Lawyers. They make your skin crawl, right? Bunch of narcissistic, self-absorbed, money-hungry leeches.

I'm a nice guy

And judges! They’re even worse! Sitting in their palatial offices cut off from the real world, handing out wrist-slaps and lollies to scumbags.

The legal profession. Please! An awful, uncaring bunch we can all do without, yeah? No, actually.

All right, some of them do fit the stereotype and every group has its seedy side (I’m loathe to, say, consider Glenn Beck a “journalist”). And decisions like jailing Jay William Cook, who stabbed teenager Todd Burrows to death, for just four years are mind-bogglingly unfair.

But amongst the puffed-up prosecutors, dastardly defenders and jaded judges are those prepared to tackle one of the biggest problems facing this country.

Put simply, getting justice in Australia is costly. Far too costly.

The number of ordinary people forced to defend themselves in criminal cases, or reduced to swallowing unfair treatment because they can’t afford to sue, climbs every year.

South Australia’s outgoing Chief Justice, John Doyle, has repeatedly called for reform. He dubbed litigation “a difficult and long nightmare”.

Former High Court Justice and famed “great dissenter” Michael Kirby agreed, likening the legal system to a Rolls-Royce.

“If you are in the Rolls-Royce class and can afford expensive litigation, you will get Rolls-Royce treatment,” he once said.

“But it’s a plain fact that ordinary citizens cannot afford to go to court.

“Our challenge is to come up with a system that is more accessible and cheaper.

“We must distribute the product of justice between normal citizens in a way that is effective, cheap and has no downsides.”

Their Honours were, and remain, firm believers in the concept of alternative dispute resolution (a fancy way of saying “sit around a table and hash things out”).

The problem with ADR is it still involves lawyers – and they’re the number one thing underprivileged people can’t afford.

Consider the recent Family Court case of a lady who (thanks to mandatory suppression orders) we’ll call Ms K.  She was divorced by her husband in 2009, and he sued for sole custody of their kids. Ms K’s in-laws, meanwhile, forcibly evicted her from the matrimonial home.

A normal, sad story so far – except Ms K’s citizenship had yet to be finalised. Her English was poor. She lacked the savings for a court room fight and wasn’t eligible for government-subsidised legal aid.

Alternative dispute resolution was, for Ms K, no alternative at all. Thankfully, someone at the Red Cross pointed her toward pro bono.

For those of us who don’t speak Latin (or watch Law and Order), that’s a lawyer who takes on cases that don’t pay. Their time is paid for by charities and civic-minded law firms.

With counsel on her side, Ms K embarked on a two-year fight for her rights, her home and her children. In February, her story closed with a happy ending, she’s now building her new life, but there are many others who miss out.

We might not get the warm fuzzies from those people like we do Ms K. They might be petty criminals needing representation, or absentee parents trying to skimp on their payments.

But that’s not the point. True justice comes only when the rights of all are observed and that means jerks need a fair shake, too.

There are lawyers who, despite the stereotype, believe this. There are judges who can see past their wigs and into the community. And, once a year, they all go for a walk.

It’s called, rather fittingly, the Walk for Justice (there are no points, at the bar table, for creativity) and is part of National Law Week.

Professionals in Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane loop their city to raise money for “pro bono clearinghouses’’ that help people like Ms K.

All levels of the job are represented – judges and silks rub shoulders with law students – while sombre robes and gowns are chucked in favour of sneakers and trackies.

The walk is led by Ambassadors who are, more often than not, important people like Attorneys-General, Chief Justices and members of the Order of Australia.

(Sometimes they let opinionated journalists go up the front, too.)

Last year’s walk raised $34,000 nationally which, in South Australia alone, allowed for 3000 hours of free legal assistance.

All too often, lawyers and judges get a bad rap – tragically, they all too often earn that scorn through their actions and decisions.

The Walk for Justice, then, is important for three reasons.

It lets the community see the profession give back, act like human beings and help those far less fortunate than themselves.

It gets judges and lawyers into said community and forces them to focus on the needs of the real world – something that is, sadly, easy to forget inside the rarified air of a court room.

