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Author: Jacqui Brauman

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

Irrational, illogical, emotional, erratic

I’ve been doing a little bit more reading into women and the law, and I came across this statement (thankfully it was over 100 years old), but it was a statement from a man in the legal industry saying that women, when they have to deal with disputes in the law, are “irrational, illogical, emotional, and erratic”. That’s how women were described.

It just demonstrates what women were thought of as the legal system developed. That’s the bias that women are dealing with, built into the system!

To a subtle degree, this viewpoint continues. When juries are selected, sometimes there will be this bias that women are highly emotional, that they’re illogical, that they’re irrational. Sometimes the bias pervades amongst the representatives, and sometimes also the judiciary. 

So in dealing with this attitude that women come to face, we need to be prepared to counter it. 

The fact is that all humans are biologically wired to have a stress response. So men, just as much as women, can have a stress response – triggering into flight, fight or freeze.

With your own stress response, you need to learn how to manage it. If you go into flight, fight, or freeze, you won’t be able to necessarily make logical decisions. 

And yes, if you are in a stress state, you tend to be more emotional. However, that’s not to say that men don’t get into the exact same position. They might just show their emotions differently, but in fact, their brains can also be non-functional in the same state.

Tips to come back down off that emotional state: 

  • conscious breathing. Put your hand on your stomach, breath so your stomach relaxes and fills with your breath, and try box-breathing (4 counts in, 4 counts hold, 4 counts out, 4 counts hold). 
  • understand that it can take 20 minutes to recover from a stress state. If you go into fight, flight or freeze, have a phrase pre-prepared so that you’re confident to ask for a break. Or if you are bringing a support person, make sure they know that it’s their primary role to make sure you take a break if you can stressed. Go for a walk.
  • ask your brain a complex question. If you are being reactive and in a stress response, the blood has gone away from your brain and gone out to your limbs (you’re preparing to run, you’re preparing to fight). So the blood gets moved away from the brain and you’re getting pumped up with adrenaline. Asking your brain a complex question can divert some of that blood from your limbs back to your brain. 

What sort of complex questions should you ask yourself?

  1. What do I want in this situation? 
  2. What do I want for others? 
  3. And what do I want for this relationship? 

If you ask an open-ended question, it’s surprising how the brain can refocus itself and that blood flow comes back, and your brain can actually start problem solving again.

I have many more tips and techniques like this in the “How to Negotiate for What You Want” course in the Legally Wise Women platform. Jump into the free section here.

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

The Outcome to Your Legal Matter May be Impacted by Your Emotions

This blog is about how the outcome for your legal problem may be affected adversely by your emotional turmoil. This is because, when we are highly emotional and stressed, we are then operating from primal instincts rather than from logic. 

There is an argument that we’re emotional beings anyway and not really driven by logic, but there are certain times when our brain is able to assess and look at information in a much more rational way than other states. Our brain is not usually functioning well when we have been triggered and angry, or when we are extremely stressed or upset. 

Now, these emotions (anger, stress, upset) are quite often what we feel when we are facing a legal problem like a separation or someone’s chasing you or your business for money, and threatening the viability of your business. And they will impact the outcome of your legal matter, because you are wanting the emotion to stop rather than focusing on a result that you want.

There’s some research that when you are triggered into a high stress response, your prefrontal cortex of your brain doesn’t function. And you revert back to using the very primal, emotional and basic part of your brain, the animal instincts. 

How do we make decisions, then, if we’re dealing with a legal problem that triggers us? 

We need to have some methods of being able to make sure our brain stays in a logical state, or we need to learn to recognise that when we are triggered we can’t make a decision, and we need to be able to calm ourselves back down.

There’s also research that it can take about 20 minutes to calm down. If you’re in a mediation, or need to respond to a proposal, doing box-breathing or going for a walk, can help calm your initial emotional reaction. 

But walking back into the exact same situation, that’s going to trigger you, can become a never-ending cycle. So what can we do? Well, you can train yourself a bit more in conflict resolution skills. You could also have someone facilitate the conversation for you. 

This is quite often why people engage a lawyer, because lawyers can then rationally argue on your behalf. But the problem is that sometimes lawyers can be far more aggressive than you want them to be. Or they assume what your interests are, and they don’t explore all the options that are available for you, and just pursue something that may not be in your best interest. So the outcome of your legal matters becomes morphed completely from what you were expecting.

