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Author: Jacqui Brauman

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Press release: Partnering to Assist the Vulnerable

Transition Village Wallan Inc. is a local non-profit organisation, based in Wallan, addressing homelessness. The Transition Village Wallan project is inspired by the great work of Dignity Village and Opportunity Village in the USA, using tiny houses to provide bridge accommodation to assist the vulnerable.

A local law firm, TBA Law, has been assisting the Transition Village Wallan on a pro bono basis. Now, TBA Law’s new access to justice project which has just been launched in Victoria, will provide assistance to the homeless and vulnerable that the Transition Village Wallan support.

Legally Wise Women is an access to justice project, spawned during the COVID-19 pandemic, and supported by the Centre for Legal Innovation. Legally Wise Women is an online legal literacy platform, providing ‘where to start’ kits, education courses, free information videos, and fortnightly Q&A access to a solicitor for a small fee. 

The Transition Village Wallan, as a member of the Legally Wise Women community, will enable homeless women using their accommodation to also have assistance accessing justice, assisting the vulnerable women.

“Legally Wise Women is primarily for the ‘missing middle’ women who don’t qualify for government legal assistance, but can’t afford private legal fees,” says the founder Jacqui Brauman. 

“Yet those that are homeless also don’t know where to start when they face a legal issue, and Legally Wise Women can provide valuable resources, along with referrals for homeless women to the right legal support.”

“People often feel intimidated by the law and find it difficult to navigate our legal system in situations where they need to defend themselves from a legal challenge or seek justice. There is still a fair bit of stigma and shame involved when people find themselves with legal problems,” says CEO of the Transition Village, Judy Clarke.

“Finding innovative ways to increase people’s understanding of what their rights are, what options are available and giving them the confidence to take action is key to breaking down barriers that can really hinder community inclusion. Community or government legal assistance is great for those who can access it, but there are many who don’t qualify. We fully support the aims of TBA Law’s new project and look forward to engaging our villagers in legal self-advocacy.”

With both organisations anticipating increased demand, both for homeless support, and for legal assistance, the partnership between the Transition Village Wallan and Legally Wise Women will be mutually beneficial for many. 

The work of the Transition Village Wallan can be found here: https://transitionvillagewallan.com.au/

Legally Wise Women has a free part: https://wise.legallywisewomen.com.au 

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Lacking support

Quite often when we face a legal problem, and we’re lacking support, we think we’re the only ones who have been through the situation.

But that’s not the case. 

There might not be someone in our immediate network or association who has been through a similar situation. And it might be difficult to find someone that you can find adequate support from and practical advice. It’s tricky, to find trusted support. 

If you’re going through an issue you’re not alone. It’s just a matter of finding the right place and the supportive community to be a part of.

If someone hasn’t been through what you’ve been through before and they want to weigh in on your problem, and give you their opinion and their advice about what you should or shouldn’t be doing, it can be really overwhelming and confusing. You don’t know what advice to take. 

But if someone hasn’t been what you’ve been through before, then generally take what they’re saying with a grain of salt. You need to find adequate support that can give you proper advice and relevant advice. 

You are probably going to need close family that will support ,you without trying to offer you too much advice. You’re probably going to need a psychologist or a coach to run things past, and to help you make calm and rational decisions. You’re going to probably need some legal advice from someone that you can trust. 

Then it would also be helpful to have a community of women around you who have been through similar experiences.

So Legally Wise Women can offer you those last two things. 

It can offer you how to find relevant free legal information, or find and hire the right lawyer so you can get that initial advice and know the process that you’re facing. But also having a community of women who have been through a similar situation in an online environment where you can feel safe is also really important.

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Too much legal information out there

When you first face a legal problem, there is too much legal information out there that it just makes it harder to know where to start. 

When you do a Google search, you hope that you’re searching a relevant term. You don’t know what language to use, that a lawyer might use to give you the information that you need. 

But if you’ve made a search using the right terms, you’re still likely to get hundreds of thousands of results. Most of the things on the first page, aren’t necessarily going to be the most relevant either. 

Many lawyer blogs actually write as if they’re writing for another lawyer. So even if you find something that is relevant for you, you can’t even interpret and decipher what they’re saying.

What do you need?

You need to know: 

  • where the most important places are to start, 
  • who are the most reliable sources of information, 
  • how do you even use the jargon and the language that lawyers use to find the relevant legal information
  • does the relevant information even give you the next steps 

So these are all some of the problems that women face when they start with a legal problem and they don’t know where to start. You’re not alone.

Legally Wise Women has developed some where to start kits. They have some basics about the law. They’ve also got the best other resources to start with. So you don’t have to be trolling through tens of thousands of results to find what you need about where to start.

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Everyone Has An Opinion

One of the things that really increases uncertainty for women when they’re dealing with a legal issue is all the opinions that they hear from everyone – everyone seems to have an opinion about what someone else should be doing!

If women share that they have a problem, there are so many people ready to weigh in and give advice (when realistically they don’t have the place to be giving legal advice). 

