Engaging with Lawyers

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

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

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 

own records

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.

own records

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

Making Your First Call to a Law Firm

Before you make your first call to a law firm, you will have worked out what type of legal matter you have. You would have had a look through some legal databases or your local law firms to see who does the kind of law that you have the problem with. You will also have narrowed down the particular lawyers at the law firm that do the area of law that you’ve got your problem with.

So you will not that not only does the law firm do the kind of law you need help with, but your will know who in the law firm does what you need. You would have had a little bit of a look at the lawyer on the website of the law firm, and had a look at them on LinkedIn. So at least you have an idea about who potentially you’re going to be seeing; the person, what they look like, what they stand for. 

So you do all those things before even making the call.

Now, when you call a law firm, don’t expect to be able to get put through to a solicitor. 

With some smaller firms, you may be able to speak to a solicitor straight away. However, there’s usually an intake process at a law firm. Just like you would have at a dental practice or a doctor surgery, you can’t get through to speak to the professional at those places either. 

Your first appointment is usually the first time where you would speak to the lawyer, but even some firms have an intake officer that does the first appointment too.

They’ll each have their own way of doing things. 

Keep in mind that the law firms are there to want to serve, and to help you. So they’re going to guide you through some kind of process, so let that happen. 

Let them ask you the questions that need to be asked. They will determine whether the solicitor that you thought was going to be the one for you is actually the best one for you. They’ll also tell you whether the first appointment can be via Zoom, or phone, or whether you have to physically come in, or whether there’s some other process that they have.

You may get some initial information emailed or posted to you, so be prepared that they’ll ask you for that information to be able to send you some things ahead of time, and that will give you an idea about what you might need to bring to that first appointment.

The other thing that they will give you an idea of is cost. You shouldn’t be scared to ask how the firm charges, and what the fee will be for that first appointment. 

Some firms will still do a first appointment free, but not all firms do. Usually the solicitor will tell you more about the legal fees in the first appointment.

If you can get some initial appointments for free, use those free appointments to assess the lawyers. Don’t try and get advice in a half-hour free appointment, because you’re not going to get very far. Use it to assess the communication style of the solicitor, ask questions about the process, not necessarily advice about your particular situation. 

Allow them to guide you through the process. They are there to help. They want to serve. They want to help you with your problems, so let them do that.

Legally Wise Women

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

Conflict styles

Before going into some kind of negotiation or dispute settlement, whether you’re doing it yourself or whether you’ve got a lawyer representing you, it would be really interesting for you to learn what your natural conflict style is. 

So there’s been a couple of little tools put out there where you can do a quiz or a questionnaire to find out your natural conflict style. 

Quite often it’s put on an X-Y axis where the X axis is how assertive you are, and the Y axis is how much you value a relationship. 

conflict styles

We want to be sort of in the middle of that scenario, or as far out to being assertive and valuing the other person as possible, because we want both. We want to retain the relationship if possible, or some kind of working relationship, but we also want to assert what our rights are.

So, if, for example, if you’re not assertive and you don’t care about the relationship, then you’re going to have an avoidant conflict style, and you’re pretty much going to go, “Well, I don’t really care.” You’ll walk away; you’re not going to fight for your own rights, and you’re not going to care about the other person either. 

If you care deeply about the relationship, but you don’t value your own needs very much, you’re going to have a more accommodating style. So you’re going to pretty much let them get what they want just for the sake of keeping the relationship. 

So the avoidant and accommodating styles are typically the conflict styles, that women take, primarily because we are conditioned to keep other people happy when we’re raised as children.

However, it doesn’t mean we can’t learn to be otherwise, or to consciously develop some skills to bring us into a more collaborative style. A compromising or collaborative conflict style means that we equally value and assert what we want, but also value the other person.

So, conflict styles are really interesting, and knowing yours can help you learn the skills to get more of what you want. 

I do a lot more training on this in my course about learning how to negotiate to get what you want, which is in my Legally Wise Women community.

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

Gender bias in the legal industry

*Sigh* (Another blog by a woman complaining about gender bias.)

Yes! Of course! Well, nothing much has changed since the first studies into this bias in the 1970s and 1980s. 

Except that we know more about it! And we know that if female lawyers, and female expert witnesses face bias, then how is a normal woman going to navigate resolving an issue without facing bias?

