Reform Club ~ a Social Club for Reformers
The Reform Club was founded in 1836, in Pall Mall, in the centre of what is often called London’s Clubland. The founders commissioned a leading architect of the day, Charles Barry, to build an imposing and palatial clubhouse. It is as splendid today as when it opened in 1841. Membership was restricted to those who pledged support for the Great Reform Act of 1832, and the many MPs and Whig peers among the early members developed the Club as the political headquarters of the Liberal Party.
The Reform Club is no longer associated with any particular political party, and now serves a purely social function. And today’s Reformers are men and women drawn from many backgrounds and a wide field of professional life.
Reform Club ~ SubscriptionsThe annual subscription for membership of the Reform Club for the year 2011 has been set as follows:
Full UK Member £1,344.00
Member resident in the Europe £1,344.00
Member resident in North America £896.00
Member resident elsewhere overseas £672.00
UK Member aged 23 – 30 years £672.00
UK Member aged 18 – 22 years £336.00
A one-off Entrance Fee is payable upon election of £1,750.00 for UK members and £875.00 for overseas members in addition to the relevant subscription. No Entrance Fee is payable by those under the age of 35 years.
Various reductions in subscription rates can be applied for by long-serving members.
Reform Club ~ The Election ProcessCandidates for admission should be proposed and seconded by current members of the Club having personal knowledge of the candidate. Membership of the Reform Club is open on an equal basis to men and women and is by election. The procedure is identical for U.K. and overseas candidates.
A form of nomination may be requested from the Secretary and then returned to him when it has been completed by the candidate, the proposer and the seconder.
After scrutiny of the nomination form, the particulars of each candidate are entered, at monthly intervals, in the Candidates Book which is exhibited in the Saloon. The proposer will be advised when this has occurred. The book provides an opportunity for other members who have direct personal knowledge of the candidate to indicate their support but should not be signed by the proposer or seconder. There is no firm level of support which is looked for by the Committee. The particular circumstances of a candidature vary considerably and the Committee judges each on its merits. It should be noted that entry in the Candidates Book may also serve to alert members who may have reservations about a particular candidate. It is the convention in the Club that such reservations are expressed and substantiated in confidence to the Chairman or to the Secretary. The broad nature of those reservations, but not the identity of those expressing them, will be communicated to the proposer and seconder, who must then decide whether to withdraw the nomination or to proceed with it in the knowledge that the Committee may not feel able to elect.
Introduction of Candidates
After the particulars of a candidate have been entered in the Candidates Book it is necessary for the candidate to be introduced personally by the proposer or seconder to a serving member of the General Committee. The time and date of this introduction should be fixed through the Secretary's office. The introduction normally lasts about twenty minutes and may conveniently be arranged either in the early evening or before lunch.
When the introduction of a candidate has been effected satisfactorily the candidate's name and particulars are entered on a Screening List which is exhibited in the Saloon. After the candidate's name has been screened for at least a month, the Committee is in a position to give consideration to election.
Candidates will be advised personally of their election and are expected to take up their membership immediately upon it. The process of election will rarely be accomplished in less than four months. An Entrance Fee becomes due (except for those who are under the age of 35) immediately upon election and may be paid in three equal instalments, the first upon election and the second and third on 1st January of the two subsequent years.
Reform Club ~ Club GovernanceTrustees
Five members of the Club, of long experience and seniority, act as Trustees in whom the property of the Club is vested.
The affairs of the Club are managed by a General Committee of fifteen members, five of whom are elected each December. At the Annual General Meeting in May the Committee presents to the membership its report and the accounts for the preceding year.
Responsibility for the administration of the Library is entrusted to the Library Committee.
Particular aspects of Club management fall to more detailed scrutiny by sub-committees, drawn from the General Committee.
Club Governance is described more fully in the Rules and Regulations of the Club, copies of which are available to members.
