Family Law Essentials

Part 1

The initial meeting with a family law client is crucial in achieving a satisfactory outcome for both client and solicitor. This is an opportunity to:

  • Clarify the relationship between lawyer and client so that each appreciate what they can expect of the other;
  • Obtain background information to enable the client to fully explain their circumstances, their goals and their priorities;
  • Show the client that the solicitor is listening and understanding what is being conveyed;
  • Demonstrate knowledge and ability to manage such issues, thereby commencing to establish a good working relationship.

If this consultation is managed well the solicitor has most of the information they require to give accurate and comprehensive advice. An appropriate action plan can be developed that will give client and solicitor confidence that goals can be achieved, and how this can be done. Communication channels are established that will enable both to work together towards resolution of the dispute.

Family Lawyers have many strategies and techniques to assist them. In this workshop we will explore a number of these to work towards best practice.

We will begin by exploring communication, including active listening and questioning techniques. We will practice various different types of questioning as well as considering methods of questioning that may impact on those being interviewed. We will explore a basic interviewing skills model, and investigate the impact of this structure in a role play situation.

We will then move on to converting our instructions received from the initial interview into court documentation for an interim hearing. We will examine the relevant legislation, and the important principles to bear in mind when drafting proposed orders, and a supporting affidavit. We will practice this in small groups.

Part 2

In this session the focus is on presenting an interim matter in court. We will cover preparation for the hearing, court etiquette, and making submissions to the court.

When examining preparation, we will consider how best to prepare the client for the court hearing, as well as how to prepare yourself as solicitor for this event. We will discuss relevant court etiquette and how to ensure that the client’s goals are not affected by their own behaviour or the behaviour of their legal representative in court.

Finally we will discuss guidelines for oral submissions, and practice drafting these in small groups. A case study will be used as a common focus to produce versions that we can compare in the large group to achieve an agreed version for future reference.

The day will conclude with a summary of learnings that will be taken into the practice of family law from now on.

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