Tips for making the most out of your family lawyer!

I’ve often thought that I wanted to appear on telly and give clients out there a few tips on how to make the most out of going to see a lawyer.

You see I hate lawyer jokes and I get really offended when people make cracks about lawyers because most of the lawyers I know care deeply about their clients and want the best for them – me included. Most of my new clients come as referrals from previous clients so it is important to me that, at the end of their matter, clients are as happy as they can be in the circumstances.

This being said though, going to see a lawyer for the first time can be a lot of things, but the 2 biggest comments I hear are that lawyers can be intimidating and expensive.

A good family lawyer should not be intimidating. They should be compassionate and understanding – after all you’re going through a rough time of it otherwise you wouldn’t be seeing a family lawyer. The best gauge of this is having an initial appointment. You should approach your appointment with an open mind and see if you have rapport with the solicitor you’ve chosen. Ask yourself some of these questions:

  • were they professional and polite?
  • do I have confidence that they not only understand the relevant law but can make me understand it too?
  • were they straight with me about my matter and its strengths and weaknesses?
  • what’s their experience like and have they dealt with similar matters to mine before?
  • do I understand in general terms how much my matter is likely to cost at various stages and what the benefit to me is in spending this amount of money on legal fees?
  • have they given me an understanding on how quickly they’ll respond to my communications and does this timeframe work for me?
  • did they give an outline on how my matter would proceed and how long this would take?

If you’re happy that you have chosen the right lawyer then there is the tricky issue of how much is this all going to cost?

Going to see a lawyer can be expensive but you should still be able to receive value for money – not forgetting that a good family lawyer won’t want you to spend your money unnecessarily!

As seeing a lawyer can be costly I have a few tips for getting bang for your buck with them.

Tip Number 1 – be organised. Bring as much information as you can to your first appointment and provide your lawyer with the information they want when they want it. I dislike having to spend a client’s legal fees repeatedly chasing up information I have already asked for.

Tip Number 2 – ask your lawyer if you can save costs on disbursements – some lawyers will let you do most of your own photocopying and Court filing. This can help save money. Another way is to scan your documents and then email them to your lawyer so they have an electronic copy and can send them to the other side easily and quickly.

Tip Number 3 – don’t make your lawyer chase you up for instructions – prompt, well thought out instructions to your lawyer in a timely manner will help as your lawyer will know exactly what you want them to do and when.

Tip Number 4 – use your emails and calls wisely. I will read and then respond to all my client emails. This is chargeable, same with telephone calls. If you email or call multiple times a day you will have multiple charges for this. Instead what I suggest clients do is jot down their questions and then put them all in one email or phone call to me every few days or once a week (unless it’s urgent of course!).

Tip Number 5 – go through your monthly bill and read it. I review every monthly bill I send out on my files and make sure I’m happy that the amounts I have charged are appropriate and reasonable before I send it. If a client were to not agree with me and thought an item on the bill was too much (or took too long) I would much rather they asked me about it and we resolved it then they left me unhappy.

I hope this has helped and I wish you all the very best in your family law journey.

For more contact Evangeline Athanasiou

The Law Society of Western Australia Family Law Practitioners Association of Western Australia Law Council of Australia Family Law Section