Reform Club ~ Reciprocal ClubsMembers of the Reform Club benefit from reciprocal arrangements with Clubs of
a similar nature in various parts of the world. Members can obtain further information from the
Reform Club ~ IntroductionThe Reform Club was founded in the ferment of ideas, ideals and political activity which in part found expression in the Great Reform Act of 1832. Having succeeded, after a great parliamentary tussle, in securing the passing of the Reform Bill, in 1832, Radicals and Whigs needed a centre for their political activities.
The Club first opened its doors to members in a house at 104 Pall Mall, on the 24th of May 1836. It quickly set about planning its own building and, after an architectural competition, selected Charles Barry to create a new clubhouse, in the style of an Italian palazzo. The work was finished in 1841 and was immediately hailed as a masterpiece of classical architecture. The clubhouse has remained largely unchanged in appearance to the present day.
The Reform Club was founded principally to serve a political goal, becoming the centre of the new, Liberal Party; but over the years the Club has evolved, and since around 1920 it has served a purely social purpose. Nevertheless, the Reform retains its traditional, progressive spirit, a fact that contributes to its enduring vitality. The Club offers a friendly welcome, irrespective of background or nationality, criteria for admission to membership being character, talent, and achievement. The current membership embraces a wide range of professions; there are academics, artists, business people, doctors, lawyers, politicians, writers and so on. J. M. Barrie, Henri Cartier Bresson, Winston Churchill, E. M. Forster, Henry James, Lord Palmerston, William Makepeace Thackeray, and H. G. Wells were all Reformers, and the Club continues to attract members of distinction.
Although founded on traditional lines as a gentlemen's club, the Reform became, in 1981, the first such club in this country to admit women on equal terms. Of the current membership of around 2700, some 500 are overseas members, and over 400 are women. Candidates are proposed by two existing members and elected by the Club’s General Committee.
The Club offers members the benefits of an extensive library, fine dining and an excellent wine cellar. There is a Billiards Room and a Card Room. Social events, such as music and theatre evenings, garden parties, a Christmas party, and discussion evenings are arranged for members and guests. A number of societies exist within the Club to pursue special interests, among them economics and current affairs, literature and history, the media, and military intelligence. Typically, distinguished speakers are invited to address these societies, with dinner served to members and their guests either before or after and either formally or informally.
Chambers are available for members who wish to stay overnight. There are reciprocal arrangements with other Clubs in cities around the world. If members wish to host a private dinner, hold a business meeting or throw a party, Club rooms may be hired for the purpose.
The Reform is a social club and a lively meeting place, yet with plenty of space for quiet reflection and reading. To maintain the convivial atmosphere, the use of mobile phones and the production of business papers are not permitted, except in privately hired rooms. The Club preserves a certain formality and has a dress code with which members and guests are expected to comply.
The Club will forever be associated with Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days, as the place where the idea of this incredible journey was conceived and the famous bet made.
A recently published history, entitled Reformed Characters: the Reform Club in History and Literature, compiled and written by Russell Burlingham and Roger Billis, gives a vivid account of the Club's rich history.
Reform Club ~ HistoryWith the passing of the Great Reform Bill in 1832 and the general election of December 1834, many reformers felt the need for “an Association or Club (call it what you will) in London to counter the machinations of the Tory Carlton Club”. This suggestion of Lord Durham’s was taken up by Sir William Molesworth who announced in February 1835 that “As another means of attacking the Tories, a Liberal Club is to be formed, of which the more liberal Whigs, Radicals, etc., will be members … It will be like the Athenaeum – a good dining club. The great object is to get the Reformers of the country to join it, so that it may be a place of meeting for them when they come to town”.
With this object in mind, Molesworth and six other Radicals met secretly at a hotel in New Palace Yard, Westminster, on 2nd February 1836. They settled on the name Reform Club and appointed a provisional committee, “taking the best of the Radicals and no Whigs”, and issued circulars announcing their decisions. This fait accompli infuriated the Whigs. Angry exchanges ensued. Finally, a compromise was hammered out and a new provisional committee drawn up consisting of both Whigs and Radicals. This committee met for the first time at the house of Edward Ellice, a leader of the Whigs, in Carlton House Terrace, on 8th February 1836.
