Picture the scene. You are in your local courthouse, after driving for two hours to get there, eventually finding a space and paying a fortune to park. You are waiting for your client to arrive, while desperately hoping you told them the correct place, date and time.
The waiting area fills up as lawyers and people concerned in the hearings arrive. By 10am it is full, with still more people arriving. Some have brought friends, family, or screaming children as there is no one else to look after them. Some ex-partners glower at each other. Others look lost.
The lawyers are a mixed bunch. Some are obviously local and know which interview rooms to grab and which users to chat to. Some out-of-town lawyers arrive with expensive suits and those large leather cases used by pilots. They are impatient for their important hearings to start. The walls are decorated with helpful posters about where to get help and how to identify Colorado Beetle. Sometimes there is a drinks machine. Some ex-legal partners glower at each other.
Author: Stephen Gold
£19.99, Bath Publishing Ltd
This is the legal world of unrepresented parties, harassed lawyers and under-resourced courts which forms the background to this book. It is written by a now retired civil and family judge, Stephen Gold, who is well qualified to guide us around the courts. He was a successful lawyer who then became a judge, and also an experienced legal columnist and writer. He became a media spokesman for the judiciary.
Clearly, the scene in waiting areas is mirrored in the judges’ rooms. Gold describes judges with long lists wrestling (not literally) with angry litigants and probably under-funded, under-trained lawyers. Why do so many of us want to be a judge? Well, the terms and pay are better than most lawyers see in practice, and people have to be nice to you.
The first part is autobiographical, describing Gold’s search for articles at the age of 16 and a career which included acting for the Kray twins (pictured) and the mystery of Ronnie Kray’s missing brain (you will have to buy the book to read about that).
The rest of the book is largely for unrepresented litigants, but is so full of useful stuff that it will be of great use to advisers as well as the advised. It includes information on costs, how to get legal help, limitation, and judgments and enforcement. Gold suggests that if you cross-examine a judgment debtor about their assets, you should ask them to empty their pockets first. Car keys, for example. It also includes the information that a guide dog is exempt from bailiff seizures (something I admit had never occurred to me).
The section on estates and wills includes advice on death-bed gifts and how to avoid them (the gift, not the death-bed). There is plenty on consumer law issues, relationship matters including pre-nup and a ‘no sex agreement’.
At £20 for over 500 pages this book is great value. It will be of use to any adviser or anyone thinking about becoming a judge.
David Pickup is a partner at Pickup and Scott Solicitors, Aylesbury