The tough thing is that when you’re in a situation where you need family law advice, chances your only contact with lawyers in the past has been in the form of a conveyance, Will, maybe a civil debt dispute, or unfortunately a run-in with the law by you or someone you know.
So it’s not expected that you necessarily know exactly what you should be looking for when you’re trying to choose a family lawyer.
In my experience, that is a problem because too many people find themselves seeking out someone who isn’t necessarily that experienced in what is a really complex and quite nuanced area of the law and, as a consequence, end up in a situation where they know no better and their representation potentially isn’t as good as it should be.
Because of this, their position is potentially compromised and I’m seeing people when they are a significant period of time into a dispute, where there’s deep entrenchment as a result of the wrong advice being provided, where the relationship has been damaged, sometimes irrecoverably, and we’re trying to make the best out of what’s been a really poor process so far.
When you’re looking at what you need from a lawyer at the outset, there are some really important criteria to consider.
You need to find someone who’s specialising in this area.
Gone are the days where you can trust that the local lawyer can provide you with expert advice about every area of the law. It’s simply too big and the system, process, and legislation are too complex. Look for a family lawyer who is not only a specialist in their knowledge but also a specialist in their understanding of how this system works. You’re looking at someone who’s working in this court day in and day out who is, more importantly, working with other family lawyers in your community and has a really good rapport with them. Now, that doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily best friends but what it means is that your family lawyer has a capacity to be respected by their colleagues and to articulate very effectively and persuasively on your behalf because there is a level of trust between the lawyers who are attempting to help yourself and your former partner.
It’s really important that you meet someone and you feel that they are listening to you, that they understand what’s going on, that they understand the dynamic, that they’re prepared to challenge you and give you some tough love from the outset of your matter about aspects of what you’re doing which perhaps aren’t as positive as they could be and might have some repercussions in the long term which are going to cause you and your family some grief.
Given the importance and impact of a family law matter be sure to consider your options and don’t be afraid to seek out a second opinion before proceeding.