Tips For First Appearances

Primary Dispute Resolution - More Important Than Ever

Now is the time for innovation – a time to repurpose our service to clients.

With so many other businesses looking for innovative ways to repurpose their products and services, family lawyers are doing the same.  This was the general impression I got last week after having a virtual coffee catch-up with fellow practitioners.  

Let’s wind back a bit.  At the start of 2020 family lawyer practitioners and their clients were staring down the barrel of significant court delays to hear and then determine property and parenting disputes. In my practice, the take up of arbitration started off slowly in early 2019, however started to gather momentum later in 2019 - particularly when the “Summer sittings” were announced. 


Despite the Chief Justice recommending that parties and practitioners should exhaust ADR, it appeared as though mediation and arbitration were still being considered as the “alternative” form of dispute resolution with litigation still being considered the “primary”.


Now let’s fast-forward to March 2020.  The health pandemic Covid-19 has no doubt immediately impacted litigation focused practices and their clients. As practitioners, it is now our job to significantly modify the way we focus our dispute resolution, as Covid-19 impact will, sadly, likely have a longer-term impact.  This is our commitment to our clients.  The service doesn’t change, but it’s delivery may need too.  

If there was ever a time to reset how we manage client’s dispute resolution, it is now. We don't need to simply put down our tools and wait for the Courts to return to normal levels of functioning. 

Now is the time to repurpose.  That repurposing should not be a 6-month thing or until this “all blows over”. The impact of Covid-19 is likely to have a long-lasting effect upon court trial dockets.

As you repurpose your family law business model, you may like to consider how outcomes can be achieved for your clients through mediation and arbitration far more rapidly, cost effectively and with less stress and anxiety than waiting for a court outcome.  During the past two weeks my arbitration and mediations have been delivered virtually, and are still achieving greater than 80% settlement rates.

In 2020, arbitrations and mediations, albeit online, are no longer “alternative” dispute resolution options, but should be considered the primary dispute resolution option.

If you would like to discuss anything regarding ADR, please feel free to contact Bruce on 0437 007271. 

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