Insights and Inspiration
Cost of Costs
14 December 2017
In the very recent case of Simic v Norton Justice Benjamin in the Family Court of Australia harshly criticised the amount of money charged by the lawyers in a case he decided. The lawyers were not named, but the judge asked the Legal Services Commissioner to investigate and consider whether the lawyers were guilty of professional misconduct or unsatisfactory professional conduct because of their fees and approach to the case.
In relation to the fees, the judge said that the parties spent a total of about $860,000 in legal costs and expenses. The judge said that "these amounts are, on their face, outrageous levels of costs of ordinary people involved in family law proceedings."
In terms of their conduct the judge found that correspondence between the solicitors was inflammatory, accusatory, verbose, and served little or no purpose to get the case moving forward.
There is no doubt that public criticism of this kind directed at any of our colleagues affects all of us. Even though Pearson Emerson Meyer does not practise in this way, anything that causes public disquiet about the way family law is practised, particularly in Sydney, does us no favours.
We are specialists in family law matters and especially in complex family law matters. If we did no more than act as a conduit or a medium for our clients, we would not be doing them a service. We have to bring our experience and expertise to bear on the case, and we do.
It is only a very small percentage of cases that reach a judge for final decision. We pride ourselves on the fact that an even smaller proportion of our cases go to a judge for final hearing.
We believe we have good relationships with our colleagues; that gives us the opportunity, therefore, to contact our colleagues informally to try to resolve matters promptly and without expense.
If that doesn't work, then we will often arrange round table meetings, or mediations. Several of our most senior lawyers are qualified and experienced in alternatives to court based solutions. Five of our most senior lawyers are members of the Central Sydney Collaborative Forum, a group of specialist family lawyers in Sydney all of whom are trained in collaborative practice. Collaborative practice is a far less adversarial approach to family law. In addition Sheridan Emerson is accredited as a family dispute resolution practitioner, and a collaboratively trained lawyer. Melanie Rubin is an accredited family law mediator and is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals as is Cynthia Bluett. Josie Blight, Cynthia Bluett and Karen Hardy are members of Collaborative Professionals (NSW) Inc.
Pearson Emerson Meyer recognises that a good outcome is a good outcome for our clients, and those good outcomes can be achieved by methods that are proportional to the issues in dispute, without in any way compromising on our client's interests, or choosing second best options. It is our experience and empathy that allow us, in conjunction with our clients, to find the best way to the best solution. It is our excellence and expertise at what we do that enable us quickly to identify the main issues in the case, and to focus on them to achieve the best outcomes for our clients.
We are strong advocates for our clients but retain the necessary focus on what will advance the best interests of those clients, which is not always high cost high conflict litigation. If that is essential then we do not shrink from it. If it is not we will find a better way.
Level 15, 175 Liverpool Street
Sydney NSW 2000 Australia
PO Box 21117
World Square NSW 2002 Australia
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