What are some solutions?

Firstly, knowing what you want, and then secondly, being able to verbalise and articulate what you want – are crucial.

Finally, you can also find and hire the right person to actually represent you and your interests, and not push you in a direction you don’t want to go, or not engage in an overly aggressive form of negotiation so that it prolongs everything. 

Many women, in particular, will avoid dealing with legal problems or will completely accommodate the other party just to smooth things over and make it go away. This is quite often because we don’t want to sit in that emotion. We don’t like being in conflict. We don’t like being highly stressed. So we just want it to go away at all costs, which is not actually in your best interest long-term.

Lots of factors here … all of which we explore and teach in the Legally Wise Women platform. 

 

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

What to look for on a lawyer’s website

When you are starting to vet a shortlist of lawyers that you were considering working with, and you’re doing all your background research, this is what to look for on a lawyer’s website. 

Meet the team

Firstly, they actually need to have a lawyer’s website. There are lots of lawyers who don’t still. I personally don’t work with any professional who doesn’t have a website. I like to see the faces of the people before I go in. 

So when you find their website, have a look to see whether they’ve got all their people listed. Along with the faces, you’re also looking for what areas of law they work in, whether they’ve got accreditations, whether they’re members of certain organisations and whether they have their direct contact available (like an email or phone extension).

Contact details

Another thing that really frustrates me about any professionals website or any service provider is if they don’t have any emails listed and all you have is a web form to fill in. Really frustrating! 

What are the ways they are available for you to get in contact, and do they hide them, or do they encourage you to contact them?

Up to date

Do they blog regularly? Are they providing information to help their clients? 

That indicates a number of things. It indicates that they really want people who are more educated to work with. It also shows that they want to help people and provide as much information as they can, to make things as easy as possible for people. So it gives a little bit of an indication of the values of that firm.

If they don’t blog regularly, has the website been sitting there for 10 years without an update? It just gives you a bit of an indication of the lack of attention or time to put into these detail around their business, because ultimately the lawyer is also running the business.

Costs or fees

Do they put their fees on their lawyer website?

At least there should be some sort of statement about how they bill, if not like a menu of some fixed fee rates for certain things. If someone is not putting their fees on their website, what are they trying to hide? 

List of services

If a lawyer has a relatively small firm, you don’t want to see them with 8 plus areas of service listed on their lawyer website. You really want to see someone do a few things really well. 

So if a lawyer has way too many areas of practice, they’re not going to be really deeply skilled in a couple of areas. They may end up being more like a medical general practitioner, where they are the first point of call, but if you want something more detailed, you get a referral to a specialist. 

These are my opinions obviously, but I don’t think that there’s any excuse about having those things on a website for a solicitor.

If you need help finding the right lawyer, there is a 5-part course in the Legally Wise Women community.

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by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

How to talk to a lawyer about their fees

It’s a scary thing for someone who hasn’t used a lawyer before to talk to a lawyer about their fees, and to work out what a lawyer might charge, and then to keep them accountable to their quote. 

Lawyers are a service provider, and you as the consumer are entitled to ask about fees, monitor fees, and uphold a quote.

One of the most important things comes down to choosing the right lawyer in the first place. I’ve done a number of videos on that about how to select the right lawyer, narrow lawyers down, have a look and understand what their fees are upfront. I also have a short course: How to Find and Hire the Right Lawyer.

You should know how a lawyer is charging you from the beginning. At the start, a solicitor has to give you a Cost Agreement. The Cost Agreement has to give a quote or a range for their fees, along with a scope. Sometimes, if it’s based on hourly billing, they have to break down whose hourly rate is what, and who’s going to be acting on what for you.

The Cost Agreement will also tell you what extras they charge for. Some lawyers charge for photocopying. Some lawyers charge for postage. Some don’t. 

There are then also other fees that solicitors may have to pay for, for you – these are called ‘disbursements’. Sometimes they have to pay upfront court fees or other search fees, or things like that for you. So those should also be disclosed and you will need to reimburse them for those payments. The Cost Agreement should estimate what those will be, and reveal if they charge a mark-up on disbursements or not.

