The other day, as I paid a visit to the old firm, something struck me. It was the sepulchral calm which appeared to have descended on the family department.
Anyone starting off in family work over the last few years can have no conception of the sheer volume of business and daily pressures of the department 20 years ago, when legal aid was in full swing.
Combining this with private cases, and switching from one to the other, it was the volume of paperwork that marked the difference between then and now, before everything was taken over by the computer. Most of us saw many clients in person, from every type and background. Life was frustrating with constant rule changes by the legal aid authority, applications for extensions of this and that – and the incessant flow of messages from other firms.
Just as you were settling down in would come the urgent injunction, needing an ex parte hearing before the judge, a fine-tuned expertise in the papers required, and all to be prepared in a trice. A flying visit to catch the judge before they left for the day, driving at breakneck speed through traffic.
It is hard to believe we actually accompanied our divorce clients to swear their affidavits verifying petitions, wearing out the pavement between the office and next-door firm – whose lawyers pocketed a fortune on oath fees.
If the costs per case were not as high compared to today’s slow-burn cases, it was nevertheless highly stimulating.
John Greenwood, retired family lawyer, Chippenham, Wiltshire