And it gives Ms K, and thousands of others in her situation, a chance to be treated fairly.

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62 comments

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    • gobsmack says:

      06:55am | 14/05/12

      Since Dietrich (a landmark High Court case) the right to legal representation at a criminal case is virtually guaranteed.  That would normally be provided by legal aid which is government funded.

    • KH says:

      08:42am | 14/05/12

      A lot of people dont’ qualify for legal aid.  I also understand it can be quite difficult to get at all if you are the one bringing the case, and it isn’t a criminal matter.  This isn’t about people looking to defend themselves from charges of some kind - it is also about getting justice for unfair treatment, or being ripped off etc.

    • Smithy says:

      07:45am | 15/05/12

      And speaking from the civil liberties perspective, quite frequently the lawyers doing the legal aid work have such a high workload that they are unable to provide the required level of attention to the cases they have and rather than present 10 or 15 good cases, they end up presenting 100 bad ones, and that isn’t shared justice, it’s injustice.

    • John F says:

      07:43am | 14/05/12

      The Family court is an ideal area to remove lawyers from, currently they are financialy rewarded for poor outcomes (more appearances, more money)
      Lawyers are raping broken families right when they need as much money as possible.

    • Borderer says:

      08:42am | 14/05/12

      I knew a lawyer once who hated others in his profession, he said “How can you trust someone to simplify and expedite an issue when it is their direct financial interest to complicated and lengthen a problem?”

    • Scotchfinger says:

      09:21am | 14/05/12

      I hope your last claim was not literal, as that scenario seems extreme even for lawyers!! Still, if they can’t pay I guess there must be some recompense…

    • MarkS says:

      11:31am | 14/05/12

      @Borderer
      It is called event costing. But you have to be a big legal purchaser to have the power to enforce it on a law firm.

      In some whys the USA idea of a percentage of the take would work better for small purchasers in civil matters.

    • kitteh says:

      11:51am | 14/05/12

      Oh please. I’ve known several lawyers specialising in Family Law. To a person, they battle to keep people out of the court system and aim for the fastest, most amicable settlement that is fair for all parties. They also earn far less than their corporate and civil counterparts, and do a lot more pro bono work. The claim that they drag cases out to make more money is silly - in the modern era, with its high divorce/defacto breakup rate, very few decent family lawyers are hungry for work. Besides, a more complex case requires more hours of research and prep and therefore is less financially rewarding even if that were the main goal.

      Their greatest frustration - as some later commenters have pointed out - is the vengeful client hoping to hurt their partner through the courts. And there are plenty - men AND women, before someone starts on that. Often they dump any lawyer that tries to make them see sense and stop hurting their kids, too. And God forbid a ruling go against them - then all that bile and vitriol is directed at the lawyer that couldn’t make a case for their often unrealistic demands.

    • Tanya says:

      02:31pm | 14/05/12

      Poor outcomes are the nature of the beast in family law - hard earned assets are divided, custody is allocated and somebody always loses. You can’t blame lawyers for that.

    • Fiddler says:

      07:46am | 14/05/12

      Ok, ignore the poor, because they get means tested free legal representation through Legal Aid or the Aboriginal Legal Service. They will fund everything, including appeals, Spreme Court Bail applications, Barristers etc.

      The ones who are actually screwed are the middle class. Why? Because they aren’t eligible for legal aid and have to pay $300 an hour for a solicitor, $500+ for a Barrister.

      Things getting ugly in Family Court and say have one parent who works and one who doesn’t? One will be up anything up to $100,000 and the other one will get it for free and can fight based on “abuse of process”, that is make the battle as long and expensive as possible hoping the one with a job gives in.

      Unemployed criminals? I know of some who would per year, every year of their active life (from say 12 onwards) cost around $100,000 in legal fees from our tax dollars, with representation, appeals etc

    • Sam says:

      07:53am | 14/05/12

      If you’re going to use a pseudonym for someone, you probably shouldn’t later mention their real name later in the body of the article. FFS.