Throughout a legal matter, you can ask for regular invoices. 

At any time you get an invoice, you’re allowed to ask for an itemised invoice, so you can check what’s been done. 

If you have any questions about the fees along the way, you’re entitled and able to ask your lawyer about their fees. 

If you are unsatisfied with any time, you are able to question the fees. 

If you are unsatisfied with how they are billing you, you do not have to stay with the same solicitor.

Don’t beat around the bush. It’s your money and you’re paying them for a service. 

But the most crucial thing is to know from the beginning how the solicitor charges and what your cost agreement is. So what the estimate or range is.

If the scope changes and they’re going to exceed their original estimate, they must give you a new Cost Agreement. If they don’t do that, they are at risk of not being able to charge you for that extra work.

You can make complaints to your State regulator. Also, your State Civil and Administrative Tribunal has the jurisdiction to review disputes over legal fees. So there are other ways to have a solicitor’s fees reviewed by external parties, than having to directly argue with the lawyer yourself.

I cover this in far more detail, about the ways solicitors can charge, and what to look for, in my course: How to Find and Hire the Right Lawyer. Because if you find and hire the right lawyer in the first place, you’re going to know what your fees are going to be, and you will not get a shock when the bill comes.

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

Lawyers Shouldn’t Be In Control

Women are often scared and angry that they cannot afford to be legally represented, or even believing they cannot afford justice. Lawyers feeling like they are in charge of your issue is part of the problem – lawyers are trained to see your problem and solve it for you. The fact is: your lawyer shouldn’t be in control of your matter any way. 

Lawyers taking control is quite often why legal fees get out of control. Because the lawyer is just sort of doing what they believe needs to be done. Problem is, they make assumptions, don’t ask enough questions, and make a decision that might not be the best for you. But if you’re not controlling your matter actively, it can get out of control. 

You actually want to be in control because it is your life; your lawyer shouldn’t be in control. 

Yes, the solicitor is there to provide you with advice, but not to make your decisions for you. They should be asking you every step of the way. 

And you can say “No”, and you can ask what the other options are. 

You can also do certain aspects of the process yourself.

When you’re going through an emotionally difficult time, it’s quite a relief sometimes to basically offload and hand over the problem to someone else. But it is your life and it is your problem, so lean on the solicitor for advice and guidance and for the administrative support and professional guidance that they can give you. 

BUT, don’t just hand over the complete responsibility. Don’t just go, “Okay, well they know what they’re doing. We’ll just let them run with it.” 

It’s often in a lawyer’s interest to over-service you particularly if they’re charging you an hourly rate, and do more than what you actually need. 

Even though it’s stressful and tricky and difficult to have to face something like a personal legal problem, it is your problem. A bit of tough love: the outcome depends on how you manage the process.

So learn how to find a solicitor that is right for you, instead of someone that can’t work with you.

Legally Wise Women

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

Courts might not give you the best justice

We have a State and Federal Court system set up in Australia; the courts, the system that feeds into it, and the legislation that the courts have to enforce. All of this developed over hundreds of years, and has been transplanted in Australia from the United Kingdom.

The reality is, is that sometimes the system is not the best way to justice. The length of time that you face in a Court process and the cost (financial and emotional) may not be worth it when your outcome is not something you can control. The system itself has gotten so big and cumbersome, that you really need to look to other pathways to justice for yourself, rather than getting stuck into the Court system. 

There are certainly some types of matters that need to go through the Court system. But if at all possible let’s try and find an alternative means for you to get a resolution and get justice.

Once you get into the Court system, a lot of decision-making gets taken out of your hands. So you need to weigh up some objectives for yourself, like how important is it for you to have some say and some control in the outcome in your own life. 

Getting caught into the Court system might not be the best way to go; there are plenty of alternatives to look at (just to name a few): 

  • alternative dispute resolution, like mediation or collaborative practice,
  • free services and community legal centres, 
  • dispute settlement centres, 
  • consumer affairs, 
  • the Ombudsmans. 

Explore alternative dispute processes like mediation and collaborative practice before jumping in and handing your life and your money over to a system that gives you no certainty.

Legally Wise Women helps you to work out whether your matter is suitable for an alternative process, and how to go about finding the best way, and how to go about negotiating the best outcome through that process, rather than going legal and having things turn out huge and out of control.

