Do lawyers make matters worse, or do they provide information, advice and support which can help to prevent disputes arising or manage them when they do?  Do mediators enable parties to communicate and reach agreements tailor-made to their needs?  Or working outside the legal framework, do they find it difficult to protect weaker parties and access expert advice?  What happens when lawyers become mediators?  This talk will describe the structure of service provision and the day-to-day work of lawyers, mediators, and lawyer mediators, drawing on empirical work carried out between 2013 and 2015 immediately after the recent changes to the management of divorce and separation within the family justice system.  The reduction in legal aided help in 2013 and the failure of mediation to fill the gap in 2014–15 have given rise to a difficult debate.  This talk aims to provide an account of some of the practical effects of these policies through a description of the daily work of practitioners in the sector. It raises the question of whether we need to choose between traditional legal services and the new processes of private ordering or whether intermediate positions might be possible.

About the Speakers

John Eekelaar was a Tutorial Fellow at Pembroke College from 1965 to 2005; he held a CUF Lecturership from 1966-91, and was Reader in Law until 2005. He was a founder member of the International Society of Family Law and its President from 1985-8, and founding co-editor of the International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family.  He was elected to a Fellowship of the British Academy in July 2001 and to a Distinguished Visiting Fellowship by the New Zealand Law Foundation in 2005.  He retired from teaching in 2005.

Mavis Maclean CBE has carried out Socio Legal research in Oxford since 1974, and was a founding director of OXFLAP in 2001.  She has acted as the Academic Adviser to the Lord Chancellor’s Department, and served as a panel member on the Bristol Royal Infirmary Inquiry between 1998 and 2001, a major public inquiry into the National Health Service.  Mavis is a Senior Research Fellow of St Hilda's College and a Senior Research Associate at DSPI. In 1993 she was elected President of the Research Committee for the Sociology of Law, International Sociological Association, in 2000 a Trustee of the Law and Society Association, in 2002 a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and in 2012 of the Academy of Social Sciences.  She was awarded the first SLSA Annual Prize for Contributions to the Socio Legal Community in 2012.  In 2013, Mavis was made an Honorary Bencher of Middle Temple. She has served on a number of grant making committees, notably the Children and Family Justice Committee, Nuffield Foundation, the Research Liaison Group for Children’s Services, Department of Health, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Social Policy Committee.  She was a member of the Lord Chancellor’s Legal Aid Advisory Committee 1992-4, and is a Fellow of the IISL, Onati, Spain. She chairs the TCRU Advisory Committee at the, Institute of Education, and is a member of the Management Committee of the Centre for Family Research, Cambridge.  Mavis is joint editor of the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, and a member of the editorial boards of the International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family and the International Journal of Law in Context.  Her research interests are Family Law and Family Policy, particularly from a comparative perspective.