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I think I have been getting terrible advice and now I'm in a pickle

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Legal advice doesn't seem right

I'm hoping this is in the right spot. My apologies if it's not.

I am not too far away from a full on hearing date. The final expert report is in and I really thought I would fare well. Turns out I was wrong. The advice from my lawyer was to make sure I said all the things I wanted to and my concerns about the behaviour that I had seen. She also suggested not to 'go over old ground' and bring up things that I spoke of in the first report. Okey dokey. With my affidavits my lawyer and her junior took them over and even though I told her my budget she at no time indicated that they would cost more than I could afford. Neither did she tell me how many hours would be needed for them. Also when she made times for my witnesses to come in, she would say it would take 30-60 mins and these meetings blew out to 3-5 hours (something my witnesses told me after they got home). I have recently received a final bill from her for almost 4x my budget! The lawyer put in subpoenas for things I didn't ask for and information that I wouldn't have put in. I only saw the final draft on the day that they were due (sans 2 weeks prior where she told me the morning we had scheduled would need to be scaled back to 45 minutes as she had to be in court with another client). I was told by my lawyer that I needed to gather as much evidence as possible so I did. I talked to people and yes found some things which backed up my concerns. Unfortunately in doing this I now look like a crazy person (though the expert does feel the kids should have their main home base with me).

With mediation, my lawyer told me to write down my concerns as this would be my opportunity to get some answers to my questions before agreeing on parenting arrangements. Yep no worries. I printed these out and took them along- to a mediation where my lawyer had requested separate rooms! Yes I had separate rooms for FRC mediation as I was 8.5 months pregnant and didn't want the added pressure (my ex has ben intimidating in the past) and for the mediation to settle finances (baby was 2.5 months old and I was breastfeeding) but I never asked for separate rooms for this mediation as I felt ready to be in the same room. When I questioned my lawyer she said 'oh I didn't want to be in a room with him. He makes me angry and I don't work well when i'm angry'. My lawyer was also in tears at the end of a directions hearing (?) as she finds my ex's barrister a bully. Next came the LAT which was not at all how I thought it would be. Less than 40 minutes including a break. Not once did my lawyer stand up and say anything. She told me to put in a complaint later as this was not how an LAT should run.

So now I have a huge legal bill, have gotten nowhere, the expert thinks I have made up the intimidation (I have other evidence to add in which should have been put forward in the first place!) and my ex will push through with court and probably go for costs. I would be happy to settle for the time advised by the expert as that is what I expected in the first place.

Any suggestions? I cannot fathom paying this last huge bill for less than average representation. I've paid all my other bills on time and have usually been in credit.

What should I be doing with the upcoming hearing? I don't have representation and I don't feel it's necessary for something I would be happy with.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts!
Did you receive a cost agreement and did you sign it?

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on the site (Look for the Avatars).   Be mindful what you post in the public areas. 
I signed a cost agreement 2.5 years ago (though her own fee has gone up by 150$ per hour since then). The cost agreement doesn't talk about the number of hours for affidavits. Just about rates per hour and keeping money in trust.
Unfortunately I have to say this is a tale of woe I hear often.

It is also one of the areas that is often subject of most complaints against legal professionals. The problem is that you are not asking the right questions and capping costs on the work being done. The fact is now you are in a tough place because you have a final hearing coming up, no funds left or limited funds and a legal professional who is clearly not able to give you what is required. Court is not a place for the faint-hearted and the LAT hearing is although Less adversarial, it is often not NO adversarial. Where the other side has engaged experienced Counsel

You need to certainly cap costs by stopping all further work and getting proper cost estimates for further work including the trial. I would be negotiating to get the existing bill down where there has been poor performance, a lack of a decent outcome for you to date and where the affidavits have blown out of all proportion in terms of costs. I usually insist on parties preparing a good part of the affidavit with guidance.It saves huge costs. I have heard of affidavits alone costing upwards of 40k.

If the solicitor is not prepared to accommodate you with some sort of discount package I would suggest writing to the Legal Services Commission. There is no way a signed costs agreements with one rate 2 years ago is able to be charged out at different rates without you agreeing to revised rate. You will need to support your complaint with specific issues. I suspect you will not have the time however as you have a full time job on your hands with raising the children. You definitely need to seek out other economical options for the trial. You could talk about bundled services but we would need to get some idea of how much work you can do.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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