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by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

Calibrated Questions for Negotiating

Women often having an aversion to negotiating and having difficult conversations, and to being in conflict generally. But it’s something that we actually face in our day, more often than we think. And we need to get more comfortable with conflict and asking for what we want. 

To make us more comfortable, having some tools and strategies to be able to progress a difficult conversation is probably really handy for women to learn. A tool or skill in difficult communication is helpful because then you’ve got some way of structuring and approaching it.

So when you start a negotiation with someone, and it doesn’t matter how high or low stakes it is, some planning will set yourself up for the best change of achieving what you want. It could be:

  • negotiating over certain type of work that you’re doing 
  • a certain project and what’s going to be involved 
  • negotiating for your own pay rise 
  • negotiating to get your kids or your parents to do something that you want them to do, or 
  • it could be as important as negotiating over a financial split with your ex. 

You will experience more emotion, the higher the stakes of the conversation, and that’s also something that we talk about a lot in Legally Wise Women. We need to make sure our brain is functioning, so we are not making decisions in a stress response state. We want to be able to make really rational decisions, and being thoughtful about what outcome we actually want. We also don’t want to be handing off the responsibility of that decision to someone else, just because we’re emotional.

Try to approach the negotiation in stages …

The first stage

The first thing you want to do is make sure the other person feels heard. Now, as much as this may be difficult for you to hear what they want to say, and hold back on what you’re feeling or what you want to say, you’ve got to make sure that they feel like they’re being heard.

Next stage

The next phase is once they feel heard, and you have figured out where they’re coming from, you can use that to your advantage to get what you need as well. 

This is where using some calibration questions will help. Calibrated questions are a ‘What’ or a’How’ question. 

‘What’ questions make someone feel like they’re more in control of the process. It brings them in to be more engaged and to be problem solving with you.

Some simple examples might be, “What do you think has got us to this point? What do you think is going to help resolve it? What do you think I should be doing? What do you think we need to do to move this forward?” And “What’s your advice on making this happen?” 

A ‘What’ question puts decision making back to them, making them feel like they’re in control and it helps them to buy into whatever solution you end up coming up with. Once you get really good at this, you can also phrase your ‘What’ questions in the direction you want them to think!

‘How’ questions are really an interesting way of you saying ‘No’. So if a suggestion comes up that you don’t like, use a ‘How’ question. 

Some simple examples are, “How do you expect that to work? How do you think that I can raise that money? How do you think that this should be executed? How do we go about making this happen? How do you think that I can achieve that? How will a third party buy into this? How is such and such going to respond to what we’re proposing?”

Make sure they’re heard. Make sure they feel like they’re in control. Learn to say no in a way that’s not confronting and to keep the talking happening. These steps will have you much better set to get to creative solutions with less emotion and more buy-in from the other party.

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by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

Preparing For Your First Appointment With A Lawyer

When you go in for your first appointment with a lawyer, as well as trying to understand some of your options, you are also assessing whether you can work with this lawyer:

  • whether they are clear communicators, 
  • whether you feel like they empathise with you and understand you, 
  • whether they try to hurry you along, 
  • whether they try and brush off your problems. 

You really are going to your first appointment with a lawyer to assess whether you can work with this person. You’re not necessarily going there for comprehensive advice.

You should prepare some questions that you want answered. Certainly have some questions read in terms of the process and options. So not necessarily which way you should go, but how this could play out, the number of different ways and what options are open to you. 

Now, before an initial assessment, a lot of firms will send you something to prepare yourself. So if there is something that you need to fill in and return, or something that you need to fill in and bring with you, do that as best you can. It prepares your mind as well as making sure that you’re not wasting the time that you have in that first appointment with the solicitor, because they don’t have to go through the form with you if you’ve already done it. 

Please prepare some questions, like:

  • what are the various ways that this can play out? 
  • what are my initial options or steps?
  • what is each option or step going to cost? 
  • How does the solicitor charge? 
  • Do they charge fixed fee at each different step? 
  • Can they give you an estimate for the overall costs for the various options? 

Don’t expect to come out with all the answers to your legal problem, or clear a pathway. You should come out with a number of options so that you can start thinking and assessing those options. 

