Family Dynamics at the OLC

  • February 27, 2024
  • Gosha G.S. Sekhon, owner/principal lawyer at Sekhon Legal Services

I had the privilege of participating in an engaging and thought-provoking plenary on Family Dynamics at the 2024 Ontario Legal Conference.[1] My co-panelist was Kavita Bhagat, of Kavita V. Bhagat Family Law Solutions. The discussion was moderated by Alex Procope of Perez, Bryan Procope LLP.

We shared our experiences of how understanding and responding to the needs of clients in the context of their family relationships can make us better legal service providers. The following are some key take-aways from the discussion.

  1. Avoid being overly transactional with clients

Estates solicitors are typically hired for specific, time-limited engagements, resulting in, for instance, the production of a Will and Powers of Attorney or a successful application for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee. It is easy to get caught up in checklists to complete these retainers.

It is important, however, to get context around a client’s instructions. The best laid plans can go awry if we do not take the time to do our due diligence at the outset of the retainer. Take time to learn about the factors influencing the client’s decisions and document these discussions for your file.

One panel recommendation was to include a family tree in the intake process. This can include detailed notes on relationships the client has said are difficult or that could impact their decisions. In the context of estate planning this may shed light on a decision to exclude a beneficiary, or in an estate administration it may guide the best method for communicating with an ornery family member.