You have a client conference and your client tells you their story, what they want and what they expect out of their family law issues and subsequent court proceedings . However, what the client wants doesn’t equate with your views as to how the matter should proceed commercially as its not in the client’s best interests or not even possible based on family law principles and legislation. You feel emotionally invested with the client and you want to fight their fight and so you say nothing to the client. Lets call it….. you have monthly or firm budgets to reach and you want to reach your targets, you don’t want to upset clients as it may result in the client moving firms! Alternatively, you have the choice to advice objectively and professionally which may “No” (politely)? If “No” is part of your repertoire & advice, you will stand out, as a competent professional, empathetic, honest and commercially minded family lawyer!
I am always impressed with solicitors who have the courage to say “No” to their clients and advise the client objectively, commercially and legally, even though it may not be the most popular advice, or even possibly what the client really wants to hear, even though it may be in their best interests. It must be remembered as a lawyer, telling “it” for what “it” is, is honest, objective and professional and I can say from experience, the client ultimately appreciates an honest, professional approach, its builds trust.
I recently read an article  which I thought had some really important, practical and timely reminders for all lawyers, but particularly family law practitioners, which I believe is worthy of restatement. Judge Sexton (Sydney Registry) presented at a family law conference where she stated “a best practice guideline for family lawyers was not to get emotionally involved and just parrot clients instructions, but to push back.” Its without doubt that it takes boldness, professionalism and conviction to actually say “No” to clients and even to go further and say, something like “I hear what you are saying and if I a correct you are saying X (actively listen – concisely repeat back in your own words what they have said so the client feels heard – people like to have open communication and be respectfully listened to and then they are more likely to hear your words) and X is what you would like and expect from these proceedings. However, if we go down the path you propose, I don’t believe that will not be in your best interests legally, emotionally or financially and it will not achieve the best outcome for your case. What I propose is X , for these reasons.” Then open communication can commence, where trust can begin to be established between the client and solicitor.
Judge Sexton used the words “push back” which she further expanded upon by saying “our job is not to be used by our clients as a means to ventilate their emotional position, its about advising clients to understand what is better for them legally, emotionally and financially – that is what is called pushing back.” I fully support these sentiments, words and “best practice” as proposed by Judge Sexton. If lawyers do not follow the “push back” guideline, the client will pay emotionally, legally and financially. Its our role as professional humans who are legally trained, to assist clients get through very difficult problems in their lives, to offer solutions that will ultimately assist a client not add to the problem. Lawyers need to remain above the malaise and client battles, by providing objective advice, in the client’s best interests, which may include “No”. This doesn’t mean there is no room for emotion by lawyers, a good lawyer can be professionally empathetic, without being emotionally involved in the case or its outcome. As lawyers, all that can be controlled in the matter, is the way the matter is conducted with the best efforts by lawyers to obtain a favourable outcome for the client, in an objective, commercial, legal, professional, honest and human manner. When matters are conducted in this manner, it is in the clients best interests.
The “push back” approach is favourable to solicitors ethical obligations found in Rule 7 Legal Profession Uniform Law Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules 2015.
When a commercial, legal and professional empathetic approach is undertaken, all benefit, short and long term…..lawyers on both sides, clients and the Court.
I believe ethical obligations are fulfilled when lawyers do say “No” to clients and provide professional objective advice.
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 Time For Lawyers To Push Back