or one of the family law panels. However, it is extremely rare that I have felt that the conduct of a fellow lawyer has fallen seriously below the standards that are expected (or should be expected) of us.
Now I am not so sure. Is my experience typical? Would it be the same if I were a litigant in person? It is made quite clear in Resolution's Guide to Good Practice and elsewhere that a lawyer's approach to a litigant in person should be no different, but do some lawyers seek to take advantage, for example by bullying the other party? Just how many bad pennies are there?
The public perception of lawyers in general and family lawyers in particular is that we don't care, we are biased and we will stop at nothing to achieve our client's ends, irrespective of the effect upon others involved in or affected by the litigation, including children. As I indicated in my previous post, I believe that most family lawyers are striving hard to turn this reputation around, but if there are too many bad pennies then we are simply wasting our time.