STANDING UP FOR COURT STAFF: WE ARE ON THE SAME SIDE AND CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT THEM
I have, several times, commented on the strange decisions that appear to be being made by court staff carrying out administrative functions. However one of the major challenges for all those involved in the litigation process is going to be working with the courts at a time of change and where resources are being squeezed, staff being a central part of the “squeezing” process. It is unlikely that the huge hike we have seen in court fees will find its way to recruiting new staff, or improving the conditions of existing staff.
So instead of criticising staff on the front line I want to spend a little time praising those who I have come across over the past few weeks as I have been travelling around the country.
Wrexham County Court has staff that were welcoming and helpful. This included everyone from arriving at security, reception and the court usher. The coffee bar staff joined in in this (and served decent coffee as well). Conference facilities were found.
Telford County Court has the same welcoming atmosphere, again starting at Security and continuing through every member of staff I dealt with.
The staff at Blackpool County Court work in conditions that could, kindly, be described as “grim”. However the staff are not grim and, again, went out of their way to help clients and advocates.
You may think that praise is easily heaped upon smaller hearing centres. However I have to record the help given by the staff Leeds County Court (technically Leeds District Registry, but who can be that pedantic?) last week in dealing with my severely disabled client (who also required a signing interpreter). The staff went out of their way to make the client, and her family, comfortable and safely ensconced in court. They went well beyond the call of duty.
WHAT HAS THIS GOT TO DO WITH CIVIL PROCEDURE?
Litigation is a human process. Court staff are part of that process. I suspect they are having a particularly tough time of it and, for the most part, remain unappreciated. Good court staff can make a major difference to the client’s experience of the trial/hearing process. They make a difference to the advocates’ experience of the process (although we have broader shoulders and matter much less I am sure).
As a profession it behoves us, I think, to recognise the difficulties experienced by the people we deal with on a day to day basis. We should recognise (and record) outstanding assistance by those we work alongside.