The new club opened its doors on 24th May 1836 at Dysart House, 104 Pall Mall, next door to the Carlton Club. Its membership had already reached one thousand, including nearly 250 MPs. The Committee set about commissioning a new clubhouse at immense expense, from the architect Charles Barry, a task that was completed, to spectacular effect, five years later. Special attention was paid to the kitchens, which were designed to the specifications of the brilliant and charismatic chef Alexis Soyer.
As well as being a social club for Reformers, the Club acted as the nerve centre and headquarters of the fledgling Liberal Party. General election campaigns were planned there, party meetings held, news exchanged, plots hatched. From the start, the Club was, like the Party, an uneasy coalition of disparate politics. On the one side, the Whigs were generally content with the 1832 reforms and reluctant to concede more, while on the other, the Radicals, such as Cobden and Bright, were actively campaigning for further reforms, and not just to the electoral system. Later in the century, other political divisions opened up in the Club, notably between those on the side of Gladstone who favoured Irish Home Rule, and those who clustered around the Unionist camp of Lord Hartington. These changes in the Liberal consensus led gradually to the Club ceasing to have any political function and by the 1920s, it had evolved into an exclusively social club.
Since the early 1980s, the membership has increased considerably, and the Reform Club’s social calendar has become extremely busy and varied, largely due to the numerous special interest societies that have developed and flourished. In 1981, long before any of the other traditional clubs, the Reform changed its rules to allow ladies to become members.
Although the Reform Club has long ceased to require its members to be loyal to the Liberal Party, it continues to maintain its liberal and progressive traditions.
Reform Club ~ DirectionsReform Club
104 Pall Mall
Telephone: 020 7930 9374
Fax: 020 7930 1857
3, 12, 13, 15, 23, 53, 88, 139, 159
Underground & Mainline Stations
Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly & Bakerloo Lines)
Green Park (Piccadilly, Jubilee & Victoria Lines)
Charing Cross (British Rail & Northern Line)
Arlington Street Car Park
Spring Gardens Car Park
Parking meters nearby
Reform Club ~ Club Staff DetailsClub Staff
Secretary: Michael McKerchar
Secretary’s Assistant: Paul Austin
Secretary's PA: Winnie Marques
House Manager: Ian Kenworthy
Managers: Amber Rawson
Banqueting Coordinator: Gloria Brasciolu
Subscriptions: Sheron Easter
Accounts: Cherry Lopez
Librarian: Simon Blundell
Chamberlain: Marco da Silva
General Enquiries: Direct telephone: 020 7747 4603
Catering Office: Direct telephone: 020 7747 4606
Chamberlain: Direct telephone: 020 7747 4619
Subscriptions: Telephone: 020 7930 9374
Librarian: Direct telephone: 020 7747 4608
Accounts: Direct telephone: 020 7747 4604
Alternative Methods of Family Dispute Resolution
The keynote address by Lord Wilson of Culworth, delivered at a reception at The Reform Club on 29 November 2011 hosted by Collaborative Family Law
Alternative Methods of Family Dispute Resolution
The keynote address by Lord Wilson of Culworth, delivered at a reception at The Reform Club on 29 November 2011 hosted by Collaborative Family Law
Lord Wilson of Culworth, a Justice of the Supreme Court
This is the keynote address by Lord Wilson of Culworth, delivered at a reception at The Reform Club on 29 November 2011 hosted by Collaborative Family Law.
Let me begin my expression of profound commitment for alternative methods of the resolution of private family disputes by suggesting, perhaps paradoxically, why a well-functioning court system needs to remain available for the judicial determination of some disputes following the breakdown of a family relationship. There will always be a residue of such disputes which can be resolved only in court. In my experience, born of working in the family courts first as a barrister and then as a judge, day in day out, for 40 years, there are five main reasons why some private family disputes need to proceed all the way to the judge's determination – indeed sometimes beyond in the shape of an appeal.
