NSW Law Society president Doug Humphreys said the organisation was “campaigning hard for the appointment of more judges to ease the significant delays and backlog of cases” in family law courts.
“Regrettably, the problem is so great that even if more judges were appointed, there could still be unacceptable delays for many families already in the system,” he said in a message sent on Monday to the state’s 32,000 lawyers.
He urged solicitors to achieve better outcomes by encouraging their clients to use alternate dispute resolution, including the Family Law Settlement Service, a joint initiative of the courts, bar association and law society to give parties access to expert mediators.
His message comes after Federal Court judge Robert Benjamin criticised the “obscenely high legal costs” charged by family lawyers and an apparent “win at all costs, concede little or nothing, chase every rabbit down every hole” approach to litigation.
Attorney-General Christian Porter also recently told The Australian that three-year delays were “not a good outcome for any family”, but sometimes litigants and their lawyers were to blame for cases dragging on for so long.
Mr Humphreys told The Australian that, as officers of the court, solicitors had a duty to “explore all avenues”, including mediation, rather than just blindly following their clients’ instructions to continue litigating.
He said the benefits of mediation for clients were undoubted, and helped them “avoid the hefty costs, uncertainty and delays of prolonged court action”.
“These sort of initiatives need to be understood as the profession … trying to solve matters quickly, efficiently, cheaply and for the benefit of the parties.”
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