The "New" Family Lawyer: An Interesting Take on How the Role Has Changed

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We often perceive family lawyers as lawyers out to “fight to the death” for their clients, draining their client’s precious funds along the way and leading to ugly battles in Court. But as the Federal Government has focussed its attention on out-of-court processes and family dispute resolution, so too have family lawyers. Julie Dobinson, Director of Dobinson Davey Clifford Simpson Family Law Specialists, is leading the charge of shifting the focus of dispute resolution from litigation to a variety of processes aimed at keeping clients out of Court. We asked Julie about the “new” family lawyer and what services they can offer clients.

Q: What are the alternatives to going to Court?

Julie: The majority of family law matters resolve without either party seeing the inside of a Court room. Processes where the parties themselves hold the decision-making power, such as mediation, collaboration and lawyer-assisted negotiations, usually provide the most satisfying outcome for clients. Parties retain the power to direct the next chapter of their lives, rather than relinquishing that task to a Judicial Officer.

Q: How do I choose the right process?

Julie: At DDCS we focus on assisting our clients to choose the right process. We call it “settlement by design”. Our discussions with our clients are aimed to ensure that they are empowered with information about a range of dispute resolution processes. We have fostered strong relationships with related professionals who can assist parties reach positive outcomes. These professionals include counsellors, child psychologists, accountants and registered valuers.

Q: Why do I need a lawyer?

Julie: Lawyer-assisted negotiations can offer clients reassurance when resolving their property or parenting matter with their former spouse. It is our duty as family law practitioners to help clients understand the law, make informed decisions about their lives and assist them in formalising any agreement reached. Lawyers should inform clients of the different processes available to them and “match” the process which best suits them in achieving a just outcome.

What services to Dobinson Davey Clifford Simpson provide?

Across our firm, we have trained our lawyers in negotiation theory and practice and in a variety of settlement processes. For example, some of our senior lawyers are trained in “collaboration”. This is a process of negotiations where both parties and their lawyers contract not to go to Court. I have recently completed a Practitioner’s Certificate in Mediation. I hold a Masters in Law (Dispute Resolution) as does my fellow Director Phillip Davey. Phillip is also Deputy Chair of the Board of Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators. We are part of a team of experienced family lawyers and child consultants developing a group called “Just Outcomes Group”, also offering alternative dispute resolution services to family law clients.

Julie Dobinson is one of four Directors at Dobinson Davey Clifford Simpson Family Law Specialists. In addition to being an Accredited Specialist in Family Law (NSW), she holds a Master of Laws in Dispute Resolution.