First, lack of legal advice. Parties often leave a relationship with unrealistic expectations about their legal entitlements. It is one of the main functions of lawyers, albeit never an enjoyable one, to inject a note of realism into their clients' aspirations. In the absence of unpalatable advice of that character, parties often continue to misappraise their rights and to convince themselves that a judge will vindicate what they think. The result, of course, is always disappointment and often disaster. The government's proposed withdrawal of public funding of legal advice even for parties who have no chance of being able to purchase it for themselves is - at a superficial level – entirely understandable given the present economic emergency. But it would actually be a false economy. Without legal advice, more private family disputes would end up in court; without legal representation, the hearings of them would take longer; and, without assistant legal navigators, the trial judges would more often be blown off course so there would be more appeals. Applications for financial relief in which the parties' net assets total £100k, all usually tied up in a house, are far more difficult for a judge to resolve than those in which they total £10m. Tonight I publicly join the chorus of so many others with intimate knowledge of the family justice system who are urging the government to think again.
Second, wrong legal advice. During my 40 years I never formed the view that a family lawyer, whether solicitor or barrister, had deliberately given over-optimistic (or otherwise bad) advice in order to prolong the dispute and to enlarge his fees. Among the many public misconceptions about family justice, some fomented by one or two members of the press who occasionally appear impervious to evidence inconsistent with their pre-conceived agenda about it, the perception of the stereotypical family lawyer who cynically bumps up the costs is one of the most unfair. But I did encounter cases in which, unintentionally, the wrong legal advice had been given about the likely outcome of the case in court. So the clients had gone blithely forward, rejecting realistic proposals for settlement, until, on judgment day, they received a painful education.
Third, lack of clarity in the law. Good lawyers sometimes have to confess that they are unable to predict the outcome of the case with any confidence; and unsurprisingly, the result is that all save the most generous settlement proposals are rejected. The law can be in a state of flux; see its current movement in relation to the circumstances in which a parent will be permitted to take a child to live abroad. Or the law may deliberately have been designed to be fluid and discretionary. A prime example is our law of financial provision following divorce; during the last decade dramatic new principles have been injected into it, case by case, in order to reflect society's changing sensations of fairness but it takes time for the courts clearly to work out their ramifications. So sometimes good lawyers on each side may reasonably offer to their clients a substantially different prediction of the result.
Fourth, a refusal, real or perceived, by one party to deal honestly with the other. Of course I have in mind, in particular, a refusal to make full disclosure of his or her financial resources. Full mutual disclosure is the essential foundation of any settlement of financial claims: if it is reasonably perceived to be absent, there is no escape from proceeding to draw down, from within the court system, the ferreting qualities of the family lawyer and the worldly shrewdness of most family judges.
And fifth, the way in which, in the wake of the breakdown of a relationship, emotions of fear, mistrust, anger or revenge can infect a person's ability to accept advice and to proceed to settlement. The family lawyer is sensitive to the reasons for such barriers to his client's acceptance of his advice; and sometimes he has to conclude that, without application of an unacceptable degree of pressure, he cannot overcome them and that his client's emotional need requires simply that he should lay the case to best advantage before a judge.
But the vast majority of disputes which follow the breakdown of a relationship, whether the parties were married, were civil partners or otherwise, are entirely capable of consensual settlement rather than adjudication; and it is vital that all cases which can be settled should be settled. There are five main disadvantages to proceeding to court.
First, the cost. Take a financial case in which the assets are say £700k. In pursuing that case to judgment each party nowadays may easily incur costs of £100k and so may together reduce the pool to £500k; such a ratio of costs to assets is unacceptable and its malign consequences are likely to impact substantially upon both of them.
