Monday, November 24, 2008

Leave Your Emotions at the Courtroom Door

Like, I suspect, many solicitors I have been watching the strange goings-on on the other side of the profession in the BBC Series The Barristers. The latest episode included a section following family barrister Louise McCabe, as she represented a husband in an ancillary relief case. First we see them in a four-hour conference, during which McCabe is clearly doing her best to persuade her client to settle, rather than go through the expense of a 'day (or three) in court'. "I'm talking myself out of a three-day job... so there's no benefit to me in you settling this", she tells her client. But the words fall on deaf ears, the husband unable to see the logic of her advice through the emotion of his situation, and the matter proceeds to a contested hearing (which ends up costing the husband over £50,000).

We next see McCabe at court, where she is involved in a lengthy cross-examination of the wife. After twenty-five minutes of this there is an adjournment, as the wife needs a break - as does everyone else, acknowledges McCabe, the stress of the situation clearly reaching her as well as the parties. Perhaps the most poignant moment comes when, during cross-examination, the wife acknowledges that McCabe's client was a good husband. The hearing continues and, surprise surprise, the judge orders an equal division of assets.

Finally, we see McCabe at home that evening, when she acknowledges that it had been a hard day. Her job, she reflects, makes her very sure that she never wants to get divorced, or that if she does divorce then she does not want to go through 'this process'.

All in all, I think an excellent, albeit fairly brief, insight into 'the process', and into the workings of a lawyer's mind - perhaps enough to remind clients that lawyers are human too, even if they have to leave their emotions at the courtroom door.

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