On Tuesday 24th April 2018 thousands of viewers across the Nation tuned in to watch the first episode of the new legal drama on BBC one, The Split. But for many of us in the legal profession, family lawyers in particular, it left us with a “splitting” headache after trying to digest some of the wholly inaccurate parts of this drama, that was apparently created with the intention of giving viewers a glimpse into our beloved world of Family Law.
The show is supposedly based on the fictional lives of a family of divorce solicitors in Central London, however bears little resemblance to the true nature of a day in the life of a Family Solicitor.
Hannah Stern, the lead character in the show has recently left Defoe’s, a firm of solicitors in Central London established by her mother (who currently runs the firm), and her estranged father. After a dispute with her mother, Hannah leaves the firm to join a corporate outfit in the city as a Partner in Family Law.
At one point in the episode, Hannah finds herself on the opposing side of a case to her own sister (a solicitor from her family’s law firm Defoe’s) in a child contact dispute between a celebrity couple. Other than the blatant and unacceptable conflict of interest that arises from such a scenario, Hannah decides to have a meeting with the opponent party without his solicitor being present… twice! It’s also apparently OK for a Solicitor to act without their client’s instructions, as they’re angry with their opponent, who is also their sister… you get the idea.
Hours later, she is accepting instructions from a newly divorced wife after being consulted by the husband first, the husband having told his wife directly during the first meeting with the Solicitor that he wanted a divorce. No conflict of interests here again of course…
The list of toe curling breaches of ethics in practice (that an actual solicitor would not dream of doing or is allowed to do anyway) goes on and that was only during one episode; it will not be a surprise if what is to follow in the remainder of the series has lawyers across the country tearing their hair out. Safe to say, none of these blunders would happen in the real legal world which is heavily regulated and for that reason those watching the show are advised to take in what they see with a pinch of salt.
Given that there was little element of actual law in the first episode, it is surprising that the matters discussed above were not checked thoroughly prior to airing the episode as the producers had apparently consulted legal advisers. Perhaps their legal advice was ignored, which is, ironically, something that lawyers can certainly relate to in real life!
With multiple affairs brewing between characters in the show and explosive scenes likely to follow as a result, the series is sure to impact the way Family Lawyers are viewed for some time to come. Like the recent series, Dr Foster, the truth is all too readily sacrificed in the name of dramatic licence.
Whether society will ever truly understand the work we do as Family Lawyers, only time will tell.
The Family Law team at rhw Solicitors are highly regarded and our lawyers are experts in their field. We take time to understand our clients’ unique circumstances and the legal issues that arise, no matter the level of complexity. We provide a bespoke and personal service tailored to our client’s individual needs and act in their long term interests. We pride ourselves in our ability to build long lasting relationships with our clients and become their trusted advisers.
For further information as to how we can assist in your family matters, please get in touch with Arjun or the rhw Family law team to book an initial fixed-fee appointment. Call our Family Law Specialists on 01483 302000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Arjun Sreedaran, Solicitor – rhw Solicitors LLP