Working together to support good preparation in family law trials

Working together to support good preparation in family law trials

Friday, 10 February 2017

Last year we asked for feedback on how to make the family law guidelines simpler, clearer and easier to use. It was thanks to the skill and collective expertise of the lawyers who worked with us that we were able to redraft guidelines which 85 per cent of survey respondents saw as an improvement on the guidelines currently in place.  We would like to thank all the advisory group members for their invaluable, practical input.

It is anticipated that the guideline guideline changes will come into effect in mid-2017.

Help us get it right – expression of interest required 30 March 2017

We are now looking for practitioners to join us again on an advisory group to develop a set of practical tools to support the preparation of family law matters for trial.

 'We know from the wider context that busy professionals will only use tools such as checklists which are as concise, targeted and relevant as possible. That’s why we need practitioners to have a say in the form they take,' says Associate Director of Family Law, Gayathri Paramasivam.

It’s not intended that the use of the tools by private practitioners and community legal centre lawyers will be mandatory under a grant of aid. We hope however that lawyers will see the value of the tools in their practice and in meeting our practice standards.

We will be travelling to regional areas in March to talk to lawyers about this tools development project, and another practice support project arising from the Family Law Review looking at briefing practices and advocacy (watch this space!).

As with the guidelines redraft, an advisory group of Victoria Legal Aid practitioners and panel practitioners will provide feedback on draft tools in April and May. Expression of interested are required by 30 March 2017.

Sharing knowledge about good trial preparation

As part of our commitment to provide high quality legal services in family law matters, we invite private practitioners and community legal centre lawyers on the panel, working alongside Victoria Legal Aid lawyers, to share their knowledge about best practice trial preparation.  

'We know that family law work is hard and that the (sometimes multiple) vulnerabilities faced by our family law clients adds significantly to what is an increasingly complex area of law.

'We want to support practitioners to prepare for litigation in these more difficult cases with the care and attention necessary to get good results.'

Success’ in family law trials depends, to a large part, on good preparation where the best evidence is presented and briefs to counsel are well prepared with sufficient lead time to enable effective advocacy. Lawyers need to identify and address the weakest aspects of the case at the earliest opportunity.

In a busy practice however, it’s easy for some matters to fall off the radar. Waiting for grants approval can also impact progress on files.

Tools such as case strategy checklists and templates can focus a lawyer’s attention on the relative strengths and weaknesses of a case and the evidence required to support the orders sought.

They complement file management strategies to help track compliance with procedural requirements and the court’s case management expectations.  As a written record of progress, completed checklists can make supervision, transfer of files to other practitioners and briefing of counsel smoother and easier.

'Ultimately, we all want to work efficiently and to achieve the best possible outcomes for our clients in the most timely and cost effective way,' says Gayathri.

Contact details

To find out more about the project, to lodge an expression of interest in being part of the advisory group, or to provide input in any other way, please contact Catherine Caruana at Catherine.Caruana@vla.vic.gov.au or on (03) 9269 0371.