If you come away for a first appointment with a lawyer with some kind of certainty about which way you should go and how everything’s going to proceed, then potentially that lawyer has taken over the matter for you and is taking your responsibility off you. Whereas this is your life, your issue. So just be careful of that.

The more elements and more complexity that is involved in your matter, then the more certainty the lawyer has, the more you should be wary. Because there are multiple decisions that you need to be making, and multiple options, and they shouldn’t all be made in that initial assessment without all the information. 

Legally Wise Women

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What is fueling your conflict?

Looking at what is fueling your conflict can be part of the way to be able to have some insight into resolving it, without going legal. 

The earlier we can resolve conflict the better. 

Now it might not be a legal dispute, it might just be having difficult conversation with someone, but a lot of conflict can end up all the way to almost a war between people. That’s often when lawyers are dragged in, but if conflict can be resolved earlier, relationships can often be saved.

As well as working out what you actually want to achieve by resolving the conflict, it’s also good to have an understanding of what is fueling the conflict. If you know what is fueling your conflict, you might be able to address it. 

Addressing the fuel might be either resolving that issue with the other person, or having some insight into something that’s triggering you, or some untrue assumptions that have been made that can be cleared up. 

If it’s your own trigger, perhaps go and talk that through with someone, whether it’s a professional or not, to work out how to bring that trigger down. 

Often conflict results because of a difference in:

  • values, 
  • needs, or 
  • because people are making up stories (making assumptions or presumptions about the other person and why they’ve behaved the way they are without actually asking).

So delve a little bit into that. 

The SCARF model developed by David Rock in 2008 provides us with five values or needs (domains) in which people can be triggered. Often people have a primary, or a couple of dominant drivers among these five, and if you are seen to breach one of these, it can drive conflict:

  • Status
  • Certainty
  • Autonomy
  • Relatedness
  • Fairness

Here is a short assessment to discover your own primary driver, to see if you perceive that it has been breached and might be driving the conflict: https://neuroleadership.com/research/tools/nli-scarf-assessment/assessment 

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by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

How to Keep Your Own Records in Your Legal Matter

For those legally wise women who have engaged a solicitor to help them, this is about how to keep track of your own records for your legal matter.

Part of being legally wise is taking responsibility for your own legal matter. 

You can’t just hand off responsibility to a professional. There are certain things that a professional will do for you, but their primary role is to advise. 

It’s your life, it’s your matter, so you have to keep responsibility of it.

Now that being said, there’s going to be a whole lot of things that your lawyer is doing for you. You need to keep track of what correspondence goes backwards and forwards, what advice you’re given, what offers are made and any court legal documents. 

Most solicitors will email everything to you, so you should have a complete record of pretty much everything they’re doing. I would suggest either having a special folder in your email browser on your laptop or PC where you move everything to that is emailed to you about your legal matter.

If you’re happy to use purely electronic records, then I suggest you also have a separate folder on your desktop which becomes the folder for your legal matter. Inside that folder, I suggest sub-folders. 

So sub-folders should be:

  • correspondence, 
  • offers, and
  • legal documents. 

You may want to keep your own notes as well. So if you type up some notes about what advice you’re given during conversations, you’d put them into another ‘notes’ sub-folder. 

Then each piece of correspondence that comes in either from your solicitor or from the other party’s solicitor goes into the correspondence folder.

Try and keep it sequential in terms of date, so you can work out if you have to go back, the sequence of what happened when. 

Keep another folder with all the legal documents. So you may have multiple drafts before you end up signing a legal document. Realistically the ones you want to keep are the ones that have a court seal on them. So after you’ve signed documents, your solicitor files those, they should then give you sealed copies, which are the ones the court has. When the other party sends legal documents, they serve you with those, they should also have a court seal. So again, keep those all together so you’ve got one central place for all your legal documents.

The reason why I like to keep offers separate from general correspondence is because you want to come back to them and double-check what offers have been made when, and what are still current, what offer do we need to tweak or change, and what offer can we rely on in a cost matter, for example.

So, you don’t have to understand everything that I’ve been talking about in terms of cost, service, filing, all those things, but just understand to take responsibility for your matter. As a woman who is legally wise, you are responsible for what happens in your life. The solicitor is assisting, guiding, advising, but ultimately make sure you take control and keep records for yourself too.

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