    • Lawyer says:

      08:03am | 14/05/12

      I have worked as a legal aid lawyer my entire working life, both for Legal Services and Aboriginal Legal Rights.  These offices are chronically under-funded by the government.  This is particularly true for the latter, where lawyers have a starting wage of $44K ($10K less than the average teacher) and it maxes out at $55K unless you are the Manager, where you still only receive $70K.  Try retaining staff with those wage offerings!  The lawyers and support staff are universally there because they believe in access to justice.  All of the lawyers go above and beyond in their work responsibilities and hours.  I have to laugh when I hear comments about lawyers in their BMWs.  My 1990 Camry has 300,000km on the dial.  I have $20K in super.  But I’ll stay for life because this is where I am needed.  And there is so much need.

    • Fiddler says:

      08:21am | 14/05/12

      my experience with both these services is that they tend to get a lot of practitioners straight out of uni, because the experience they gain will set them up well when they go for a better paying job a few years down the track

    • Lawyer says:

      09:16am | 14/05/12

      @ Fiddler this is true to a degree.  Legal Services is part of the public service, so they do not hire anyone for longer than 2 years or else they become permanent.  They always have a high turnover as a result of the short term contracts offered.  Aboriginal Legal Rights has variable hiring - sometimes freshies (because of the low salary on offer) and other times people who have worked in legal aid their whole lives in one capacity or another, either in SA or interstate, and are ideologically committed to access to justice.  You are quite correct though that these lawyers could get better paid jobs down the track, although very few leave to pursue this end, and generally only after 5-15 years.  Many remain for their working lives because money isn’t everything.  But legal aid lawyers need to put bread on the table just like anyone else, so those pressures are always there.

    • nihonin says:

      09:22am | 14/05/12

      ’      Fiddler says:

            08:21am | 14/05/12

            my experience with both these services is that they tend to get a lot of practitioners straight out of uni, because the experience they gain will set them up well when they go for a better paying job a few years down the track’

      Labor politician? 

      Too good to resist.  wink

    • Fiddler says:

      10:02am | 14/05/12

      not in NSW, after two years they can’t get out quick enough and tend to hate most of their clients more than the victims do.

    • subotic says:

      08:10am | 14/05/12

      What do you call 400 dead lawyers?

      A bloody good start….

    • Arthur says:

      08:44am | 14/05/12

      We need more. As much as 400 gone sounds great, it IS the problem.

    • Fred says:

      08:59am | 14/05/12

      What do you throw a drowning lawyer?

      His wife and kids.

      But seriously if I had to get 99% in the HSC, do 5-6 years of uni, another few years of being paid bugger all whilst being a noob, I’d want to see lots of money at the end of it too.

      What a conundrum!

    • Arthur says:

      09:07am | 14/05/12

      It’s not 99% Fred. It’s not at all hard to get in to law.

    • subotic says:

      09:18am | 14/05/12

      How do you stop a lawyer from drowning?

      You don’t.

      How do you stop another lawyer from drowning?

      Take your foot off his head…

    • Ben C says:

      10:28am | 14/05/12

      @ Arthur

      It depends on the university, but the lowest mark I’ve seen to get into law in NSW is 85. Mostly it’s mid to high-90s.

    • John F says:

      08:19am | 14/05/12

      This would scare most lawyers in family law, there goes the cash cow !
      Try these idea’s !
      • 
      1) Child maintenance payment to be based on the agreed visitation rights which must be reviewed once every 12 months or sooner if agreed by both parties and mediator (Families Australia etc etc)

      2) Child maintenance payments to the custodial parent are dependant on the non custodial parent having the minimum access agreeded to.

      3) Should the custodial parent hinder access for the non custodial parent the custodial parent will forfeit maintenance for the same period that the non custodial parent lost access (eg if you have them for 2 days in 14 and you didn’t see them the custodial parent looses 2 days worth of maintenance)

      4) The custodial parent can re-coop this lost maintenance by giving the non custodial parent extra days. (e.g. if for some REAL reason you miss out on seeing your kids for 2 days in 14 it can be made up by seeing them at a latter time for 4 days in 14)

      5) The non custodial parent does not financial benefit from not seeing their children (e.g. if you stop wanting to see your children thinking this will save you money by penalizing the custodial parent it will have no effect on your maintenance payments) The money in effect is in a float and there is no financial gain by refusing to see your children.

