This page is to try and assist legal practitioners briefing me.
I accept Legal Aid briefs in Family Law matters only. Please let me know at the time of briefing.
At your request. It is usual for me to meet with legally-aided clients at court between 9:00 and 9:30am on the morning of a hearing if no other arrangements have been made.
Depends on the complexity of the matter (and nature of the client), but generally happy to do so.
A Brief Fantasy (or, “How do you want your documents?”)
This is my attempt at describing my document ideals. These are not requirements, just aspirations. I greatly prefer to receive as many documents as possible in electronic format. I work almost exclusively electronically, and it saves me a great deal of time if I don’t have to scan the brief before I start. I’m also much less likely to put an electronic document on a stack of paper which then falls over under my desk. That said, a paper brief is certainly a lot better than none at all. In an ideal world, your brief documents will be:
- In PDF format
(unless you want me to settle or edit it, in which case Word format for preference, please). Would you please send me a copy of your proposed minute of order in Word format! This saves an astonishing amount of time at the hearing.
There’s nothing more frustrating than a beautifully scanned set of PDFs, which I have to print out and scan again because there’s some sort of security applied to them which means I can’t annotate them with my electronic scribbles.
- Scanned in black and white, with the exception of annexures like photos, etc which will be in colour;
This is primarily related to the issue of file size. If you have scanned a 50 page family report and it’s 50 MB in size, you’ve probably scanned it in colour. I don’t mind that, but your e-mail server might.
- Less than 5 MB in size (…but see below)
If it’s 5 MB or less, it’s going to e-mail with no problems. This assumes, of course, that you don’t then try and attach 5 x 5 MB files to a single e-mail. You can attach any number of files to an e-mail provided that the total file-size is around 5 MB or less.
HOWEVER: That is a counsel of safety. I have happily received e-mails containing attachments totaling 20 MB or more. If you know what you’re doing, and are confident that your server will handle it, feel free to go nuts. However, you might want to check with me that I’ve received it if it’s really big and I haven’t expressly acknowledged it.
- Not be sent by e-mail if it’s *really* huge
I have seen enough government department records and tender bundles (hello FACS!) to know that some things cannot be e-mailed no matter how carefully and properly they are digitized.
One good option is a cloud service such as Dropbox, or iCloud or similar. I won’t go into detail, because if you know about these you will have a preference already, and I don’t particularly. USB sticks / flash drives etc are also very helpful and very easy.
Or just give it to me on paper. I’m never going to hold it against anyone if they don’t feel like scanning 4 years worth of contact reports. In fact, I know exactly how you feel.
- Be identifiably named.
Use any scheme you like, but I really prefer one that gives me some clue to what the document is before I open it. “34556336.pdf” is not terribly informative, but if that’s what LEAP or Locus or whatever produces, so be it (sigh).
My own naming scheme is something like: “2012-08-11 – f. aff Fred Nerk.pdf”, where the date is the date of filing (hence the “f”) or swearing, or dating, etc, I know it’s an affidavit (“aff”) ,and I know whose affidavit it is. The date is in that format (year-month-day) because it sorts properly, and puts itself into chronological order. It also happens to be the ISO standard for numeric dates. If it helps, feel free to use it. If it’s a hassle, don’t.
For the technically-minded among you, one recent brief with which I was particularly impressed comprised a *.zip file containing pdf documents sorted into relevant folders and named and numbered. It was 20MB, but emailed fine. Shout out to Paul – awesome!
- Not contain administrative documents unless really necessary.
I really don’t need copies of subpoenas, nor copies of your requests to inspect them. It’s often helpful to have a list of people to whom subpoenas have been issued, and a short description of what you’ve subpoenaed (e.g. “Medical records for the father”), but copying me the whole subpoena is really a waste of your time, because absent some truly amazing circumstance, I’m going to ignore it.
If it’s on paper, I’d love it if it were:
- NOT ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS
Do not give me your file! I do not want your file! I do not want to be responsible for guarding it, scribbling on it, leaving it in chambers when you really need it, or handing irreplaceable bits of it to an opponent or the court. A COPY of your file – if you really must – but please, no original documents unless I need to hand them up or file them in court or similar.
- Organized in any logical order you like.
No matter how you organize it, the first thing I’m going to do is pull it to bits.
Oh ok, if I let my fantasies run wild, organized by party, then by witness in reverse chronological order. But I’m still going to pull it apart.
- Not stapled
As I’m going to scan it, saves me extracting them, as well as the obvious page-turning benefits. Please also go easy on the sticky flags. If you can separate documents with dividers, that would be ideal.
- Not in any kind of permanent binding.
Simple cheap lever-arch folders are great.
I’m happiest if you don’t put it in a folder at all. I have my own binders which I can use, and if I just receive the documents hole-punched and with a disposable pin or bulldog-clipped, it makes my life easier.
I will try and return your expensive custom binders, but if you don’t send them to me in the first place, it solves the problem.
Spiral / comb / stitched binding is not cool. (Yes, I’ve had them all).
- Not something you expect to get back without telling me
a) I’ve given the brief to someone else in accordance with your instructions or returned it under the Barristers’ Rules; or
b) You’ve asked me not to.
This is a somewhat lengthy brief fantasy, but of course the reality is that however you send it will be ok. I hope merely that enthusiastic clerks, secretarial staff and/or law students on practical placement might pick up a few pointers that will save me some time, cut fingertips and temporarily misplaced page 38s.