As a barrister, my business is COVID-capable and isolation-enabled. That is to say, it’s business-as-usual but in an unusual way for now.
While face to face work is preferred for family law, we have a workable, viable alternative. Unfortunately, we all know the difficulties experienced by those needing the assistance of a family lawyer and/or barrister carry on despite COVID-19.
You don’t need to wear a mask, load up on hand-sanitiser or leave your house for meetings with clients, negotiations with lawyers, mediation style conferences or even most Court appearances.
All of those things can be done via video conferencing and/or telephone link-ups.
The Family Court is working hard to facilitate remote attendance by telephone. Trials are still being scheduled for in-person appearances and I am willing and able to attend in person. Witnesses other than primary witnesses are likely to give evidence by video or telephone link.
I am video conferencing with instructors every day. If you have a client who is unfamiliar with the platforms, I am able to join them to a 3-way video conference (client, instructor, counsel) for a familiarisation session, without charge.
Rachel appears in the Family Court of Western Australia, Family Court of Australia, Children's Court of Western Australia in relation to Care and Protection Matters and in the Magistrates Court of Western Australia for Violence Restraining Order matters. Rachel has worked exclusively in Family Law since 2006 and receives briefs in all areas of Family Law. Rachel is experienced in difficult children’s matters (including where sexual abuse and family and domestic violence is alleged); international and inter-state relocation applications; complex property matters, (including where there are multiple entity interests, third party interests or litigants, taxation issues and where tracing exercises are required). Rachel is experienced in drafting and advising on Binding Financial Agreements and Binding Child Support Agreements.
Rachel is a nationally qualified mediator and provides services as a Chairperson for Mediation Style Conferences for parties engaged in Family Law negotiations. Whether considering litigation or already involved in it, parties who work with Rachel are encouraged and guided towards identifying their own solution, without the need for the expense and emotional toll which Family Court litigation can have on the parties and their wider families.
Rachel has a special interest in surrogacy and adoption matters. Rachel is a regular speaker, including internationally, on the subject of fertility law and surrogacy. Rachel provides services to parties who require legal assistance advice when entering into domestic altruistic surrogacy arrangements and when applying for transfers of parentage.
Solicitors offer advice and representation for members of the public. They will meet with clients, prepare documents, applications, witness statements and manage documents which must be disclosed to other parties. Solicitors engage in negotiations and liaison with the other party (or their lawyer) in a matter on behalf of their client. Solicitors provide an address for service of court documents. Often a solicitor works in a firm with a number of colleagues who may also assist with an individual client's matter.
Barristers work alone and independently of solicitors of firms. This maintains the independence of the Bar so that barristers may accept work from all solicitors who request it provided that the brief is within their expertise and experience.
Commonly barristers are briefed to appear as counsel for a client at trial. The solicitor will prepare all of the court documents and evidence and the barrister will present the case, by giving submissions to the Judicial Officer about the law and by examining and cross-examining witnesses.
Barristers provide a number of other services for solicitors. This includes things like preparing opinions, giving advice on evidence (how to prepare for trial), settling court documents prepared by a solicitor, drafting written submissions and papers for the Judicial Officer.
In Western Australia, lawyers are admitted to the Supreme Court as Barristers and Solicitors. So it is possible for a solicitor to undertake advocacy work in court. The two roles involve very different skill sets. Some solicitors prefer to work with a barrister from the outset of a case so that they have the advantage of expert advice, including on the strategic approach to a case. Often counsel opinion and advice on evidence at the start of a matter can result in a swifter settlement without the need for trial.