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Acceptable time frame for other side's Solicitor to respond?

Just wondering if anyone can give me an idea of what is an acceptable time frame for my ex's solicitor to respond to a request sent via email?

I've got to say I'm a little disappointed that other states have guidelines on how the legal profession should deal with SRLs, but not in Qld. I've been through the Solicitor's Rules 2007 and the Legal Profession Act 2007, but I'm going cross eyed reading legislation and I couldn't really find anything helpfully specific enough.

Basically, my ex's current lawyer is doing the same thing the previous one did and not even acknowledging my emails with a read receipt, which I find really insulting, as I've only sent about three in the past couple of months, but so far, no response.

When this whole thing blew up and my ex decided that lawyers needed to be involved, my ex's lawyer expected responses within 7 days, but I have had others tell me 14 days is acceptable, as that is the default for complying with Orders in the FMC, unless otherwise specified.

I have already made a complaint to the LSC about this particular lawyer and have no hesitation in going there again if it is warranted, but I'm just not sure how long I should wait.
In my situation both my ex and I had representation and my solicitor wrote several times to the other side with no response. Had we gotten to final trial it would have worked for us as we were making an effort to settle etc etc. We were being as cooperative as possible.

My understanding is that if the client instructs a no response then a solicitor does not need to acknowledge or respond. It's not very professional and a solicitor doesn't have to respresent a client who instructs them in this manner, however if they do choose to represent them they can provide guidance but must act on the client wishes.

In short my understanding is that there is no obligation to respond. Only to ensure documents are lodged in accordance with dates for court appearances.


It would be better to give a response time in all your communications, for example "If I do not receive a written response by…"

Also in WA if you are involved in a Family Court circuit, there is no obligation to follow any rules and the Magistrate just deals with the cases in the best way they can as they front up. I'm not sure if this is the case in other states but I can see a lot of people including legal practitioners taking advantage of this situation.

This is a continuing issue for SRL's in particular. They do not have to respond to you. Some more progressive legal practitioners will try and broker some sort of deal where possible and I am really thankful overa  number of years that I have seen these very good people at work… but in the main, the best way to get a response is to use the system as it is set out.  The mediation process is clear, then the court system follows on that with appropriate forms lodged that require responses in a timely manner by the respondent or their legal representation…

I know it is frustrating as blokes particularly like to place on record the issues , resolve the issues in a methodical, black and white, blackboard like style and get on with life. Being tied up for months and years and dealing with people who won't talk to you simply inflames the situation and leads to further resentment and conflicts. It will make you feel very angry. If you really feel peeved off, make a complaint to the local state law society or legal services commission. It won't get you far but you will feel a whole lot better for making work for the solicitor in question having to answer the complaint.
  

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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Thanks people for your responses.

It is my understanding that WA is very different to other states in Australia and I am in Qld.

It is also my understanding that lawyers/solicitors/barristers need to treat SRLs as they would any other legal professional, ethically at least. In that case, a complete failure to respond, particularly when Orders have been breached multiple times and I am simply asking for a time frame in which I can reasonably be expected that Orders will be complied with, I would therefore consider to be professional misconduct. At the very least, my ex's lawyer is clearly not providing good legal advice if Orders are being breached frequently, as they are.

We are most definitely heading to trial - dates have already been set etc and the other party appears to have no desire to settle, as this has been on foot since early to mid last year, so this is not an issue of simply delaying tactics or dancing around negotiations. We have been to mediation and the other party is simply not interested in negotiating, but has made a big noise about my alleged and as yet completely unsubstantiated failure to negotiate. Surely a failure to comply with Orders would not serve my ex well at trial, particularly when this isn't the first failure to comply and there is no other hearing before our trial?

Does anyone agree?
Split said
I've got to say I'm a little disappointed that other states have guidelines on how the legal profession should deal with SRLs, but not in Qld. I've been through the Solicitor's Rules 2007 and the Legal Profession Act 2007, but I'm going cross eyed reading legislation and I couldn't really find anything helpfully specific enough.
Guidelines and Rule are different issues. There are no real rules for solicitors to respond to any correspondence even from another solicitor. That is a courtesy issue and costs issue. An order made by the Court to do 'such and such' is one thing, general correspondence is another.

If that ignored correspondence has an effect on a hearing then the Court may decide on any penalty and whether it should be levied on the solicitor or their client who may have instructed them not to respond.
Split said
Basically, my ex's current lawyer is doing the same thing the previous one did and not even acknowledging my emails with a read receipt, which I find really insulting, as I've only sent about three in the past couple of months, but so far, no response.
Not an uncommon occurrence since the email may have been opened by another person. A true read receipt is a typed return email stating your correspondence has been read (perused) by the addressee.

