Solicitors

This page is to try and assist legal practitioners briefing me.

Legal Aid
I accept Legal Aid briefs in the Federal Circuit and Family Court only. Please let me know at the time of briefing. I’m very fond of ICL matters.

Local Courts
I’m happy to attend any Local Court in the Hunter and Central Coast regions (and have done so many times in the past). I will go further afield in appropriate cases, so please ask.

AVO matters
See above. Generally speaking I can be of more help in the parenting matter if I’m closely familiar with any related family violence proceedings. It also cuts down preparation costs.

Conferences
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.

Uninstructed appearances
Depends on the complexity of the matter (and nature of the client), but generally happy to do so.

Tender Bundles
Absolutely yes, and as early as you can possibly manage!

A Brief Fantasy (or, “How do you want your documents?”)
[EDIT (10/2021): Coming back to this entry more than ten years after I originally wrote it makes me think how quaint some of it seems now! However, the principles remain the same, even if the technology is now much more widely appreciated, used, and increasingly mandatory. For younger practitioners, please accept my apologies. There was a time when people didn’t know this stuff.]

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 electronically. I work almost exclusively in soft copy, 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.

I don’t need or want a hard copy of the brief provided you have one at the hearing.

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 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.

  • Unprotected

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 form of impenetrable security applied preventing me from annotating the documents.

  • Scanned at a reasonable resolution, in black and white or greyscale if necessary, with the exception of annexures like photos which will be in colour.

I interpret “reasonable resolution” to be 300dpi. I don’t especially want files that are too massive to email around if necessary, but even more I don’t want files that are 100k in size and unreadable without giving me a headache because they’ve been downsampled beyond all recognition.

Any single file about 5 MB or less should e-mail with no problems. This assumes, of course, that you don’t then try and attach seven 5 MB files to one e-mail.

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, 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 your email.

Now that things are mostly e-filed, this is less of a problem than it used to be. Just forward me the file/s you download from the portal and all should be well.

  • Not be sent by e-mail if it’s *really* huge

I have seen enough government department records and tender bundles (hello DCJ!) to know that some things cannot be conveniently e-mailed no matter how carefully and properly they are digitized.

A good option is a cloud service such as Dropbox, or one of the increasingly popular e-brief document sharing services. Generally speaking, I can handle whatever you throw at me, so go with your favourite. USB sticks / flash drives by hand or by mail are also very simple and helpful.

Or just give it to me on paper if that’s easiest for you. 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.

See also the dot point for “Organized in any logical order” below.

  • Include the orders.

Would you please include copies of previous orders in the matter. Yes, all of them!

  • Not contain administrative documents unless really necessary.

I really don’t need copies of whole 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 Chad Father, DOB…”), or the page listing the documents you have sought, 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. The only original documents you should give me are ones I need to hand up or file in court.

  • 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
 At the conclusion of my involvement in the matter, I will securely shred and dispose of any paper you’ve sent me (including folders). The only reasons this would NOT happen are if:

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.