Q&As

In conversation with Simon French on Family Law Fundamentals

Thursday November 9, 2017

Simon French was admitted in 1976. From 1 July 2011, Simon retired as a Director of Dwyer Durack Lawyers, but continues as a Family Lawyer and currently heads the Family Law Department at the firm. Since 2013, Simon has been a nationally accredited Mediator with the Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators ("AFLAM") and has conducted many mediations. In March 2015, he qualified as a nationally accredited Arbitrator with AFLAM.

You can visit Dwyer Durack’s website by clicking here 

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Simon recently to discuss key challenges and opportunities facing the industry today.

You can find the full Q&A below.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself Simon, your experience, practice and what you are working on?

Since I started practice more than 40 years ago, I have worked in a number of areas, including criminal law, personal injury and, for the last 20 years or so, family law. These areas of practice can be described as "people's law", where there is much face-to-face contact with clients. Often this has been in circumstances where the people are emotionally upset or under stress. I need to be aware of the predicament of the client to best advise and represent the client in any legal dispute. In addition, I am an AIFLAM accredited mediator and arbitrator. In the last few years, I have often received instructions from other lawyers to act as a mediator of family law disputes. I enjoy trying to help separated spouses reach their own settlement.

From your experience what in your opinion are some of the key challenges facing family lawyers today?

In these days of extensive use of technology including social media, lawyers need to be conscious of the expectations of clients - which include that they will receive an almost immediate response to their enquiries. As a lawyer, I try to, as best I can, provide clients with reasonable expectations and deliver accordingly. A particular challenge facing many family lawyers today is the delay in Court resolution of disputes. Practitioners need to be conscious of Alternative Dispute Resolution which may provide the client with a cheaper, quicker and more satisfying resolution of a dispute with a former partner.

Your topic focuses on "first impressions are everything in making the interview effective". Why is it important for practitioners to attend your session?

Experience counts for a bit in family law. Even without extensive experience, lawyers can develop strategies which are designed to assist in establishing a good working relationship with the client. The session includes a discussion about how to approach an interview and how to conduct it. A key point is to try as a lawyer to see the interview from the client's perspective. In my practice, I focus on hosing down unreasonable expectations a client may have and trying to develop with the client, a strategy to achieve a reasonable resolution of issues arising from the separation.

What do you see are some of the key takeaways and benefits for practitioners or their practice from attending your session?

Adding to a practitioner's legal education, an important component is trying to understand a client and developing empathy with the client - without trying to be "a friend" of the client. I hope my session will help practitioners attending to develop ideas about making future interviews effective.

You can hear more from Simon who is speaking at the Family Law Fundamentals: From Start to Finish seminar, being held on Friday 17 November at the Parmelia Hilton Perth.

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