The Class Legal Financial Remedies Skyline: a Review
Published: 31/05/2022 13:57
Consider changes to the London skyline over a generation. Now consider Mostyn J’s contribution to the law reports over a similar time. I see a similar picture. The scenery has been changed almost beyond recognition as a result of industry, intellect and innovation.
Like Churchill, Mostyn has also written the book which explains it all to us.
In fact, he (along with Sir Peter Singer, Lewis Marks and Gavin Smith) has bequeathed to us two books: At A Glance and Financial Remedies Practice. Both have been published by Class Legal, who have been the keeper of Mostyn J’s extra judicial outpourings.
As the Mostynian era proceeds to its conclusion, it is worth pondering how these books have fared.
At A Glance was ground-breaking for its time. Looking back on the London skyline, it must be accorded One Canada Square status. It provided us with facts and figures, cases and quick references for a generation. Published in association with the Family Law Bar Association it was 'The Bible' for us all in a pre-internet era and provided a handsome income to the FLBA to boot. No self-respecting finance practitioner would be seen without it.
But that was then, and I do wonder whether we reference to it as much as we once did. So much information is now available online and one can often access similar or more up to date information via Google. There are numerous ways in which we can access statutes and case law and so, like One Canada Square, At A Glance must now jostle for space on the skyline with others. Its chief purpose for me has probably been reduced to demonstrating the exorbitance of a maintenance demand by reference to what the Archbishop of Canterbury or Prime Minister’s income nets out at.
Personally, I have switched my affections to At A Glance Cloud (also Class Legal, and I profess an interest as a contributor to its TOLATA table and list of cases), which has similar information and handy electronic calculators which find a way of remaining relevant in the internet age. Yes, you can just get your child maintenance calculation off the CMS site, but what if you need an “uncapped” version up to the Mostyn prescribed upper limit?
The success of the Capitalise calculator (another Class Legal gizmo) has perhaps reduced the amount of times we consult At A Glance for a Duxbury calculation.
So, it may be that the paper version of At A Glance will have scorched across the skyline coterminously with the career of Mostyn J.
But At A Glance Cloud has also spawned yet another intellectual feat – namely, the now annually published Financial Remedies Practice. If you have not picked one up, think of it as the White Book for Financial Remedies. It is procedural rather than substantive and it is an absolute wedge in hard copy.
Its command of procedural conundrums is unrivalled for family lawyers and it draws on a wide range of resources, including many civil procedural cases. This is not a book confined to any family law island or Alsatia. This is a book which has a panoramic understanding of how the law should be practised. It captures all those practice directions, presidential memorandums and efficiency statements and makes sense of an almost overwhelming plethora of material.
Designed originally (so Sir Peter Singer once told me) to be electronic only, as a further encouragement to subscribe to At A Glance Cloud (then @eGlance) its publication in hard copy format may have served as something of a distraction from the enticements to sign up with At A Glance Cloud. But, like the 'find a room' tab on a website about finding your way in London, which was later to become SpareRoom.com, I expect that Financial Remedies Practice has now probably grown larger than its progenitor.
The sheer size of Financial Remedies Practice, however, is a problem. Munby P famously said that his ultimate ambition was to throw the Red Book on the flames, leaving us navigating our disputes online. That ambition is some way off, I expect. Family law procedure has become so complex that one senses many (LIPs, lawyers and judges alike) are simply overwhelmed by what one is supposed to keep on top of in order to conduct an application in an 'efficient conduct compliant' way. This is no fault of the book in a narrow sense, we are where we are.
In a wider sense, will Mostyn J leave family law in a more accessible state than he found it? Even allowing for the pilot procedure instigated a generation ago, modern procedure can be something of a rabbit warren.
Class Legal, however, continues to change the skyline with the 'Dictionary' series.
At present there is an annual Dictionary of Financial Remedies and Dictionary of Private Children Law. A Dictionary of TOLATA is to follow in the coming year. The series editor of the Dictionaries is His Honour Judge Edward Hess. If Mostyn is One Canada Square, think of Hess as the Walkie Talkie.
The Dictionaries succeed in providing superb bite size summaries of different aspects of the (mainly but not exclusively) substantive law in their area with footnotes to the cases for further reading.
I reach for my Financial Remedies Dictionary as the first port of call for most substantive conundrums. Indexed thoughtfully and logically, I can find answers quickly and the case law in any particular area is helpfully surveyed with tight and realistic editorial observations.
Some of the older textbooks in this area feel more Byzantine in their indexing and organisation, like an ancient city which has been built over by successive generations of editors and contributors. Some are a mess and are in need of a complete overhaul and rebuild.
After a hiatus practising children law for some years, a recent appointment has necessitated my return to an up-to-date understanding of the Children Act 1989 and the Dictionary does that superbly well for private children law.
And so, Class Legal now provide me with key texts on both substantive and procedural financial remedies law. If only, you might think, they could be combined into one volume, that would be a game changer. Well in a sense that is also available. The books are available as hard copy versions but also as electronic e-books, all housed in one reader. The pandemic has accelerated working practices and many of us, I expect, have gone over to consuming legal knowledge in a purely electronic format. And so, on my IPad, I have in one place At A Glance, Financial Remedies Practice and the Dictionaries x 2 which is a super-efficient way to carry around a lot of legal information without having to worry about whether the wi-fi link will work when you get to court.
His Honour Judge Hess is currently responsible for a review of the financial remedies standard orders. We can, I hope, therefore expect an updated Standard Family Orders Handbook in due course (Class Legal, author, His Honour Judge Hess). The annotations to the drafts are insightful and authoritative. In my book, they might even be expanded in any future edition. The footnotes to the old Resolution precedents are probably some of the most missed and lamented footnotes in the history of family law footnotes.
I can also confirm that the authors of Pensions on Divorce: A Practitioner’s Handbook (Lexis 3rd edition), Hay, Hess, Lockett and Taylor have just signed a contract with Class Legal for the 4th edition of this leading and essential text. We are delighted to be adding this to the Class Legal skyline.
It is perhaps too early to be commenting on the architecture and impact of the Financial Remedies Journal, but it is nothing short of remarkable that it has taken until 2022 for the Financial Remedies community to have its own specialised journal. It has ambitions to be Shard-like in its reach.
I am a huge fan of the Class Legal cluster. Class Legal, Mostyn, Hess et al are to be commended for the skyline.