Why Can't We Be Friends?

When I started here it was 2006.  James Blunt was big and nobody had an iPhone yet.  The family law community in Canberra looked pretty different – in fact the only ‘big’ firm that existed then that exists in the same form now was Farrar Gesini Dunn.  In fairness we were called Farrar Gesini & Dunn then.

In the intervening 11 years, I must have met hundreds of family lawyers practicing in Canberra.  I’d estimate most of them have come and gone though some have stayed the course.  Some of them have even become my fairly good friends.  We see each other and communicate with each other frequently, like any industry there’s a fair bit of firm swapping, so I’ve worked with some of my opponents, and we’ve put sports teams in competitions too.

When you think about your family lawyer being friends with your ex’s divorce lawyer it’s probably unsettling.  A lot of people call and say “I want to see you because I heard you’re aggressive,” or, “I need someone who won’t be bullied or pushed around by my ex’s lawyer.”  Those are okay things to say and I definitely think it’s important that you don’t think your lawyer is intimidated by the other side.

But there are some massive upsides to your lawyer having a good working relationship with your ex’s lawyer. In fact I think that’s just acting professionally in any case.  I think it’s also beneficial, though not necessary, for your lawyer to be friends with your ex’s lawyer. It makes communication more efficient, which is cheaper. It means if something needs to be done urgently we probably have each other’s mobile number.  But most importantly it means we can usually cut through the puff and the ****
That’s not to say we can’t litigate hard against each other when we need to.  Every good lawyer I know takes their duty (and it is a formal duty all lawyers have) to promote and protect their clients very seriously.  The difference is we can limit the dispute before the Court to the real points in issue – not waste your money having what might be colloquially referred to as a ‘pissing competition’.

So my key takeaways from this blog are:

  1. Don’t worry if your lawyer seems to be friends with the other side’s lawyer but do raise it with them if you’re concerned;
  2. If you don’t trust (or feel comfortable enough with) your lawyer enough to raise it, or if you think your lawyer is intimidated by the other side’s lawyer, change lawyers;
  3. If you and your spouse want to work out your settlement and avoid Court then a great question for whichever one of you sees a lawyer first to ask is for that lawyer to recommend some other solicitors they work well with.

Adam Bak

Adam Bak is a Family Lawyer and Director at Farrar Gesini Dunn, Canberra Office.

Adam works well with pretty much everyone and would love to give you a second opinion if you’re unsure about your current solicitor.