BREAKING DOWN THE BEST IN THE BUST-UP BUSINESS
The Australian 22/4/23
Tucked between a series of Asian massage parlours and vape shops in Sydney’s CBD hides the offices of Australia’s best divorce lawyers.
“It’s not the nicest place to work,” says Paul Doolan, partner at Barkus Doolan Winning. “But it’s right opposite the Family Court.” Doolan’s day starts at 5.30am. Fair enough, if you’re going to charge $1000 an hour for your time. Between fielding emails, filing submissions and reading judgments, he’s able to sneak some time to meet with clients. Doolan is quick to say he’s very good at his job, but he’s not the only one. He is currently atop the national Doyle’s Leading Family & Divorce Lawyers list for 2023. But, while he’s widely known as the best in the business, he doesn’t claim to know how to fix marital problems.
Instead, he knows how to squeeze the most assets, money and power out of your spouse when it comes time to separate. “If I knew the answer to the question about what makes a happy marriage, I’d be running the Oprah Winfrey Show,” Doolan tells The Weekend Australian, sitting upright in his mahogany boardroom, a collection of notes in front of him. “I often say to clients, you can sit here and pay me $1000 an hour to talk about how you’re feeling about your relationship breakdown, but there are a lot better qualified people who do that, and charge a heck of a lot less. “I’ve got a particular skill, and I’m very good at it. But do I profess to be able to help you with your relationship breakdown? No.”
Doolan has the Australian divorce market locked up, along with Sue Abrams of Abrams Turner Whelan, Sheridan Emerson of Pearson Emerson and Melbourne-based Gillian Coote of Coote Family Lawyers. Taussig Cherrie Fildes principal Paul Fildes also makes the top 10, as do Mark Parker of Lander & Rogers, Brisbane-based Tony Phillips of Phillips Family Law and Geoff Wilson of HopgoodGanim.
Jamie Burreket, managing director of Broun Abrahams Burreket, rounds out the list. His offices are just around the corner from Doolan’s chambers in the city’s so-called divorce lawyer district. He is accompanied by his wife, fellow family lawyer Katie Burreket. A recipe for disaster, or a foundation for the world’s healthiest relationship? He says the latter. “What is unique about being a divorce lawyer is that you see the worst cases, and you read these affidavits about how people behave in their relationship,” he says. “It does force you to reflect all the time upon your own relationship.” Burreket doesn’t think divorce is a bad thing. Who would, if it was what paid your bills? In fact, he thinks without divorce, marriages would cease to exist.
Broun Abrahams Burreket’s prices are a little smaller than Doolan’s, from about $400-$900/hr. “We try to match the lawyers’ charge rate to the complexity of the case,” Burreket says.