Return to Work

Kristina McGeehan-Hall, a partner at TressCox Lawyers, has expressed some thoughts on the return to work of women practitioners after being off for maternity leave. Here helpful list of comments and keep-in-minds are here.

Among her other insights is this: 

“I had this conversation with myself on my own return to work after having both of my children. I confess that I didn’t handle it very well, particularly the first time. In fact, I resigned within three months of my return because I felt marginalised, exhausted and like nobody cared.

“Ultimately, I stayed because I knew my decision was really a cry for recognition and direction. What I learnt from my experience was that I needed confirmation that I was not giving up time with my child to be with people and an organisation that didn’t care if I was there or not.

“As one friend and colleague put it – my time away from my child better be worthwhile and valued or it would not be given. I also learnt the most important and most difficult lesson of all – that, while my life and priorities had changed dramatically, nothing much had changed for my firm or my team in my absence. 

“So although returning to work was a shock for me, for them it was largely just going to be business as usual, with an extra pair of hands to lighten the workload.”

Children’s Courts get Mediation

An inquiry into the NSW child protection system has paved the way for the greater use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in the Children’s Court.

NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith (pictured) used his opening address at the 11th National Mediation Conference yesterday to give details of the ADR-related initiatives his department has spearheaded.

“These ADR initiatives were aimed at increasing the ability of families to actively participate in the decision-making process around their child’s future care,” said Smith.


One of the initiatives to arise from these recommendations is dispute resolution conferences, which use a conciliation model, are run for two hours by a trained mediator, and take place within courthouse accommodation.

Smith warned that ADR had not typically been used in the NSW care jurisdiction and, as a result, many lawyers and community services’ caseworkers questioned whether it was appropriate to negotiate with families about issues like restoration of children and contact. In response, the department conducted information and training sessions for lawyers and caseworkers and developed promotional material for families “to give them an idea of what to expect on the day and how to prepare for a conference”.

To measure the success of ADR in a jurisdiction that has traditionally been resistant to ADR, an independent evaluation of the conferences was commissioned by the department. The evaluation report – which has not yet been made public – found that around 80 per cent of all conferences resulted in the issues in dispute being either fully resolved or narrowed. “The evaluation has shown that these programs have made a significant difference to the lives of families going through care and protection proceedings in the NSW Children’s Court,” said Smith. “In fact, even I have been surprised at just what a difference these programs have made.”

The report showed a high level of satisfaction with the conferences, with around nine out of 10 family members reporting that the conference treated them fairly, and over 80 per cent felt that they had been given an opportunity to tell their side of the story. “These findings are particularly important to note,” said Smith. “Many parents and family members had previously felt confused and alienated by Children’s Court proceedings.” Smith added that, despite some initial hesitation from lawyers, between 82 per cent and 89 per cent who participated in a conference found it useful. “Overall, the evaluation report found that use of ADR in the Children’s Court delivered a range of benefits for the parties involved. It recommends the continued use of ADR in care matters,” said Smith.

Full puff piece story here.

Client Needs

Being responsive and providing value for money can backfire, according to a business consultant who believes the key to understanding client needs lies in psychological theory.


Trying to identify client needs without being explicitly told what they are is complicated, admitted Wraith, who has, on occasion, found it difficult to explain ‘needs modelling’ to lawyers. Needs modelling is an approach to profiling clients that has been used for more than 20 years in a number of industries but is rarely used in legal services.

For a law firm, developing a needs model can take the form of a half-day workshop to educate a practice group on the specific needs of its client base, or a training module where solicitors can gain a general understanding of needs and motivations within their sector.

“By looking at the behaviours and language their clients are using, and the sorts of work they’re using the firm for, we can identify areas of unfulfilled need,” Wraith said.

Following an extensive consultation process, Mext has attempted to make the complex psychological theory more palatable to lawyers. The names of client needs have been devised with lawyers in mind, like the ‘huffing and bluffing’ need and the ‘playing the rules’ need, which refers to enjoying the intellectual challenge of juggling rules and turning them on their head.