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7 habits of highly effective lawyers

Every Issue

Cite as: September 2015 89 (9) LIJ, p.82

Tim Mulvany

1 Open the mail as much as possible

It gives an overview of the firm’s work and profile, especially any client dissatisfaction and updates the progress of files without having to ask the lawyer handling the file.

2 Explain to clients what a lawyer is not

Initially client expectations are high, and in parenting disputes a client sees a lawyer as having psychological and social science skills. Dispel the concept. The lawyer does not narrate the lived experience for the judge but presents relevant facts.

3 Convey the concept of the Rule of Law

In most parenting disputes respect that initially the client knows best because of lived experience, then discreetly emphasise the importance of “hearing the other side” and the court being the ultimate decider. Explain dual duty to court and to client.

4 In parenting disputes explain statutory principles and get written confirmation

Legislation sets out mandated factors to be considered in all parenting disputes. Work through them with the client and suggest you and the client sign and date a photocopy acknowledging receipt of advice.

5 Affirm and empathise

Aim at a high level of morale and ensure that when there is a good outcome it is shared with all those responsible. With unsatisfactory work or a mistake proffer constructive criticism.

6 Share your thoughts/debrief with peers

Don’t internalise and carry the client burden alone. Sharing can give rise to balanced perceptions and post-case adjustment. In the event of your sudden unavailability there is some succession strategy.

7 Raise will and ancillary documents

On closure, empathise with the client that they do not want to see a lawyer again. Open the discussion on illness, future incompetency and mortality. Advise on the will or refer for advice.

Tim Mulvany is principal of TJ Mulvany & Co. He served on the LIV Family Law Section executive 2001-2009 when he was also chair of the Section’s children and young persons sub-committee. He was president of the board of the Children’s Protection Society of Victoria 2009-2011. In 2012 he received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to the law, the protection of children and the community.


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