Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers has developed a niche practice in providing clients with a second opinion about their family law matters. It is not unusual for clients to experience doubt during what is undeniably a very stressful and concerning time. Our aim is not to compound the doubt or the stress but to provide clients with clarity. We provide clients with clarity around their situation and we give them the skills to competently go back to their existing legal team with a list of queries and instructions for them to give to their lawyers, giving you back a semblance of control.
Sometimes, clients like or prefer what they have heard from Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers and decide to change lawyers. That however, is not why we take these client appointments. Our job, when meeting a client for a second opinion, is not to focus on what has been said, advised or done in the client’s matter. Our clear preference is to hear these clients out and to understand what is important to them and why. We then discuss options as we see it without needing the client to bring their file or tell us everything that has transpired to date. Our preference is not to delve into the past of what has been done or could have been done differently. Our approach is instead to offer clients options and empower them to make choices regardless of whether they come for one interview or stay for the entirety of their matter.
Having taken many of these interviews, there are some themes which have become clear to me and the team at Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers. The key themes that arise are:
Anxiety leading to Misunderstanding or Forgetting
- Family law clients can be highly anxious;
- When people are in a highly anxious state they often mishear or misremember things that have been said to them. Lawyers don’t always remember to write to clients setting out advice given in phone calls or whilst at Court;
- Lawyers often forget to ask clients how they like to receive information i.e. verbally or in writing, so the information is not tailored to the specific client;
- Clients need reminding about dates and activities which need to be done to ensure they comply with court orders;
- Clients will often not inform their lawyers that they have not understood something;
Confusion with Advice
- Some lawyers like to impress their clients with complex or difficult to comprehend advice;
- Clients mistakenly believe that legal advice is set in stone and not fluid. So, whilst their lawyer may have been consulted by them at one juncture of their separation and advice given, the client mistakenly believes that advice holds sway at a different point in time;
Emotion Impacting Perception and Communication
- Clients panic and when their lawyers do not, some clients mistakenly believe this means that their lawyer doesn’t care;
- Or sometimes, clients want their lawyers to be as mad as they are against their ex or as passionate as they are about getting what they want. It does not make these clients irrational: it simply means these clients have misunderstood the role of the lawyer and how we are ethically bound to behave and not behave. We cannot be the clients’ mouthpiece. We must provide objective advice.
- Some clients do fit into the class of client which can be labelled high conflict. They are not getting what they want from their lawyers and go elsewhere to get the advice they believe they are entitled to. Again, we are not in the business of telling clients what they want to hear. We are in the profession of providing legal advice and giving clients sound options in relation to their situation.
- Clients sometimes need to hear something in stereo. That does not make their current lawyer misguided or inept. It simply means the client was not ready to hear a piece of advice or they needed to hear it twice to be reassured that the advice is correct.
Advice from a Trusted Barrister
We will often ask if a client has had the benefit of a conference with a barrister. Sometimes it might not have been considered or rejected by the client as being too expensive. At Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers, we often recommend to clients that they avail themselves of the opportunity to get that second opinion but from someone we rely on and trust. A barrister’s advice early in a matter which echoes our own advice will provide you with the strategic overview of your matter to enable you to continue down a pathway that you feel confident about. In cases where a client has been working with a solicitor only, one piece of advice might be to go back to their solicitor and ask for a conference with a barrister.
History of Client-Lawyer Breakdown
Where there has been a complete breakdown in trust between a client and a lawyer and it is self-evident that the client is determined to leave, we do not focus on assisting our client make that decision, instead we will simply offer our view of their situation (based on their instructions and what of the file we have seen) and what might be done to remedy the relationship. If a client decides they like what they hear, we can of course represent them.
What a Second Opinion Gives You
A second opinion is not necessarily better. It might be the same or similar to the opinion you already have. It might differ but not for the reasons you think. A second opinion is likely to be highly qualified until the lawyer providing that opinion has seen all that the first opinion was based on. What a second opinion can give you is a different perspective, a different set of insights and some skills to manage your current situation.