Frequently Asked Questions
We understand it can be a daunting step to contact a law firm to ask for help. We recognise and appreciate the difficulty of this process. This page is decicated to answering a number of frequently asked questions we receive from new clients.
- I need an appointment with a Lawyer:
- What should I expect when I call FGD?
- How do I prepare for my first appointment with a Family Lawyer?
- What happens after my first appointment?
- How much does it cost to see a lawyer at FGD and how can I keep my legal costs down?
- My Lawyer asked me to sign a Costs Agreement, what is that?
- My Lawyer has asked me to put some money into a Trust account for my future fees, how does that work?
- Understanding your invoice and fees
I need an appointment with a Lawyer:
At FGD, your experience is guided by our Client Services Team who will ensure you are matched with the Lawyer who is best placed to help you with whatever your specific needs are and will continue to ensure you are well looked after throughout your matter.
We understand that your time is important and will work with you to organise appointments in person or electronically. Either way, we will provide you with the same level of service.
What should I expect when I call FGD?
When you contact FGD, our Receptionist will ask you if your enquiry is about Family Law, Estates, Advisory or Conveyancing. They will also ask you for your full name and names of all other parties involved in your matter, if any.
Depending on your enquiry, your call may be transferred to one of our Client Service Managers who will:
- Find out what your case is about, what your concerns are and what style of solicitor is best suited to you;
- Make recommendations about which lawyer would be best suited to you and your needs;
- Discuss how to best prepare for your initial appointment so you can get tailored advice;
- Explain to you how your first appointment works; and;
- Be on hand to support you with any questions you might have or issues that arise for the entire time you are a client.
Alternatively, you will be transferred to an available staff member in that practice area. In the event that we are unable to transfer your call straight away we will take a message will have someone return your call.
We’re lucky to have a team of fantastic Client Service Managers who are passionate about helping our clients navigate a challenging process. If you think you might benefit from the above guidance and support, please give us a call:
How do I prepare for my first appointment with a Family Lawyer?
Our Client Intake Team will send you a link to a Confidential Client Information Form. Once completed, the information will be sent to your Lawyer to review prior to your appointment. The questions relate to finances, children, history of the relationship and any concerns you may have. You can provide as little or as much detail as you like. If you hate filling in forms, you can go over your situation with the lawyer in your initial meeting however, the more information you provide initially, the more value we will be able to provide at your first appointment. With a good understanding of what your circumstances are, your lawyer will spend less time in your initial appointment gathering facts, and more time providing you with tailored advice.
The first appointment with your Lawyer is where you can discuss your situation in detail, your financial position and concerns as well as your family dynamic and what you would like to get out of the meeting. The Lawyer will likely ask you some questions and answer your questions to help you develop a clear path to move forward.
Your first appointment will likely be with more than one person, your Lawyer as well as a second Lawyer or Paralegal. This will ensure that you will have a team of people looking after you and that someone will always be available to assist you.
If you have any of the following documents it would be useful if you sent a copy to our Client Intake Team prior to your appointment so that your lawyer can review them prior to meeting with you:
- relevant valuations or appraisals that you may have obtained in relation to your assets;
- recent correspondence with the Child Support Agency;
- correspondence from previous lawyers, or your partner (or ex partners) lawyer;
- your most recent tax returns;
- Financial Statements;
- Court Orders;
- Parenting Plans;
- Mediation Agreements; and
- if you have one, a copy of your latest Will and Enduring Power of Attorney
These documents are helpful but not essential. If it is difficult or stressful to obtain them, do not worry, your lawyer will work with you to ensure no stone is left unturned.
What happens after my first appointment?
Following your appointment your Lawyer’s assistant will send a letter of advice to you, summarising what was discussed during the meeting.
You will also be sent a Costs Agreement which will outline our fees and an estimate of costs for the next steps in your matter. This document will need to be signed by you in order for us to carry out any further work on your matter.
Your Lawyers’ assistant will now become your go to person for administrative related questions, to schedule further appointments, assist with accounts enquiries, check on responses from the other side or confirming dates and deadlines.
How much does it cost to see a lawyer at FGD and how can I keep my legal costs down?
This is a very good question. At FGD we don’t have a one price fits all approach. Every matter is different and we cater what we do and our fees to what you need.
Once your lawyer finds out how they can help you, they will talk to you about what it will cost.
We understand that legal fees were not part of your financial plan. Below are some things you can do to keep your costs down:
- It is important to find a lawyer you trust who will work with you and guide you through the process. A good working relationship will ensure a smooth process. At FGD our Client Service Manager will ensure this happens.
- Discuss fee options with your solicitor. At FGD we tailor what we do depending on what you need and offer flexibility with our fees. In many cases we can offer fixed fees to give you this some certainty around fees.
- Work with a solicitor who has a team of assistants and paralegals working with them to help support you, they can do the groundwork, at a lower rate.
- Schedule a regular telephone appointment with your solicitor to discuss non-urgent issues which have arisen. Prepare for this appointment to ensure you do not miss anything. Contacting your solicitor once per week with a list of questions is more cost effective than several calls.
- Keep emails to your solicitor short and to the point, they love lists and dot points and it will save time, therefore costs.
- When documents have to be drafted, provide clear notes on the topic the solicitor has requested you to provide information about. Again, lists and dot points are great.
- Unless you need legal advice, you should contact the solicitor’s assistant who can assist with administrative tasks such as arranging appointments, accounts enquiries, checking on responses from the other side or confirming dates and deadlines.
- Leave the legal stuff to the lawyer. At FGD we have a complementary Child and Family Specialist to assist you and your family through the process and provide you with emotional support, tips on communicating with your ex, children, family and strategies for practical co-parenting, if you need it.
My Lawyer asked me to sign a Costs Agreement, what is that?
Our Costs Agreement and Costs Disclosure Letter sets out our fees and your obligations in relation to your legal fees. We cannot assist you with your Matter without a signed Costs Agreement. If you have questions about the Costs Agreement or Costs Disclosure Letter you should speak to your Lawyer.
My Lawyer has asked me to put some money into a Trust account for my future fees, how does that work?
You will be asked to deposit funds into our Trust Account for future fees and disbursements. This money is held in an account regulated by the Law Society. It is important to know:
- We do not earn interest on these funds;
- We are obligated to provide you with a Trust Statement at the end of each Financial Year and at the conclusion of your Matter;
- Any funds held in trust on your behalf at the conclusion of your Matter after payment of any outstanding fees will be returned to you; and
- We will notify you when we propose to withdraw funds held in trust on your behalf to cover our fees, this will be shown clearly on an invoice. You have 7 business days to object to the use of these funds.
Understanding your invoice and fees
FGD may incur disbursements on your behalf throughout your Matter. These are any amounts payable to third parties in relation to the matter such as fees relating to property searches, filing fees, barrister or mediator fees etc.
Disbursements will always be displayed on the first page of your invoice with a breakdown of the costs shown from page 2 onwards. A copy of the relevant invoice will be provided for your reference. In some instances, your may be asked to pay the invoice directly to the service provider, such as paying Court filing fees.
From page 2 onwards on your invoices you will be able to see the items of work that have been done that make up the total of your fees.
Ordinarily we do not provide itemised invoices. If you would like us to provide you with itemised invoices please let your Lawyer’s assistant or Lawyer know.
Will I be sent a receipt when I pay my invoice?
Ordinarily we do not provide receipts. If you would like a receipt for payments made please let your Lawyer’s assistant or Lawyer know.
What is Work In Progress (WIP)?
Work In Progress (WIP) is a term Lawyers use when they are talking about billable work that has been done on your Family Law Matter that has not yet been billed.