      6) Both custodial and non custodial parents keep an official log of time spent with their children (this could be done by logging onto an internet site)

      7) DVO’s can only be granted to separated parents when there has been a proven history of physical violence NOT verbal e.g. txt messages, phone conversations etc until 2 years has passed from the time of separation.

      8)  Relationship councilors to be given more power, were both parties present their requests to a panel of 3 councilors who then can make orders which the courts are required to uphold for a pre-agreed time. These councilours can be drawn from retired upstanding members of the community e.g. ex judges, police, doctors etc etc (This is to keep lawyers out of it)

      9) All property disputes were the assets total value is less than $1.5 million are to be negotiated by mediators.

      10) Non custodial parents can relinquish financial settlement of the family home until the youngest child turns 18, then the non custodial parent is entitled to 50% of the homes value and can demand sale or financial re-imbursement (this means that you get nothing until the youngest child turns 18 and your half of the mortgage is paid by the custodial parent and seen as rent)

      11) A non custodial parent can if they feel they are being alienated from their children request an immediate intervention by a councilor.

      12) Schools are to give information to non custodial parents on request unless a court order states otherwise.

      13) At the time of separation the immediate custody arrangements for the parent who has left the family home are 2 days in 7 until such time as mediation has negotiated differently.

      14) The custodial parent is to keep records of information that has been passed onto the non custodial parent with regard to health, schooling or any other thing of significance or interest to the non custodial parent that has been negotiated during mediation.

      15) The courts and lawyer are to be used as a service of last resort and should be seen as un-welcome to the family’s separation and custody disputes.

    • Monarch says:

      09:03am | 14/05/12

      I think they should just divide the children in 2.
      alternatively
      “Cut the parents in half.”
      Ahhh, the wisdom of Solomon.

      “All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full.”

    • Fiddler says:

      09:11am | 14/05/12

      a few good ideas, however the problem being with all this mediation is it requires good will.

      What should be changed is that mediation reports should be provided to the court when it doesn’t work so the court can work out who wasn’t being reasonable

    • John F says:

      09:26am | 14/05/12

      Thats were retired up standing members of the community come into it, it’s more about getting good outcomes than a source of income, they could of course be paid a token amount eg. $100 each per counciling. It would still add up to a nice little money earner for some retiree’s and wouldnt be a massive burdon on families. $300 per parent per counciling session.

    • M says:

      11:49am | 14/05/12

      On point number 7, you’d have to re- classify the definition of violence again. They changed it from “physical violence” to “intimidating bahaviour”.

    • Arthur says:

      12:38pm | 14/05/12

      Women and lawyers run Australia John F. Sadly not much of your very sensible and fair ideas have ANY chance.

      “12) Schools are to give information to non custodial parents on request unless a court order states otherwise.” .........................What a disgraceful world we are living in when our kids know us men are treated like criminals. Then she’s got the hide to ask me for half the school fees when I’m not even an emergency contact…..Stat decs from the mother “allowing” my kids to get a bus pass to my place.

      Us men have given away a whole lot. THE PROBLEM is broken men are not in the position to protest the injustice. The law industry only want our money, Then when you finally come out of the haze of being beaten up, chewed up, losing most of what you worked your whole life for, treated like a criminal You just want to get on with your life. Next bloke separates and the cycle continues.

    • John F says:

      12:40pm | 14/05/12

      @ M, yes you would, but think of all the malicious DVO’s that would be prevented !

    • John Findlay says:

      01:42pm | 14/05/12

      @ Arthur, I hear you, my time has passed, the damage has been done to myself and my children. Now it’s about fighting for change to try to get some value out of my bad experiences with the legal system.
      I maybe a small voice, but I hope that someday people like me will be heard.

    • Arthur says:

      02:13pm | 14/05/12

      “I maybe a small voice”

      You’re not a small voice. It’s just that the feminist voice is a thousand times louder than all of us put together. Times will change. Men have no more to give and increasingly Aussie boys aren’t chasing Aussie girls for a really good reason.