If it’s your legal problem, try to have some boundaries around people weighing in on what you should and shouldn’t do. That’s difficult to resist, because you’re uncertain any way, but by listening to everyone under the sun it’s just going to make it more confusing for you.

You need to find a couple of people that you trust, and those are the people that you listen to. Everyone else who  has an opinion, and wants to weigh in and give you advice, just thank them. Then discard that little bit of information that they gave you. 

It’s almost like being a new mother. Everyone has an opinion about everything. But you find your own way through, and you take what little bits of advice that may or may not work for you. But there’s no point in being overwhelmed by all the advice and just going into a spin.

Finding the right relevant, free information about where to start first is really crucial. 

Then finding a lawyer that you can work with; the right lawyer that you can trust. 

Once you have your trusted team around you, and you’ve found your lawyer, then when people do come to you with questions or suggestions, you can run those things past your lawyer and trusted team. 

Your solicitor’s the one with the legal training. So they can give you legal advice and option. Don’t keep questioning the legal advice you get, or questioning your decisions, because it’s just going to increase your stress and uncertainty. 

Finding and hiring the right lawyer in the first place, that you can then place your trust in is really important.

So take care, trust yourself, and don’t get pulled in to everyone else’s opinion.

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I’m Not Lucky

This belief is thankfully more rare than some of the others that women face when a legal issue arises for them: I’m not lucky.

This often arises more due to superstition. 

Some of us blame our situation on our bad luck. 

We think, for some reason, that we deserve the situation that we’re in. 

So, we feel that we need to be in it ,and suffer in it, that there is something to learn from it. 

This involves women not taking their own power, I guess, if you wanted to use that phrase. 

Thinking fate has something to do with your legal issue takes away your control of it, and your ability to get it sorted out. Which you can. 

You can still take control of a situation and sort it out, and learn from it.

Please don’t put anything down to bad luck. 

Yes, if you believe that things happen for a reason, then you can still learn from a situation while taking control of it. 

Knowing how to find and hire the right lawyer is particularly important, for you to be able to find the find advice and course of action for your situation. 

Don’t leave the result up to fate – you can have better control over the outcome, if you know what to do.

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I Don’t Even Know What to Call This Problem

A problem that many women face when they have a legal issue is that they don’t even know how to describe what their issue is, or how to categorize it, or what language to use; “I don’t even know what to call this problem!”. 

So hopefully they even recognize that they have some legal rights that need to be enforced, so they actually realize it is a legal problem. 

It is tricky to categorize what sort of matter you have, but it’s also really important to be able to find the right lawyer for you. 

For example, if you are looking for a ‘family’ lawyer, but your matter is actually about your elderly parents, it’s not a ‘family law’ matter at all. From a lawyer’s perspective, a family law matter is a separation or a divorce. And then a matter about your elderly parents is a ‘wills and estates’ issue or an ‘elder law’ issue.

So it is really, really key to be able to work out how to categorize, and what sort of language to use, around what sort of matter that you have so that you can find the right lawyer. 

Some ways of going about doing that is to look at some of these websites that you can search by category, so you can start narrowing down the categories using those terms and do a little bit of research. For example, the Law Institute of Victoria has a referral service on their website and you can search by area of law. You can look at the lawyers that come up in certain categories, then have a look at their websites and work out how they described those services to see what it actually is.

Finding and hiring the right lawyer is so important. As I talk about in the course that I run on that very topic, it’s really important to know the skill level of a lawyer, not just the skill set, because quite a lot of lawyers say they can do a lot of different areas of the law, but in fact, they’re only really particularly good in a couple of areas.

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The Costs of a Legal Battle

You have a legal problem that’s brewing and you’re really worried about what the costs of a legal battle will be. 

Unfortunately, the longer you leave it, the more it might cost you. 

But you have to also think about the costs other than just the financial costs. Think about the cost of time and you being able to get on with your life, think about the cost of your mental load, and the stress, and the emotional turmoil that you will have, think about the cost on your family as well. 

There are many costs of a legal battle, and you need to be aware of your own values and what’s most important to you. 

There are ways to manage those financial costs, in terms of legal costs, as well as the money you have to spend to resolve it.

Finding the right lawyer is really important for starters, and how lawyers charge is also really important. One of the key lessons in my How to Find and Hire the Right Lawyer course is all about how lawyers charge. You should be looking for a lawyer who does fixed-fee billing so that you are aware up-front of what the costs will be. 

Or you should be looking for a lawyer who does unbundled legal services. They don’t just take over the whole matter, they just do the bits and pieces that you want them to do. And they’re available for you at certain points in your matter, but you keep far more control. That will also keep your costs down.

The other thing is that there are a lot of free resources and a lot of free dispute resolution services that are available to you as well. And so knowing where to find those, knowing what is available to you is really important. 

Part of what Legally Wise Women does as well, is teaching you how to find the relevant, free legal resources that are available to you so that you can resolve things in a way that keeps your costs down, including those non-financial costs. So it can be resolved quickly, and you can remove that stress from you sooner rather than later.

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I Chose the Wrong Lawyer

So what if you have this legal problem, and you’ve bitten the bullet and you’ve gone and found a lawyer, and then it ends up that you can’t work with the lawyer you’ve chosen?  They’re the wrong lawyer for you.

