The best way for two people who have separated to resolve their dispute is to do it together. There is no doubt about that. An important part of our role is to help people to do that. Usually this is more than just giving them advice about possible outcomes and telling them to settle on a midpoint figure. In my view, lawyers who see their role as limited to that are selling their clients short.
I’ve had reason to consider recently why I think I’m a better lawyer now than I was 5 years ago. I think the biggest difference is being conscious of and comfortable with the things I don’t know. I’m never going to understand tax issues and corporate structures as well as an accountant does, let alone colour code a spreadsheet. I can’t cross examine a witness or understand the rules of evidence as well as a barrister can. I can’t plan someone’s financial future like a financial planner can. And I can’t help a client deal with grief, or come to terms with being by themselves, like a skilled counsellor or psychologist.
As a firm we are lucky to have a network of people we refer work to and from who are experts in their chosen fields. They’re people I like, people I trust, people I respect. I wouldn’t send my client to someone I didn’t know was going to do a good job for them.
To be a good lawyer you have to understand when you need to call in someone else.
The Winter Olympics are on at the moment and I’m hooked on the curling. I’ve noticed that in curling, you’re not going to win without your two dudes sweeping the ice in front of your stone. But if you have a good shot, two good dudes sweeping, and then a dude calling the shots up the back, you’re going to smash it.
So the outcome of all of that – it’s important your lawyer knows what they can help you with and when they need help from others to properly look after you. I can get a client through their property settlement but if they feel secure about their future financially, that’s significantly more valuable to them. Having expert advice from a team of people helping you is not only cost effective (much cheaper than me battling to work out complex tax issues) it also results in a much better outcome overall. Also, where can we have a go at curling?