      Like you, I’ve been there. Started lobbying.

    • andye says:

      02:33pm | 14/05/12

      @John F - Most of that seems pretty reasonable. Good to see someone who is actually suggesting for positive change rather than whining about feminism/women.

    • Smithy says:

      07:52am | 15/05/12

      Would be good to get Ericks perspective…

    • iansand says:

      08:59am | 14/05/12

      My limited and distant experience of family law was that the biggest battle was persuading your own client to see sense.  The outcome was usually a tirade of abuse for not being committed to the client’s cause, followed by the client walking away to repeat the process with some other lawyer.  You became very wary of anyone who had more than one previous lawyer.

    • John F says:

      09:07am | 14/05/12

      Were most of them women ? or men who counldnt believe how un-fair the law was going to be treating them ?

    • MarkS says:

      09:14am | 14/05/12

      I bet Ms K’s ex husband did not consider it a happy ending. There are two sides to every story; we have heard only a tiny slice of one side. Her rights, given that in Australia she has all the rights and he none, what a fascist he must have been to try to deny her her rights.

      Sure some lawyers work for peanuts. Monkeys mainly. The others are human, but so was Pol Pot.

      As for Kirby, none has done more to make the law expensive then Kirby in the last 30 years. It is when the law is unsettled & High Court judges make decisions based on their own personal “vibe” & search Canada for out there decisions to back them up that the law becomes even more expensive. Settled transparent law is cheap law, ever changing opaque law is very expensive. 

      The law is only for the rich? Pretty much, unless you wish to sue somebody rich, then you can use their pocket.

      Thus it was always so, some things are part of human nature. The solution is to change human nature. In the mean time special interests plead justice, well their idea of justice, not mine, to steal from my pocket. Cannot say I am a fan of either approach.

    • andye says:

      02:38pm | 14/05/12

      @MarkS - Did you even read the article?

      “Consider the recent Family Court case of a lady who (thanks to mandatory suppression orders) we’ll call Ms K.  She was divorced by her husband in 2009, and he sued for sole custody of their kids. Ms K’s in-laws, meanwhile, forcibly evicted her from the matrimonial home.”

      He divorced her, sued for custody of the kids and she was kicked out of home. But you say she has all the rights?

    • MarkS says:

      04:10pm | 14/05/12

      @Andye
      Once she had legal representation who won? So until then she was being cut up. Really who would have thunk it. She has ALL the rights and once she had a lawyer who could understand English he was doomed.

      As for the article, tiny bit of information, only from one side and all but meaningless.
      For instance “Ms K’s in-laws, meanwhile, forcibly evicted her from the matrimonial home”. Who owned the home? It appears that they did otherwise how could they evict her? Why should she be able to steal their house because she was married to their son?

      Article is long on emotion, short on information, logic & reason.

    • Ginger Mick says:

      09:39am | 14/05/12

      We need to take some of the options for judges off the table.

      Do the crime do the set time .  No parole, no packdrill. Appeals as per law.

      Do the crime again do the time plus 50% no parole.

      Do the crime a third time double the initial time. No parole.

      They will soon get the message or run out of life to do the time.

      For serious crimes with life sentences that is for “the term of your natural life”, no get out of jail at all.

      Needless to say that the jury must be totally convinced of the guilt.

      The guilty should face the victims and hear the consequences of their actions, preferably in court in front of the jury.

      Never have believed in parole, it’s a way of reducing the message to the convicted and to the potential criminal. 

      As for drug users, legalise the use and tax it same as tobacco and alcohol, for illegal dealers let the tax and exise laws deal with them.  Then watch the burglaries drop and armed robberies reduce.

      No slaps on the wrist, no parole, no tolerance, justice seen and done.

    • TheOzTrucker says:

      05:26pm | 14/05/12

      great idea and I agree completely. only one problem there is not enough space in the prison system now for all the ferrets. I suppose we could farm them out to battling families so they can earn an extra quid oh say 300 per week should cover it…. hang on thats been done.

