If corporate lawyers are the marksmen of the legal profession, mental health solicitors are the philanthropists. Though not excluded from lucrative salaries and unfettered career progression, mental health solicitors tend to enter the profession because they want to help people whose lives have been devastated by psychiatric problems. Some mental health solicitors take their jobs so seriously that they are willing to work for nothing when legal aid runs dry.
Where Mental Health Solicitors Operate
Whereas commercial solicitors tend to work in city-based offices, mental health solicitors operate in all kinds of environment. Most are required to represent people who have been diagnosed with psychiatric disorders at Mental Health Tribunals, but many also provide representation in court, at hospital managers’ hearings and Parole Board meetings. Mental health solicitors are also often found at the Court of Protection, which was established to provide judicial help and guidance for vulnerable members of society.
Mental health solicitors spend much of their time representing clients at tribunals. The Mental Health Tribunal is a type of court that determines whether people who have been detained for mental health reasons can be discharged. The tribunal comprises three members: a lawyer, a consultant psychiatrist and a lay person. A system of majority voting is employed to decide whether patients can be discharged.
The mental health solicitor’s role includes visiting the client prior to the tribunal, discussing details of the case and taking instructions. A third party is also likely to be involved at this stage. The solicitor is also expected to review medical papers and reports. Though working on behalf of the patient, the solicitor must also consider the recommendations of experts, such as nurses and consultant psychiatrists. While analysing the reasons for the tribunal, the mental health solicitor should provide representation in the best interests of his or her client, which does not necessarily mean that the client should be discharged.
All people, including mental health patients, have a right to legal representation under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Mental health solicitors aim to provide expert legal counsel for some of society’s most vulnerable individuals.
Solicitors working in the field of mental health will also represent clients at hospital managers’ hearings, which are similar to tribunals in that decisions are typically made by a panel consisting of three people. Patients are less likely to be discharged at a hospital managers’ hearing, however, so legal representation is very important. Mental health solicitors also represent patients at Parole Board hearings. The element of criminality in many cases requires solicitors to work hard to ensure that their clients receive justice.
Vicky works alongside Thaliwal Bridge Mental Health Solicitors. She likes to write about different law niches as well as covering business and finance topics.