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What the Extension of the Family Court Reporting Pilot Means for Family Law Recruitment

  • June 8, 2024

It’s been nearly 6 months since the Transparency Pilot, a scheme which allows for greater access to the family court system by the media, was rolled out to 19 of the 43 family court centres in England and Wales. The scheme is designed to encourage greater visibility of the family court system by allowing journalists, legal bloggers and advocated access to proceedings and giving permission for outlets to publish what happens there. While the changes to family court reporting have not been uncontroversial, the scheme itself has been a success.

Alongside the increased use of alternative dispute resolution in UK law, the changes to family court reporting rules mean we could be seeing the largest shift in legal norms in generations. The resulting increase in visibility and scrutiny will have an enormous impact on family law firms and their goals when it comes to talent acquisition.

The biggest hurdle to the success of the scheme has been centred around the question of how to balance expectations of privacy, particularly for children, with a growing need to build a culture of transparency in some of our biggest public institutions. Some senior judges have been less than supportive of the scheme, citing concerns over a lack of public interest and a fear of lurid tabloid journalism.

However the clear guidance on family court reporting provided by the President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane aims to reassure judges, lawyers and journalists that media access will work towards the overriding objective of the scheme; transparency. In each of the 16 participating courts judges can issue Transparency Orders with set conditions around what can and cannot be reported and all proceedings remain subject to strict anonymity rules.


What This Means For Family Law Recruitment

The extension of the family court reporting pilot has several potential ramifications for law firms looking to attract and retain legal talent. Firms specialising in family law or those looking to hire family lawyers should be aware of the need for:

1. Adapting to new regulations

Law firms need to anticipate and adapt to the potential shifts in reporting regulations and media access to family court. These shifts don’t just signal changes in regulation but changes in society as well. Greater awareness of domestic violence, coercive control, and financial control have led to a desire amongst the public for wider visibility into family court proceedings.

To ensure compliance and protect their clients’ interests, firms should regularly review and update their internal policies and procedures regarding media interaction and public disclosure of case information and ensure that new hires as well as established partners are aware of and adhere to these policies. Recruitment and talent attraction teams should look for candidates with a demonstrated ability to navigate complex regulatory landscapes and quickly adapt to evolving legal frameworks.

2. Ongoing training and development programs for legal professionals

If the family court reporting pilot scheme is rolled out to the rest of the country it will be crucial for legal teams to stay updated on the latest media-related legal practices to best support and represent their clients effectively.

Ongoing training ensures that teams understand the nuances of reporting restrictions, confidentiality laws, and ethical considerations when dealing with media inquiries in family law cases. And that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to handle legal issues and conflicts brought about by media engagement.

3. Legal professionals with strong communication and public relations skills

Alongside legal expertise, family lawyers with exceptional soft skills are going to be in high demand. The ability to communicate effectively with the media, clients, and other stakeholders and a background in public relations will help in navigating sensitive family law cases and managing external perceptions and the wider reputation of the firm.

Those looking to attract and retain top family law talent must prioritise candidates who are proficient in creating communication strategies, crisis management, and maintaining client confidentiality amidst media scrutiny. Former criminal barristers could be a potential source of legal talent with the media skills necessary.

In Conclusion

The Transparency Pilot represents a significant shift in the family court system, promoting greater openness and accountability. By allowing media access and the publication of court proceedings, the initiative seeks to build a culture of transparency within one of our most critical public institutions. Despite concerns over privacy and the potential for sensationalism, clear guidelines and strict anonymity rules aim to balance these issues effectively.

For family law firms, the pilot scheme introduces new challenges and opportunities in talent acquisition and retention, and it’s clear that firms must adapt to evolving regulations, ensure continuous professional development, and seek legal professionals with strong communication skills. These changes signal a broader transformation in legal norms, underscoring the importance of transparency and public awareness in family law.

As the pilot progresses, it will be essential for law firms to stay agile, informed, and proactive in navigating this new landscape to best serve their clients and uphold the integrity of the family justice system – and of course, to ensure their own team keep up with the changes ahead.


Clayton Legal has over 20 years’ experience helping clients attract and retain legal talent across practice areas that include Property, Personal Injury, Family, Criminal, and Costs law as well as Legal IT and Civil and Commercial Litigation.

If you are building your legal team, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.


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