    • AdamC says:

      09:45am | 14/05/12

      I work with a lot of lawyers. They are, by and large, very good, very smart people. Some are incompetent; some are ambitious; some are greedy; some are better than others; some are brown-haired. Hey, they remind me of human beings.

      The problem in our society that is blamed on lawyers is really not their fault. Or, at least, not directly. The real problem is twofold:

      1) The historical expansion of the ambit of the state and the law, illustrated by such things as the inexorable growth of the number of statutes on the books, along with the growth of judicial interference in social policy decision-making.

      2)  The modern tendency to have every dispute mediated by, and every inquiry headed by, a lawyer or judge. This is the case even where doing this is counter-intuitive. I think it was Gerard Henderson who pondered why the government’s recent media inquiry was undertaken by lawyers with no media experience or knowldge. I endorse Henderson’s bemusement.

      Many see these twin vices as being driven by lawyers’ self-interest and the machinations of the parliamentary-judicial-legal professional axis. That may be part of it, but it is not the sole cause.

    • MarkS says:

      11:38am | 14/05/12

      @AdamC
      Agree. Once the law or the state would say; “this is not our business”. Now everything is a legal or state matter.

    • Tom D says:

      09:45am | 14/05/12

      Thank you for this - the law is mostly a thankless and highly stressful profession. You lose sleep when things go wrong for your client, know that you will be sued if you make a mistake, give up your nights and weekends to work to hopefully make someone else’s life better, and then at the end of the day society generally makes jokes about your death being better for everyone. And to top that off, chances are you’re earning less than your high school classmates who dropped out of school and did a plumbing apprenticeship.

    • Lawyer says:

      10:50am | 14/05/12

      I hear you brother…  I have three kids and am encouraging them all to go into trade.  Much less chance of them being attacked by someone on meth, or who is psychotic.  I’ve had mentally ill clients assault and threaten me several times.  One even threw her shoes at me (circa George Bush Jr, all the cool kids were doing it).  Our office has regular death threats, our cars are scratched (yeah it’s my fault your boyfriend got time, not the three armed robberies he committed), and we can spend literally years working for someone dysfunctional without ever hearing thank you.  There are moments when I envy people in nice offices with clients who do fancy things like shower and wear shoes.

    • John F says:

      11:09am | 14/05/12

      @ Lawyer, I empathise with you in regard to criminal law, but in the case of family law where no crime has been commited I want lawyers removed except for exception circumstances. Why does a failed family who hasnt broken any laws be subjected to the very confronting, cold and inpationate court system ? It’s just wrong!

    • TheOzTrucker says:

      05:35pm | 14/05/12

      Cry me a river buddy!
      How undervalued do you think truckies feel. Every time some tosser wipes out a car we are all criminals. We have speed cameras just for us. Log books just for us. I can’t even have one beer. Some tosser gets on RBT and we are all drug addicts.
      Over 250 of us get killed at work every year but they are not regarded as workplace deaths we are road toll statistics.
      I could go on but there is no point.

    • iansand says:

      07:20pm | 14/05/12

      TheOzTrucker - Your experience of unjust vilification makes me wonder how you justify your own unjust vilification of another profession.  I have had truckers attempt to kill me on two occasions.  Why, in your universe, does that mean that I cannot extrapolate in the same way you do with lawyers?

    • Young Lawyer says:

      11:42am | 15/05/12

      This man speaks the truth.

      My first year of practice has been the most terrifying experience. Thrown straight in the deep end, having to make submissions to prevent a mother of 3 going to jail. Whilst having billing targets from bosses who don’t care because there are a million other graduates who would love my position.

      I have worked 50-60 hours a week employing 6 years of University level education for $48k a year. You’re looked down on if you take a sick day or ask to use your leave. You’re expected to come in on the weekend when there is work to do. With no overtime or benefits because we’re on a salary.

      The average worker will never know the anxiety it causes because your jobs don’t have the combination of immense complexity and immediate disastrous consequences ours does. The only people who understand are surgeons.

      The reason lawyers are expensive is because the law is complicated and you need the brightest people in society to even keep you in with a chance. Most of your jobs I could learn in a week, yet most of you couldn’t do my job if you had a lifetime.