Second, the delay. Only when the assembly of a case for final presentation is well under way will the court be willing to fix a date for the main hearing. But the date which it then fixes will be many months ahead and, if a long hearing – say five days – appears necessary, it will probably be more than a year ahead. The lawyers will take such delay in their stride; but, for anxious parties, it must be an eternity.
Third, the publicity. The press is now usually entitled to attend what are still called private hearings of family proceedings; and, although its right to publish what it there learns remains circumscribed, the daily march into and out of the court building by parties in whom the public has an interest is intrusively tracked and assiduously reported.
Fourth, the uncertainty. In family proceedings there is often a spectrum of legitimate outcomes even in circumstances in which the law is reasonably clear. The point along the spectrum at which the particular outcome falls will depend upon a variety of factors from which - I fear - one can never entirely banish the identity of the judge but which will certainly include the performance of the witnesses and of their advocates on the day.
And fifth, the emotional burden cast upon the parties by the hearing. They loved each other once and shared moments of utter happiness, physical and otherwise. Often indeed they remain joined in parenthood. Those of us lucky enough to have escaped divorce cannot, I suspect, fully appreciate the sickening unpleasantness for them of becoming locked in battle across a court.
I have laid the ground for the central message to which I referred at the outset which I wish to convey tonight. It is one of unalloyed support for the various other methods of achieving resolution of family disputes which our hosts, Collaborative Family Law, now offer and which they explain in particular on a new website which came on stream today and which I have visited.
When I was at the family bar, there were only two methods of achieving settlement. The first was by an exchange of letters between solicitors. No doubt this method is still much in use – and often rightly so. But it is slow: for the dialogue must be interrupted by the solicitor's need at every stage to take instructions and, perhaps, to consult counsel. And it is expensive: for his taking of such steps is costly, as is his clever drafting of the next letter in the chain. The second was by negotiations between counsel, almost always at the door of the court. This was – and remains – a particularly poor means of achieving settlement. By that point almost all of the costs have been incurred; and the delays have been suffered. Yes, the settlements which I there secured for my clients achieved certainty and avoided the unpleasantness for them of the contest otherwise about to begin. But in retrospect I consider that I failed to appreciate what an inappropriate moment it was for me to ask them to take life-changing decisions about their future; and how unconducive to that exercise were the circumstances of a court corridor, of a judge waiting with a greater or lesser degree of patience, and of the conundrum (with which all advocates have to wrestle) that, were too much time to be invested in a negotiation which was ultimately to prove unsuccessful, there might remain insufficient time for the judge to conduct the hearing.
Collaborative Family Law offers various mechanisms of dispute resolution which, in most cases, will much better serve the interests of the parties than those to which I have referred. In a way unfortunately the Group's new name disguises the mechanisms which it offers other than that of collaborative law; clearly, however, the collaborative mechanism is at its centre. It was introduced into the UK from the US about eight years ago and it has achieved an astonishing level of success in the negotiation of substantial financial and other issues (and indeed, for example, in the generation of pre-nuptial agreements, nowadays likely to be held binding, in circumstances in which at the time of their generation there may well be no issue at all). The platform necessary for the collaborative exercise is a high level of residual trust between the parties, who instruct specially trained collaborative solicitors to participate in meetings between all four of them across only one table. Hence the Group's logo of four loose pieces of jigsaw able, or (on my closer study) almost able, to fit together. But the unusual – and, to my mind, the essential – feature of the collaborative exercise is a written agreement on the part of all four of them at the outset that, were settlement not to be achieved, the respective solicitors would not continue to act for the parties in the contentious proceedings which lie ahead. The solicitors are therefore seen to have no interest in the continuation of the dispute; the parties have every interest in not being obliged to disinstruct solicitors in whom they have confidence; and in the dialogue each can respond freely to the other's solicitor without suspecting that he is collecting ammunition for use in court.