Additionally Your ex may have given instructions about not responding.

http://flwg.com.au/srl-r/pg/start

www.srl-resources.org

SRL-Resources. the Family Law People on this site (look for the Avatars) www.srl-resources.org  Non gender Professional and peer support for SRLs. Closed site, no public forums, no search engines, no lurkers, guests or the other side and their Lawyer and Friends.

Correspondence - Responses to Same

Hi Split

1. For obvious reasons, there is no legislation, subsiduary legislation, regulations, case management guidelines or 'rule of thumb' in relation to how long it should take to respond to corro sent to the other side, especially via email.
2. First, and as raised by prior posters, there is no obligation to respond at all - maybe they consider the queries in your email irrelevant or simply not worthy of charging their client X units of work when it does not 'advance their matter'?
3. Secondly, just in terms of workload, keep in mind that your average Family Law Solicitor has 50-60 active files - it is not unusual for Solicitor to Solicitor responses to take 2 - 3 weeks, even if your queries are 'run of the mill'.
4. Did you email contain a request for information/documentation pursuant to the ongoing obligation of disclosure? Or, did you just ask a question? You see where I am going here…
5. Is you matter in Court? If so, keep in mind that the other side is only obliged to accept service and respond to corro recieved via the contact details supplied on their Court documents. What I mean by this is, if their Court documents only list their postal address and a telephone/fax number, there is no obligation for them to respond to an email. I note that this is the case even if they send you an email and initiate an exchange of corro - if they dont list their email on thier Court documents as a method of contact, they can essentially proceed as if they never received your email.
6. As a closing remark I can say this - From experience I can safely say that Solicitors DO treat SRL's differenetly to other 'represented' parties in one and only way - SRL's = danger. i.e. you can pick up the phone and have a chat to the other side's lawyer at any time 'off the record' to try and settle a matter. BUT, if you are dealing with a SRL you need a speakphone, a witness and a pen/pad/paper and, as they say, "be ready for a Legal Practice Board Complaint". As a result, yes you are totally right, Solicitors are often loathe/reluctant to correspondend with SRL's because, statistically, they result in a Legal Practice Board Complaint more than 4x that of correspondence sent to another Firm.
7. The fact that you have made a Legal Practice Board complaint about a lack of response to an email is, ironically, exactly why you haven't received a reply.

Hope the above helps.

- Zer0ne -
Thanks ZerOne. I believe in Vic and NSW the relevant law societies have published guidelines for legal professionals on how to deal with SRLs, which I think is great. I know that guidelines, rules and laws are all very different, but if guidelines are available, it kind of stands to reason that a lawyer with any self respect and respect for others would follow them. Perhaps instead of treating people like complete idiots and trying to use 'tricks' to intimidate and trip up SRLs, a little respect would go a long way to cases being resolved without the need to go to final trial and might in fact lead to fewer complaints to the LSC. I find it sad that I have now found myself in that small minority of parents who need a complete stranger to make decisions about our lives for us, simply because it appears my ex wants to cause as much pain and discomfort as possible.

The queries in my email relate to trying to get my ex to comply with multiple Orders from a FM that have been ignored for months. Our case is indeed in court, as per my previous post and we do not have another hearing before trial. The information I am seeking is disclosure in compliance with previous Orders. My request is completely legitimate and not just white noise.

Secretary SPCA I agree that I simply want this over with and for all of us to just get on with our lives. Given that our case is before the courts and given that there are in fact Orders in place that have been breached, surely the least I could expect from the lawyer is a response? Maybe I'm just too reasonable!! Googling for information and support for SRLs made me all the more disappointed. In a jurisdiction where children are supposed to be of paramount importance, it seems that they are the ones suffering the most because of one or both parents inadequate representation leading to poor outcomes and in a lot of cases, the simple fact that one or both parents were acting so unreasonably that legal action was even necessary to begin with, or that one or both parents just want to cause the other pain. Where are the kids in all of this?

Because of the issue of having a witness to conversations etc I would have thought that email/letter/fax would be the preferred method for lawyers to communicate with SRLs, as there is then a paper trail, rather than just a phone conversation.

Lastly, the complaint I have made to the LSC is a completely separate issue and bears no relevance whatsoever to the lawyer's failure to respond to correspondence.

Confusedmother - is it your understanding from your own situation that continued behaviour like this will go against my ex at trial? I have been trying to resolve things without the need for court or lawyers for nearly 2 years now and in some ways I think that the court action was designed simply to scare me into submission. While I might have been a pushover during our marriage, I'm not going to back down on issues that I feel strongly about.
ZeroOne83 said
1. For obvious reasons, there is no legislation, subsiduary legislation, regulations, case management guidelines or 'rule of thumb' in relation to how long it should take to respond to corro sent to the other side, especially via email.