      I used to think lawyers charged far too much, but after this year I don’t think $300 an hour is enough for what we do. That’s the reality.

    • Tanya says:

      11:53am | 14/05/12

      A wonderful lawyer once helped me out of a complex, nasty situation where a woman apparently fell over at a house I was renting and hurt her neck, sued the landlord who’s insurance company in turn sued me for $100,000 – a lot of money in the early 90’s. At the time I was a full time student and single parent living week to week. I was not responsible for the accident, did not invite this person onto the property and was liable simply for being the tenant of a premises, a point of law that was being debated in the high court.  I was receiving summonses to appear at hearings, letters and phone calls daily from the litigating firm demanding the money and I had no means of dealing with it. I had to front up at the District court and tell the judge I didn’t have any representation and didn’t know what to do, whilst the woman doing the suing sat with a whole panel of fat cat legal representatives.  I didn’t qualify for legal aid because the matter was civil, the university legal service could advise but not represent and I was told by a person I spoke to on the phone at a legal helpline that the best way forward was to secure a loan or declare bankruptcy. I had asked for advice from the Tenants Union who contacted me unexpectedly and told me this Lawyer recognised the difficulty I was in and wanted to help which he did in his personal time – I wasn’t held liable and I have never, ever forgotten that act of kindness.

      There’s a lawyer with a heart.

    • MarkS says:

      12:50pm | 14/05/12

      @Tanya
      What did he do? Tell the insurance company that you had no money? They do not bother chasing people without money, nothing in it for them. If you had owned the house & did not have insurance then you would have been in deep with no way out.

      The law of Negligence has been perverted by judges playing Santa Claus. Every punter gets a prize.

    • Tanya says:

      02:24pm | 14/05/12

      @ Mark S,

      I’m sure he told the insurance company lawyers I had no money – I didn’t! But the point was, I tried telling them the same thing over and over again and it was entirely ineffective. The paperwork and harassment was stressful – even a lawyer on the other side who admitted to having a conscience, told me to ignore it.  The point of law regarding landlord/tenant responsibility for duty of care on a property was being debated in the High Court due to a similar case where the damage was far greater. Basically this Lawyer delayed proceedings on my behalf until they handed down the judgement, which declared that liability is with the owner rather than the tenant. But he also had a strategy in place in case it went the other way on the basis of some details around what happened and was absolutely prepared to represent me ongoing if need be. He told me it brought to mind some of the dodgy premises he lived in when he was a student and how helpless he would have been in the same situation.

      Every punter tries for a prize but they don’t always get it!

    • MarkS says:

      04:03pm | 14/05/12

      @Tanya
      You where not the punter. The woman with the hurt neck was the punter. You were the lowest form of life in court, a defendant in a civil case.

    • BabyBarrister says:

      12:18pm | 14/05/12

      Let’s put this in perspective. Those in the profession who committ to pro bono work do it for nothing. Because barristers are required to be self-employed for ethical reasons, it means that we don’t get paid. So when I worked on a pro-bono case for two years, I can calculate how much I actually gave up in terms of income and time (because it is inevitabye done on top of a normal workload) - in that case, it was the equivalent of working for free for a month.

      I can’t think of many other professions where people work for nothing for a month (with no expectation of ever getting paid) and then have people heaping abuse on them.

      We do it because we understand that we are privileged to work in the profession and that with that privilege comes a responsibility to help those without the means to access the legal system.  When I say privilege, I don’t mean earning obscene amounts of money - yes, some do. They generally work incredibly hard and in doing so sacrifice any semblance of life in the work-life balance. By privilege I mean the opportunity to work in a legal system that is an integral part of a free and democratic society.

      Litigation is an awful process, one which should be avoided wherever reasonably possible. Lawyers by and large try and help their clients find alternatives to court proceedings. Because of its nature, however, clients generally have negative memories of the experience and lawyers are tainted with that negativity. From the comments, clearly this is most harshly found in the family law system.

      The problem of access to justice are incredibly complicated.  Some lawyers are part of the problem. Many however are trying very hard to find a solution.
      There is, however, only so long that the legal profession can be expected to subsidise legal aid in this country.

