KEY DOCUMENTS :
Legal Bloggers Pilot
This page contains information about the legal bloggers pilot set out in Family Procedure Rules Practice Direction 36J, which runs from 1 October 2018 until 30 June 2020.
Under the pilot ‘duly authorised’ lawyers may attend private hearings on a similar basis to journalists. Rules regarding privacy and restrictions on reporting remain unchanged.
We explain a little about the scheme and how it came about here.
Read our FAQs below.
Who can attend?
Duly authorized lawyers fall into three categories :
- Practising lawyers
- Non practising lawyers working for a Higher Education Institution
- Non practising lawyers working for a registered educational charity whose details have been placed on a list with the President’s office. The Transparency Project is such a charity.
How do I identify a hearing to attend?
Whilst most private hearings can be attended under this scheme, those which are ‘conciliation’ type hearings are not covered by the scheme (though that is not to say that a judge might not agree in an individual case to permit access. Cases marked as FHDRA (First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment), IRH (Issues Resolution Hearing), DRA (Dispute Resolution Appointment) or FDR (Financial Dispute Resolution) are ‘conciliation’ type hearings so you are unlikely to be able to attend these hearings under the scheme.
Generally cases with a C number are care (public law children), cases with a P number are private law children, cases with a F number are injunctions (Family Law Act) and D is financial remedy (divorce).
You will need to look at the list to see how long the hearing is listed for and whether it is worth attending (for example you might not want to dip in to day four of seven, but you might identify a one day final hearing that you are able to attend throughout).
Court lists are freely accessible the day before by registering with Courtserve web service.
What will I need?
- picture identification
- completed FP301 ‘Notice of Attendance of duly authorized lawyer’ form (one for each hearing)
- written confirmation of attendance as a non practising lawyer under cover of an HEI or educational charity
A lawyer who attends under PD36J cannot have any other connection to the case and must confirm that they are attending for journalistic, public legal education or research purposes.
How will the scheme be evaluated?
We have devised a short questionnaire on Survey Monkey (link to the left). We are requesting that any lawyer who attends court under PD36J should complete this survey for each hearing attended – even if the lawyer was refused entry or did not ultimately write any blog post or article as a result of the attendance. This will enable us to build up a picture of what works and what doesn’t work, how much the scheme is being used, what unexpected issues are cropping up, and any regional variation. We have applied for funding to support this work and hope to publish a full evaluation in due course. There is no obligation on you to complete this form, but the more people who complete it the more accurate the picture will be of how the scheme is or is not working. We are also preparing a survey for those involved in a hearing attended by a legal blogger to tell us their experiences (lawyer, parent, judge etc). The link will appear to the left when it is ready.
Please send us links to your blog posts under this scheme as we will be disseminating them as widely as possible as well as gathering as many links in one place as possible. We are happy to host guest posts for lawyers who do not have their own blog, subject to editorial and legal checks. See ‘Will you publish my blog’ below.
Will you publish my blog?
Keep in touch with how the pilot is going
You can read blog posts written under the pilot here.
Do you do 'requests'?
- Whilst it is helpful to be pointed in the direction of hearings that might be interesting and worthwhile for us to attend, we have a limited number of legal bloggers on our team, who often have professional commitments during the day. We have no funds to pay legal bloggers for their travel or time and they generally blog on a voluntary (unpaid) basis. It is therefore unlikely that we would have the capacity to attend a specific hearing on request, particularly at short notice.
- We are an educational charity not a campaigning group. If we attended the hearing we might take a different view of your case than you do, and we might want to speak to various people involved with different views than your own. We generally try to report on a neutral basis without taking up a position for or against one or other ‘side’. We are independent of any party or the court.
- We might not be able to report anything at all about your case even if we came to court.
- We would have to think about whether there was a risk that one party might want us to attend in order to cause difficulty for or intimidate the other party.
Please don’t send us lots of detail about your case in the hope we will attend court. We probably couldn’t report it even if we did attend, and we don’t want you to be criticised for sharing information that you shouldn’t have. We will update this page as and when we are able to develop a more sophisticated policy on these issues.
Please do send us :
- the case number, time, date, location, length and type of hearing
- no more than a paragraph outlining what the case is about and why you think we should come
- contact details of the other parties so that we can check if they object to our attendance before coming
Can I object to a legal blogger (or journalist) coming into my hearing?
Legal Blogging Pilot Posts
Yesterday I had a commitment in London and was determined to do a bit of legal blogging whilst in town. I had skim-read the lists for the Family Division and Court of Appeal at the Royal Court of Justice before getting on the train, and planned to make my way there to...
Earlier this month, I had my first opportunity to attend the Family Court under the legal blogging pilot, Practice Direction 36J. I’d had some correspondence with the judges in the court nearest to me, Cardiff (which hears cases from numerous local authority areas in...
Family Law publishes a regular column by The Transparency Project. This blog post originally appeared in the November 2018 issue,  Fam Law 1465. THE NEW PILOT SCHEME FROM OCTOBER 2018 We are very pleased with the outcome of our application to the Family...
This morning, finding myself in Leeds and with a morning to spare I attended Leeds Family Court to try a spot of legal blogging in a court that I was unfamiliar with. I arrived by 9.15am (slightly later than planned thanks to the genius of google maps) and on...
Family Law publishes a regular column by The Transparency Project. This blog post originally appeared in the October 2018 issue,  Fam Law 1342. The outgoing President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, gave a press conference...
Yes. But just because you object doesn't necessarily mean no journalist or blogger will be allowed in. This post explains what the court rules and other law say about when journalists (or bloggers) may be excluded. If you know wish to object to the attendance of a...
Day 2 of the legal blogging pilot – Attending as a non-practising solicitor, under the umbrella of the Transparency Project
On day two of the new legal blogging pilot I headed to the East London Family Court to check out how easy it would be to take up the new right to (normally) attend (most) family court hearings (just as an accredited journalist can). And to see what challenges it might...
Yesterday, 1 October, was the first day of the new legal bloggers pilot. Having spent many hours persuading the powers that be that this was a good idea to try out, it seemed like the done thing to be there on Day One. So, shortly before 10am I trotted from Chambers...
The legal blogging pilot starts on Monday. We have been thinking about how it might work and some of the issues that may arise. We have created a dedicated legal bloggers page, which provides information about the scheme and answers some likely queries. If you are a...