The Family Matters session on February 4, “Professionalism and Ethics Challenges," addressed some of the issues that face family law practitioners when considering their obligations as members of the Bar. The session provided insight from lawyers who gave advice on how to navigate the delicate circumstances that often arise in this field.
Legal practice is an innately human experience which gives rise to emotional and interpersonal conflicts. A lawyer must be prepared to support their client in separating and managing legal considerations from emotional issues so that the client can effectively give and receive instruction. Lisa Barazzutti advises the use of a litigation plan to help the client focus should emotions hinder their progress. When dealing with a client with significant emotional upset, ranging from moderately intrusive issues to sustained trauma, Mary Birdsell recommends utilising a longer litigation plan to give time to deal with emotional content. While this may present budgetary challenges, ensuring a client is fully informed of the long-term implications of their instructions is ethically responsible. Further, when trauma is intrusive enough, it is advised to recommend counselling, while remaining mindful about the impact of therapy on litigation, such as a party seeking access to therapeutic records.