Tools to support good family law practice

Tools to support good family law practice

Monday, 31 July 2017

Let’s face it, we could all do with some help in meeting our professional obligations while managing heavy file loads.

Legally aided family law work is challenging

It’s a complex and fluid area of practice, and the needs of our target clients add another layer of complexity. Demand is high but time is short. Getting it wrong has significant consequences – both for the client and the lawyer. 

Good preparation is the key, but in a busy practice, there’s the ever-present risk that a filing deadline, an important task or a vital piece of information is missed.

Checklists – a life buoy in a sea of information

Simple checklists used in a range of professional context minimise risk. 

Lawyers, like other highly skilled professionals in high volume, time-pressured environments can benefit from using tools such as checklists to manage increasingly complex procedural requirements. The Legal Practitioners’ Liability Committee recently reminded the profession of the role of checklists in providing safe, quality legal services.

Firms and individual practitioners may already have checklists and policies they use to manage litigation files. We just want to make sure all our practice partners have access to resources to support their practice.

Use of our tools by panel practitioners will not be a condition of a grant of aid. VLA family lawyers new to the jurisdiction will be required to use the tools as standard practice. We want to consolidate a culture of strategic and comprehensive preparation of matters for trial.

Your toolkit

We’ve worked with an advisory group of panel, Community Legal Centre and VLA lawyers, as well as barristers, to create and refine the following tools:

  • Case strategy plan – Promotes a strategic approach to litigation at an early opportunity with prompts for evidence analysis and identification of relevant law. Collates key information in one document for ease of reference and the development of the chronology, case outline, and brief to counsel.
  • Litigation preparation checklist – Helps keep litigation on track by listing key tasks and deadlines for procedural steps, such as filing a Notice of risk, or giving notice to cross examine witnesses.
  • Counsel memo template – A template for preparation of briefs to counsel, with prompts for the kind of information likely to assist the barrister to advocate effectively on the client’s behalf.
  • Index of documents – Template for recording documents to be included in brief to counsel.
  • Adult client capacity checklist – Assists lawyers in assessing client’s capacity to give instructions with prompts to consider strategies to address incapacity. 

The tools are aimed at fostering good habits in trial preparation amongst less experienced practitioners. But, the tools are currently being piloted. Practitioners will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the next version of the tools in the coming months.  Along with a range of other practice resources, the tools will be available for use in September 2017.

Why should I use practice tools?

We all want to do our best in practice, regardless of our level of experience or expertise. Using these tools can help ensure that amidst the twists and turns of family law litigation, important steps in the process are not overlooked. 

Apart from helping ensure you provide consistent quality legal service and comply with your professional obligations, using practice tools can:

  • make it easier to differentiate between matters when you have concurrent trials
  • ease you back into trial work after periods of extended leave
  • help supervise the work of less experienced lawyers
  • manage delegation of work and file handovers better
  • meet VLA grant requirements, and
  • make VLA compliance checks and quality audits quicker and easier.

Masterclass in trial preparation

To introduce the tools to panel lawyers, VLA will deliver a masterclass in preparing matters for trial in September. Watch this space!

More information

If you have any questions about the project, contact Project Manager Catherine Caruana on (03) 9269 0371.