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Clients who insist on "my day in court"

In many cases, both sides of a particular case are legally aided. This is especially true in family law cases. Where both parties are legally aided and may have a very small financial stake in the case, the temptation to insist on their “rights” to the full is greater than it might be for persons who are paying for legal services themselves.

Law centre solicitors are under the same obligation to deter unreasonable applicants from proceeding to assert or defend their “rights” as they would be if dealing with fee paying clients.

Take for example a dispute concerning access to a child.  The father wishes to have access or to have access increased and the mother refuses. It is not a privilege of either party to insist on changing access, or to insist on refusing it, unreasonably.  If you consider that a party is being unreasonable and should perhaps accept a settlement, then it is your duty to bring that to the attention of the Board and to advise the parties that legal services may be withdrawn from one or both of them unless they accept a reasonable arrangement. 

It is the duty of the Board and of each solicitor to consider whether or not it is reasonable that public money should be expended.  It is not the right of any client to “insist” on substantial expenditure unless there is very good reason for it.  It is reasonable to suggest that a client seek an appointment for mediation or an information session about mediation in the above case if the client has not already chosen to do so. It should also be mentioned that the client’s costs may be increased by going to court.

It may be unfair that a person who qualifies for legal aid should be in a position to put a person who has to pay for legal services to substantial expense without very good reason.

It is not suggested that the legally aided client has to accept “second best” because they are on legal aid. The point is that legal aid should not over empower one party over another.