Lawyers have told us that family law work has less status and kudos and pays less than other forms of law, for example corporate law, and that a good family lawyer is very hard to find! In our experience many lawyers represent mothers appallingly – they don’t ‘take instruction’ from you as they are supposed to, shut you up, tell you they are in charge of the case and you should do as they say, prevent you from getting corroborating statements or telling your side of the story in court . . . They often seem to be working for the other side. This may be because they are incompetent, biased, or because they often do act for the other side (they may even be acting for the local authority on another case at that very moment), they may get better paid when they represent a local authority than when they represent you on legal aid, and they may be concerned to stay in good terms with the local authority so they gets jobs from them in the future. Whatever the reasons, a bad lawyer will not present or highlight the evidence as they should and this may lose you your case.
If this is happening to you, change lawyers ASAP and hopefully find a better one. We recommend that you get a lawyer who does not represent local authorities. You need to tell the legal aid board why you’re not happy with the way you’re being represented – it helps if you’ve also complained to the lawyer concerned in writing, so that your reasons are clear. If it is too late to change lawyers (e.g. you have a court hearing which is imminent), speak up in court. It is your life and your child’s life so be prepared to raise evidence you think is relevant (see Useful Tips 11). Be prepared to sack your lawyer on the spot too; bad representation can be worse than no representation.