The Group also offers mediation, being of course a totally different exercise. It is family mediation to which the government is a belated convert; and presently it proposes to fund mediation in circumstances in which it will not fund litigation. Indeed new rules require the undertaking of at any rate an assessment of the suitability of the parties for mediation before many applications to court may even now be issued. As President of the Family Mediators Association for the past 13 years, I have a profound commitment to family mediation and, prior to my appointment last May which has thrown my plans into wonderful disarray, I was planning soon to retire from the Court of Appeal and to ask the Association to train me as a family mediator. But it might not have been easy for a reasonably decisive judge to transmute into a subtle facilitator. The mediator, who, if provided from within this Group, would happen to be a lawyer but would not be acting as a lawyer, generally operates with the parties on their own, although it is wise for them to have lawyers to whom they can turn for advice between sessions. By deft handling of the discussions, he enables them to move to common ground, whereupon, with his help, they record an agreement which resolves – or at least narrows – the issues and which, like the product of a successful collaborative exercise, can cover much more ground than can the contents of a court order.
In 1996, after I had become a judge of the Family Division, provision was made for judges to conduct Financial Dispute Resolution meetings. They were devised, in particular, by Lord Justice Thorpe and it will surely prove to be the most inspired of all his contributions to our system of family justice. It is, again, a mechanism entirely different from anything which I have yet described. A judge who, were the meeting to fail to produce consensus, would be disqualified from playing any part in the ongoing proceedings, will conduct the meeting between the parties and their lawyers and, at the end of a discussion of all apparently relevant issues, he will offer – if he can – an off-the-record prediction of the result of the proceedings in the event that they were to continue to judgment; and the more specific he can make it, the more helpful his prediction will be – so long as it is correct! If, as is intended, his prediction appears to them to be sufficiently authoritative, the parties are likely to wish to settle along the lines which he has identified. But they face delays and costs prior even to their arrival before the judge at the FDR meeting; and therein lies the relevance of the FDR meeting to the work of the Group. For some of its members now offer "private hearings". Beneath this title – a questionable one in that the FDR exercise before the judge is deliberately described as a meeting rather than a hearing – lies another valuable mechanism for dispute resolution, very recently developed. A silk at the family bar or even a retired judge of the Family Division will conduct with the parties and their lawyers a meeting analogous to the FDR meeting and in particular will offer, off the record, what is intended to be an authoritative evaluation of the likely result in court which will lead to a settlement along those lines. Those of the Group who offer this service can do so at short notice and without the delays in the arrival of the parties at the FDR meeting; and they may be able to invest more time in pre-reading for it and in conducting it than is available to some of the judges.
But there is yet a different area in which the Group considers that some parties might benefit from a further and more dramatic invasion into the territory of the judges. I refer to arbitration, namely the imposition by a member of the Group of a result upon parties who have given their informed consent to be bound by it. I have not previously encountered arbitration in the family field; but a few members of the Group propose to offer it as from next year. I wish to understand more about the consequences which flow when a party, aggrieved by the arbitrator's determination, withholds consent to the court order, reflective of it, which is necessary for making a financial agreement watertight. In principle, however, arbitration would be likely to avoid – or lessen - a number of the disadvantages attendant upon proceeding to court, in particular delay and publicity. I am glad to learn that rigorous training, effected in conjunction with the Institute of Arbitrators, is a pre-requisite of a member's accreditation as an arbitrator. For he will need to be as wise as the family judge whose outstanding judicial qualities are intended to have been identified in the course of the appointments system and who in many cases will have developed the art of wise decision-making by experience over the years.
I am honoured to have been asked to speak about what is at present the hottest topic in family justice, namely the evolution of improved methods of the resolution in our society of private family disputes. I have said enough to explain why the Group is right at the forefront of this evolution. But its current pace is astonishing. Might I prevail on the generosity of our hosts to invite us all to another party in a few years' time at which, perhaps more interactively, we can together survey its further development?
collaborative lawfamily justice systemfamily poceedingsmediation