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Important Guidelines for Clients
The fixed fees arrangements work best when both you as the client and we as your lawyers are on the same page as to how best to conduct our relationship. Remember, we are trying to contain your costs by giving you a fixed fee and we want to be in a position to work on your matter efficiently and effectively.
We are looking for the best outcome for you in a way that is consistent with our obligations and in accordance with your instructions.
So we ask that you consider the following carefully and respect our joint efforts to get results without undue delay.
Our philosophy and obligations
At Slater and Gordon our basic philosophy is to obtain the best results for our clients at the most economical fee. We strive to secure our clients’ best interests.
We also have an overriding obligation to the Courts to behave ethically and responsibly. It is important - especially in the emotional environment of Family Law - that our clients understand our obligations to the Courts.
The basic principle for the conduct of all Family Law matters is:
“to ensure that each case is resolved in a just and timely manner at a cost to the parties and the court that is reasonable in the circumstances of the case” (Family Law Rules 1.04).
We all have an obligation to:
- Ensure that any orders we ask the Court to make are reasonable.
- Disclose all relevant information.
- Make sure we are ready for court events and meet all with time limits.
- Identify the real issues that are in dispute.
- Put only relevant and necessary information to the court.
As lawyers we also have an obligation to ensure that:
- We are familiar with your case; and
- We are in a position to deal with any issue likely to arise.
As Family Lawyers we adhere to the principles contained in the Best Practice Guidelines for Family Lawyers (produced by the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia). These include:
- Being constructive and conciliatory
- Narrowing the issues in dispute and looking for solutions
- Supporting parties to find sensible and reasonable resolution of their differences
- Ensuring that costs are not unreasonably incurred
- Being objective and focussing on issues
- Avoiding hostile and unnecessary exchanges
- Protecting the best interests of children and not involving them in their parents’ disputes.
Family Law is not a battleground for parties to act out their conflicts and personal disputes. It is to get matters resolved as quickly and economically as possible.
We believe in being firm but we work for realistic and attainable outcomes. The best results in Family Law are ‘fair and reasonable’ conclusions for all parties.
Communications - letters, phone calls and e-mails
We understand that Family Law matters can be stressful and you need to be kept informed of progress in your matter. Part of the Family Law Fixed Fees ™ arrangement is that we won’t charge you on a 6 minute basis for phone calls and communications with you. However, please be aware that unnecessary and constant telephone or e-mail communication is counterproductive for everyone.
We will not contact you unnecessarily and we ask that you do the same.
We undertake to communicate with you as is necessary for the sensible conduct of your matter and we will keep you informed of any issues that are relevant.
We will copy all relevant documents to you, including correspondence and Court documents.
We will seek your agreement before making any offers to the other party or sending mail dealing with issues in dispute.
If you have a genuinely urgent issue to deal with we encourage you to contact us and advise of your concerns.
Accurate and complete instructions are absolutely vital to enable us to conduct your matter effectively.
Please ensure that you have advised us of all matters that might be relevant to your matter. If you are in doubt, it is better to say more than less.
Please make sure that what you instruct is accurate and complete. If you only tell us part of the story or the bits that are favourable, we can not conduct your matter properly or in your best interests
Please answer all questions we ask truthfully and completely.
Please ensure that you fully disclose all information that is relevant in your matter – a complete disclosure of all financial information in your knowledge or possession is a fundamental requirement of the Family Law.
Return of information and responding to requests
The efficient flow of information and documents between us is an important factor in the effective handling of your matter by us.
Please respond promptly when we send documents to you for your approval. Apart from deadlines which might be set by the Courts, it is important that we maintain progress in your matter and things will really slow down if we don’t keep them moving.
If we seek your instructions on any issue, please respond promptly. If you are unsure or have difficulties in getting a response for whatever reason, call and tell us.
If we leave messages for you to call us, please treat the request as important. We won’t call you unless there is something happening (or needing to happen) in your matter.
Payment of fees - promptly and in accordance with the Agreement
Any Family Law Fixed Fee ™ relationship is two sided – we undertake to expedite your matter and to work for the outcomes we have agreed with you. Part of your obligation is to ensure that the fees we have agreed are paid promptly and in accordance with our agreement.
We don’t want to be arguing with you over fees – that’s why we fix them and agree them up front – and that includes arguments about payment.
All fixed fees must be paid in advance and money deposited in our Trust Account before any work will be done. Please understand that this is an essential condition of us starting work.
We will not draw your money from the Trust Account until we have finished the Stage of work which was agreed with you.
At the conclusion of each Stage we will advise you that the agreed fixed fees for that Stage is to be drawn down by us. If you have any difficulties with this please ensure we are advised well in advance so that we can discuss and resolve problems at an early Stage.
If fixed fees are not paid in accordance with an agreed payment plan or on a monthly basis, we will stop work on your matter. That is disruptive and may cause conflict in our relationship with you, which we wish to avoid. We want to be working on your matter and for you.