Questionnaire for Lawyers

Ask your solicitor, barrister or McKenzie friend these questions.  If they flap or fudge, just say thank you and move on.  You don’t have to explain yourself.  You are interviewing them!

Question Correct Answer
Please tell me what your understanding is of the term ‘Parental Alienation’ The best definition is “A process, and the result of, the psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent or other members of the family”[1]   That’s expecting a bit much, but something like this ought to be the goal.  
What do you think of Mrs Justice Parkers comments on social workers in re H? “I think she got it spot on – CAFCASS officers and Guardians can be pretty useless and she did a great job on calling them out”   Incorrect Answer: “Re who” or “She was totally unfair to these people” – the first of these shows ignorance, the second shows a lawyer that is part of the problem – they will not be a fighter.  With PA, you are going to have to fight hard and you need a lawyer with a bit of backbone…
Who is Sir James Munby? “The former President of the Family Division. The current President is Lord McFarlane
What is your hourly rate? £x per hour” – Incorrect answer: Anything waffly – it’s a simple question and if the solicitor stalls, prevaricates or clouds the issue, move on. A barrister will usually ask you to talk to his clerk about fees. You will need to send the barrister the papers and then ask for his/her fees, depending on whether you want representation, a written Advice, or whatever. Remember to compare the answers you get with other fees from other barristers in different chambers – remember to compare like with like – that is to compare the fees of similarly qualified counsel – a barrister of 4 years ‘call’ (4 years since they qualified) will be much cheaper than a barrister of 20 years call.
Are you a solicitor and if so, are you a partner? You can find this out usually by looking at the firm’s headed notepaper, but many ‘firms’ of solicitors are now effectively companies, so you might have to ask the lawyer directly.  Again, the correct answers are “Yes I am a solicitor, but am/am not a partner” or “No, I am a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives” (OK too).  If the answer is anything other than solicitor or legal exec, ask for someone more senior. Do not accept a generic term like ‘lawyer’ – that can mean anything (although there are specific laws preventing, for example, non-solicitors describing themselves as such.
Do you handle cases other than family cases? “No”
Roughly how many cases are you handling at the moment? A good answer to this is “under 100” – a bad answer is anything near 300.
How many cases involving PA have you completed and what was the outcome? The correct answer is a rough number, not “lots”.
Name 2 Court of Appeal Family Division Judges (this is not a high bar!) Here is a list of all Lord and Lady Justices of Appeal.  You lawyer should know the family specialists, Lady Justices Black and Macur, Lord Justices McFarlane and Ryder, and Lord Justice Munby, the boss.  These are the big names, though sometimes other Lords and Lady Justices sit in the family court too, but more often experienced High Court Family judges will ‘sit up’

That will do for the moment.  These should not be hard questions.  When quizzing McKenzie Friends, you can be lenient as they are not, and should not pretend, to be lawyers.

[1] Lorandos, D., W.Bernet and S.R. Sauber (2013)

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