You’re getting advice that you perhaps don’t want to hear, or they’re employing a strategy that you don’t agree with. What if you end up with the wrong lawyer? 

It’s obviously preferable to have the right lawyer from the beginning. I’m running the course How to Find and Hire the Right Lawyer. But if you have the wrong lawyer and you head down a particular path, it’s better to realise earlier rather than later that the relationship is not working and that you need to change.

So generally what happens is that you have to pay them up to where the work is done and they won’t transfer the file unless you have paid them. 

So you can start looking for another lawyer, start testing a few out. Use the process that I suggest in How to Find and Hire the Right Lawyer. I do have a free list of questions that you can download as well to ask a lawyer, which will help you determine whether you want to hire them or not. So start looking around, have some initial appointments, narrow it down. 

See if the new lawyers you’re testing will take your matter on, and take it as a transfer. Some lawyers don’t like taking a transfer from another lawyer if the matter’s already started, but some will. 

Find the right one, and have the matter transferred over.

The whole file won’t transfer until you’ve paid. If you have a dispute about the fees, deal with the dispute later. Pay, and get the file across so that you can at least get your primary matter dealt with by the new lawyer.

After you’ve got your new lawyer that you’re more happy with, that you can work with, then you can deal with any other issues arising from the old lawyer later. 

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Frustrated you have a legal issue – you had such a poor experience last time

We know that every two years over 50% of women face some form of legal problem. We also know that only about 13% of those women get professional advice, which is such a small number. 

We believe that such a small number of women just professional advice is partly because they have had such a poor experience with the legal industry in a previous matter. 

When a new legal issue arises, they are so frustrated to be in a situation again where they have to rely on someone else to help them, or that they’re being pulled into a legal battle at all. 

We don’t want those women to be railroaded or to let their rights go. 

There are plenty of free resources, free dispute resolution, and all sorts of other things to help women to be able to represent themselves. It’s just a matter of finding the right stuff and being educated, in terms of negotiation. 

Finding and hiring the right lawyer is also really crucial.

You may have had a poor experience with the legal industry in the past, because of the lawyer that you had and because of the way it was managed or not managed, or the strategy that was used, or the guidance that you received. 

Unfortunately, we all get tarred with the same brush, but it’s not the case that every lawyer is the same way. 

Our Legally Wise Women community helps women to find those free resources and get educated on negotiations, so that they can deal with it themselves, or if they need some legal advice, they can just go for the advice and then manage a whole lot of the aspects themselves, or if they are going to be represented, they can actually manage that relationship with the lawyer far better and keep the lawyer honest, keep that relationship working for the best result for you.

Don’t be so frustrated that you just throw everything away. Understand that you can have a better experience. It quite often comes down to being better educated and knowing how to find the right lawyer.

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What is Collaborative Practice

Mediation and arbitration are both alternative dispute resolution tools, and collaborative practice is another. 

Now collaborative practice, for the last 20 years or so, has was only been really used in the family law setting. But very recently, there is now collaborative practice for wills and deceased estates. 

So what is collaborative practice? Well, it’s a form of alternative dispute resolution. 

It is where parties decide that they want to try and resolve things without going to court. So they have to have people represent them who are collaboratively practice trained. So whilst a lot of lawyers might say they like to act collaboratively, it doesn’t mean that they’re actually collaborative practitioners because they haven’t had the training.

If there were two parties, for example, each would have a lawyer who was a collaborative practitioner, and then there would also be a financial independent who was a collaboratively trained financial advisor. Then there’s also what they call a coach who is usually from a psychology background or a mediation background.

So there’s usually four professionals involved, at least, to bring this together, and all those professionals, who are collaboratively practice trained, sign an agreement with their clients that they will not go to court. 

So unlike a lot of matters, with collaborative practice there’s actually an incentive for the practitioners to resolve things out of court. Whereas unfortunately, as the legal system is, there is some incentive for lawyers to want to litigate because it earns them more money. 

So in collaborative practice there is a commitment to keep it out of court.

If the parties can’t resolve through the collaborative practice method and they end up in court, those practitioners who represented them as the collaborative practitioners are not allowed to represent them in litigation. So again, there’s more incentive to try and keep it out of court because as soon as it gets beyond collaborative practice, those practitioners really have to bow out and can’t act anymore because they’ve signed an agreement saying they won’t court.

The benefit of collaborative practice is really trying to get people to talk to each other, to come to a mutually beneficial solution. They keep control of the discussions themselves, more so than they would even in a mediation. 

There’s usually between three and six meetings, maybe, over a period of maybe three to six months to resolve it, which at the outset might appear like it’s a long time, because people want to get things over and done with. But in the scheme of things, when there is an estate dispute, or when there is a complex succession planning to be done, that might take 12 months anyway. So whilst the process of engaging in the collaboration might seem like a big process, actually it can save time and it can certainly save a lot of money because it keeps you out of court.

So traditionally only in family law, collaborative practice is also now available for deceased estates, and also succession planning. And soon it will come to employment law and other areas. 

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