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Resolution pays tribute to its founder. John Cornwell

John Cornwell, the founder and first national chairman of Resolution (then known as the Solicitors Family Law Association), died on Friday, 22nd February. He was 69.

                                                                                                                                   John Cornwell, senior partner, Dawson Conwell

In 2011 he said that his proudest achievements were to have founded Resolution and to have been a deputy district judge for 25 years.

Resolution has commented:

"Both Resolution, and separating families owe a huge debt to John for his vision, passion and determination."

John Cornwell was educated at St Paul's School and Bristol University, where he studied Law, and admitted as a solicitor in 1969. In November 1972 he was one of the founding partners of Dawson Cornwell. He continued as a partner, and from 1988 as senior partner, until his death. The firm continues to specialise in all aspects of matrimonial and children law.

As he recently recalled, in 1982 he had "a very good idea". He said:

"I had been plagued by some really irritating letters from other solicitors (mostly in the litigation departments to their firms) whilst at the same time having perfectly sensible correspondence with many others. I thought that I would write to the good ones to get them to meet. I wrote to about 50 and to my amazement 35 of them came.

"There was immediate enthusiasm for a formal organisation which would promulgate a Code of Practice. We set about drafting it and although it has been revised a bit, I am happy to say that its essence survives and has been influential in the Law Society's protocol. Its spirit is summarised in Part 1 of the Family Law Act 1996.

"SFLA changed its name of course (I didn't mind too much) and Resolution has become a large and extremely effective force for good over a greatly expanded field of family law. I am very proud to have been its founder."

The proposed aims and objectives, as described in the agenda of the first meeting, demonstrate the ambition of his purpose. They were:

"(a) To encourage education in all disciplines amongst Solicitors in Matrimonial matters and Marital Breakdown.
(b) To encourage the use of conciliation service.
(c) To work towards acceptance by the profession that matrimonial matters do not constitute a sub-branch of Litigation but are sui generis.
(d) To provide a forum for members of the profession to identify problems of practice and procedure and to recommend remedies.
(e) To establish a code of practice the purpose of which is (i) to facilitate the prompt and economic settlement of disputes, and (ii) in other respects to promote an awareness of the client's interest in matrimonial matters.
(f) To provide a means of exchanging precedents of orders agreements etc.
(g) To provide the opportunity for practitioners to meet each other and exchange ideas."

The preliminary meeting enthusiastically endorsed the idea of an association and in December 1982 a larger meeting was attended by about 65 solicitors at the Law Society, whereupon the SFLA was born.

There was quickly set up an Education Committee (the focus of which was to open lawyers' eyes to others disciplines' approach to the breakdown of families), a Legal Aid Committee, a Children Committee and before long a Regional Liaison Committee and a Mediation Committee.  However, the most significant early committee was the Code of Practice Committee which developed the first Code.

Resolution now has 6,500 members who are family lawyers or other professionals committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes, all following a Code of Practice which promotes a non-confrontational approach to family problems.

John was also instrumental in the development of mediation in England and Wales having co-founded the Family Mediators Association in 1998.  He was also a deputy district judge of the Principal Registry of the Family Division of the High Court from 1986, and a member of the Law Society Family Law Committee from 1993 to 1999.

As Resolution celebrates its 30th anniversary, the Association notes:

"Our celebrations are rooted in John's vision and achievements and will mark John's enormous contribution to family law in England and Wales."