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A day in the life of a family lawyer

Like any self-respecting lawyer should, a day at the office starts with a strong coffee. Whilst letting that caffeine circulate, checking emails and mail is normally the first task of the day – including a review of any notifications of activity on Court files. If one is lucky enough, they will hit the jackpot with the mail delivery and have a courier, or client, deliver reams of documents; also known as disclosure documents.

The day is then planned out – with the assistance of an ever energetic and enthusiastic paralegal; prioritising tasks from the urgent to high priority; as there is very little that in family law that can be characterised as a low priority.

If a day at Court awaits a brisk walk across town to the Commonwealth Courts Building helps bring focus to the appearance before the Court. One then waits patiently to pass security, remembering that no nail files, deodorants or scissors should be found in one’s briefcase or suitcase, to avoid the lottery that is taking a ticket to collect said precious belongings on departure. Days at Court are long, tedious, and rarely rewarding. For clients, I am sure the day is equal parts boring and nerve racking. For all, no matter how prepared one is, there is the element of the uncertainty – the lengthy list of matters before the Judge often wreaking havoc on plans for a matter to be heard and a decision made.

If a day at mediation awaits everyone involved is focused on resolving disputes and outcomes. There is often a sense of empowerment for clients involved in the mediation process – feeling that they own the outcome; and knowing that the conflict and dispute that has been ruling their lives (sometimes for many months, possibly years) will end. However it’s also tough. Clients are being asked to make compromises; and the importance of the decisions they are being asked to make can often feel overwhelming. At those moments, it’s important to remind clients about the greater risks, and greater uncertainty, that is involved in turning the matter over to the Courts. Despite these challenges, days at mediation are undoubtedly some of the best days at work. You have the opportunity to focus and concentrate on one client; and provide them with your undivided attention, assistance and advice.

On the days that are spent in the office, the day is spent ploughing through emails, calls, and correspondence with clients, assisting professionals, other lawyers and the Court. There also seems to be a never ending list of documents to prepare, whether it be Financial or Child Support Agreements, schedules, Orders, an array of Court documents or Parenting Plans. Juggling these tasks becomes an art form; and colourful stationary and lists become your very closest of friends.

No two days are ever the same; and the reward to be taken out of the day is knowing that in every small action you are taking, you are taking one step forward with your client to resolving the conflict that is in their life.