    • Fiddler says:

      04:37pm | 14/05/12

      therein lies the problem. Some people get it for free, others pay insane amounts and absolutely nothing in between.

      I personally think with family court matters that the court should appoint solicitors which are funded by the government, just as a case worker or social worker is. Pay these solicitors say $85,000 a year. If the client doesn’t like them, they can pay for their own.

      People get so riled up over family court matters because the person who holds the assets and children also hold all the cards. I think this would remove a great deal of the current anguish that exists.

    • TheOzTrucker says:

      12:35pm | 14/05/12

      I have had several encounters with the justice (choke) system in this country. I have been financially raped each and every time. without going into details I have lost years of work and savings and I won the cases. ultimately it would have been financially better to take it up the @#$%# and just pay without contesting the issues. It is impossible to get a fair go in this country. Unless you are prepared to sell a kidney and then that would probably not be enough!

      Gillard is a lawyer. Need I say more.

    • Chris says:

      02:05pm | 14/05/12

      Hi Trucker,

      Your complaint is not an uncommon one for those who have come out of litigation.

      Just out of curiosity, when you commenced your engagement with the lawyer, and along the way, did they provide you with estimates of the legal fees and an idea of potential cost recovery on success, or risk on loss?  Before answering, make sure you go and check the paperwork that they should have sent you at various times along the way (it is required by law - if you want to complain about the size of the document, the complain to the Government not to the lawyer).

      If the estimates provided to you were woefully inaccurate or not updated when reasonably practicable after the goalposts change (which they always do during litigation) then you might have legitimate complaint.

      If not, then it is on you for deciding to proceed despite being faced with the potential costs of doing so.

      I ask the question because time and time again I try to explain to protagonists the costs and burden of going to Court.  It goes in one ear (or eye) and out the other, right up until we actually ask for some money (whether that be up front into trust, or payment of invoices doesn’t matter - blissful ignorance is easy until you have to write a cheque or two).

      Now I’m not saying you’re one of those people - but I wouldn’t be surprised because it’s a common situation. 

      Chris

    • TheOzTrucker says:

      05:16pm | 14/05/12

      I was given estimates at the start and along the way but the actual cost was just not even close. I got more suspicious by the time I was involved in litigation the third time but stll the costs were underestimated. My divorce was the worst. I was told what results to expect. I could have done a better job if I had just gone an kicked the beak in the nuts I reckon. NO I AM NOT BITTER!!!!

    • maria says:

      02:42pm | 14/05/12

      There is a well written book who clearly explain how our corrupted system of justice is working, a book who should be read by every students and every citizens.

      “THE EVILS DEEDS OF THE RATBAG PROFESSION”  Brett Dawson
      than you will understand our phoney system of justice.

      http//www.campac.net.au/bsdawson
      bsdawson@campac.net.au.

      Remember that we are not a democracy but a real MAFIACRACY.

    • TheHuntress says:

      04:42pm | 14/05/12

      Having just been dragged through a nightmare legal situation myself, I have nothing but praise for the lawyers who worked for me. They worked hard to ensure that my legal rights were upheld in my situation when they previously hadn’t been and did everything to ensure I got a positive outcome that was right for me. Every step of the way I was kept informed of my rights and responsibilities, alternative outcomes and different pathways I could take. Every decision I made was informed due to these lawyers and the time and care they took with me. Thankfully my case closed last week, my legal bill is about a fifth of what I expected it to be and later this week I’m going to take a bottle of scotch to my lawyer as a thank you. Not all lawyers are scumbags, there are many out there fighting for justice and they ought to be recognised for the good work they do.

    • TheOzTrucker says:

      05:40pm | 14/05/12

      so you got the house and the car then

    • Ben says:

      05:30pm | 14/05/12

      @BabyBarrister “I can’t think of many other professions where people work for nothing for a month (with no expectation of ever getting paid) and then have people heaping abuse on them.”

      Ah yes, pro bono, makes you just want to hug a lawyer. It’s a bit like the outlaw motorcycle gangs and their annual toy run. Except the bikies are slightly more credible.

 

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