April 2008 saw the introduction of a new Public Law Outline (PLO) that aims to improve judicial case management of Public Law Children Act cases. The PLO is a response to concerns about the rising number of care proceedings, associated costs, and the difficulties of achieving case resolution given this volume. Based on an ethos that care proceedings should be avoided wherever possible, the new approach to case management, which places significant emphasis on pre-proceedings work and the effective engagement of parents, can be seen to reinforce the ‘no order principle’ enshrined in the Children Act (CA) 1989. Focusing specifically on relationships between parents and professionals, this paper provides a critical discussion of the potential of the PLO to further promote consensual practices with parents. Discussion traces the introduction of the concept of partnership within the CA 1989, provides a review of the evidence to-date of effective partnership working, before considering the prospects for the PLO with respect to parental engagement. A number of key contextual obstacles are highlighted that will inevitably undermine the aspirations of the new outline, and a more general observation is drawn about the limits of procedure in effecting change in complex social issues.