Sorry to appear the fool, but what obvious reasons? I can't think why any service provider should not be required to provide the service in a time regulated way, especially so when to not do so is harming children by denying them their humane right to know and be cared for by their parents, as is so often the case in Family Law matters. Even more especially so when the service provider claims professionalism.
Split/Mike T:

1. Split - If your ex is contravening Court Orders then what are you doing trying to correspond with his Solicitors? Bring contravention/enforcement proceedings, seek costs and annex your efforts to negotiate an out of Court resolution to an Affidavit. If the other side is in breach and you have initiated proceedings for that reason, they know they are in breach - they aren't going to respond to you because their instructions are probably not worthy of relaying and they know the matter will be resolved by the Court soon any way. I'm guessing by now they have either denied the breach, explained the rationale behind their client's choice to breach the Orders or have simply stated your claims are "not agreed"? If so, there is nothing more to say - keep in mind that your corro is free, there's is not.

2. Mike T - Just to be clear, we are not talking about the perception of a 'different treatment' between SRL's and represented litigants. So the obvious reason why no state has been stupid enought to quantify the no. of days in which a Solicitor must reply to the other side is that every matter is different - what number would you pick? 14 days? how does this apply to matters where the other party is in Thailand with only postal communication? What if the info requested isn't available for several weeks (e.g. waiting for 2009/2010 financial for a relevant company). What if the questions raised need advice from Counsel? Is Counsel then also subject to your 'reply' deadline? What about other experts like valuers or phycologists? How does the workload/capacity of these professionals as well as the Solicitor in question going to be factored in? What if our client instructs us not to respond at all and not responding in no way misleads the Court? Should all professionals where the welfare of children is an issue be held to the same 'reply deadline'? i.e. should I be able to sue the Department for Child Protection or WA Police or Child Support Agency for not replying to me within X day?

Need I go on?

From my experience, if a Solicitor has instructions to respond to corro, we reply to SRL's first, other Firms later. Why? As I said, not replying in a timely fashion to SRL's will result in a complaint whereas other Firms have an understanding of the system, the way it works and aren't about to put the career of a "learned friend" in jeopardy because the Solicitor on the other side hasn't bothered to respond to their letter. Will they send you a letter putting you on notice as to costs? You betchya, but they don't attack your job by suggesting that would could be no more than an oversight is unprofessional/negligent conduct.

As a parting thought - you seem to be under the impression that Solicitors represent the children of their clients, rather than the client themselves. If a Solicitor is instructed not to respond to a letter/fax/email, they don't - they can't - they don't have instructions to do so. They advise their client of the potential adverse consequences to cover their own behinds and move on. Solicitors owe a duty to their client and, as officers of the Court, a duty not to knowingly mislead the Court.

Hope the above helps!

- Zer0ne -


Hope the above helps.
 
Split said
Googling for information and support for SRLs made me all the more disappointed.
Googling for support should have brought you to the Community pages on this site. SRL-R is a specialist organisation for SRLs in the FAMCOURTS.
http://flwg.com.au/srl-r/pg/start

The SRL-R private site is located at www.srl-resources.org and will only show in one or two Google searches because it does not have public forums.
Split said
Because of the issue of having a witness to conversations etc I would have thought that email/letter/fax would be the preferred method for lawyers to communicate with SRLs, as there is then a paper trail, rather than just a phone conversation.

Lastly, the complaint I have made to the LSC is a completely separate issue and bears no relevance whatsoever to the lawyer's failure to respond to correspondence.
Split you have fallen into the typical SRL trap of worrying too much and wasting time over minor details that will have little or no effect on your case. You have taken your eyes 'off the ball'.
If you want to research then get into Case Law and spend some time in the Courts. If you want to write then do so with documents that will be useful in the Courtroom.

SRL-Resources. the Family Law People on this site (look for the Avatars) www.srl-resources.org  Non gender Professional and peer support for SRLs. Closed site, no public forums, no search engines, no lurkers, guests or the other side and their Lawyer and Friends.
Agree 100% with SRL - spend your time finding that killer case law authority where the majority's comments @ X support your proposal. Spend a week at the Family Court watching the General List. Gather information and work on your case. Don't fixate on correspondence (or a lack thereof). Give me a hoi if you want a list of relevant Authorities. 
Split if you are elsewhere than WA your case will be heard in either the FMC or the FCoA. The latter handling the more difficult and complex cases and as a rule of thumb those with a Final hearing expected to be of more than 3 days.

More than 90% of Family Law matters are handled in the FM Court and unless your case has been directed to the FcoA you should spend you time in the FMC.

Go to http://www.fmc.gov.au/lists/index.html to look for your local registry.

As a rough only guide, when there are many names allocated for the first one or two hours these are mentions or directions hearings. When names have several hours allocated to them they are likely Interim's and even longer times such as days are more likely Finals.

SRL-Resources. the Family Law People on this site (look for the Avatars) www.srl-resources.org  Non gender Professional and peer support for SRLs. Closed site, no public forums, no search engines, no lurkers, guests or the other side and their Lawyer and Friends.
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