Karen Engstrom, another blogger, wrote a great article that I’m going to repeat a lot of it for you, because there has also been some interesting research that female lawyers actually do better than men!:

What female lawyers who are trying to help you are up against

In addition to lower pay and opportunities for advancement, female lawyers (and particularly those who are also minorities) are more likely than their male counterparts:

  • To be interrupted;
  • To be mistaken for non-lawyers, including custodial staff, administrative staff or court personnel, even after making partner at their firms;
  • To do more office housework, such as meeting scheduling and party planning, and even cleaning up food after a meeting; and
  • To have less access to prime assignments.

I too have been mistaken for administrative staff and I recall my frustration. When my male partner inadvertently drove to the wrong location for a meeting that he had scheduled at our office, his guest arrived and was quite insistent that I must have botched the calendar entry for my partner. It offered me minor solace that he felt quite embarrassed when I informed him that I was not my partner’s administrative assistant.

Gender bias seems even more unfair in the courtroom itself where double standards abound. A 2018 study conducted by Arizona State University dissected perceptions of six trial lawyers, three male and three female, as they reenacted an aggressive closing argument from a real court case. Participants in the study described the male lawyers as “commanding, powerful, competent, and hirable” while the females were found to be “shrill, hysterical, grating, and ineffective.” Unfortunately, since the courtroom is a venue where results are inherently driven by a judge and jury’s perceptions, female lawyers are often left to face the reality of such perceptions and adapt accordingly.

What a female expert witness is up against

The necessity to adapt to biased perceptions is not limited to lawyers, but extends to expert witnesses as well. An astounding 83% of expert witnesses retained are male. Bloomberg BNA reported in August 2017:

  • Gender bias in the legal profession isn’t new. Its pernicious reach spreads everywhere.
  • But nowhere is it more pronounced than among the ranks of female expert witnesses who must surmount multiple layers of ingrained stereotypes every day to do their jobs.
  • Women must scale heights in their chosen field to qualify as a trial expert. They then need to persuade mostly male attorneys they should be hired and retained.
  • And to survive, they must consistently convince skeptical jurors that they are more knowledgeable, credible, confident and even likeable, than their opposing, usually male, counterparts.

Certainly, all expert witnesses should be expected to be knowledgeable, credible and confident, but let’s talk about likability. Tess Neal, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, explains that in order to persuade jurors, female experts must not only uphold their occupational role as “competent and knowledgeable,” but also uphold their gender role as “warm and likeable.” According to Neal, male experts face only the former, without likeability as a requirement.

Despite all this you’re better off to have a female lawyer

Premonition co-founder and CEO Guy Kurlandski summarizes the study’s results, “If female attorneys were compensated according to how often they actually win cases, they’d be paid more than men.  We just ran the biggest legal study on gender of all time, and at every level of practice, women came out ahead.”

Armed with the findings from Sky Analytics gender study, Premonition set out to unpack “the truth behind the myth” with respect to the performance of female and male litigators. Premonition utilized its vast archive of courtroom data and proprietary artificial intelligence to study the win rates of litigators across 120,000 cases, finding:[9]

  • Female partners in Big Law outperformed male counterparts in court by nearly 13%; and
  • Female associates outperformed male counterparts by nearly 3%,

Premonition offers several possible explanations for the win gap, largely attributing it to “survival of the fittest” with only the best and most elite female lawyers surviving to outperform a wider pool of males, but also citing a study which found that “female lawyers are somewhat less overconfident in their predictions of case outcomes than males, meaning they are less likely to bring losing cases to court while preparing more diligently for the cases they do litigate.”

Where does all of this leave us? Never has there been a time more ripe for upending courtroom bias than now. Diversity and inclusion initiatives are abundant across law firms and corporations, and data such as that published by Premonition is bound to continue to demonstrate the merits of female lawyers and expert witnesses alike. It is time to put the anecdotes, discouraging realities, and biased perceptions into the past, and instead move toward a future that acknowledges the advantages that females can provide across all areas of the courtroom. Early in my career I was told that perceptions become reality. But times are changing, and I believe the reality of women’s contributions in the courtroom has the power to become the new perception.

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

High emotion = low intelligence

So many people don’t actually think that the emotional toll of the legal matter or the stress that they’re going through, will impact the outcome.

While your emotional state has a personal toll, it also plays out throughout the whole legal matter and the outcome. 

There’s a little saying that I’ve sort of adopted for myself; high emotion = low intelligence. When you have high emotions, like stress and anger, you have a reduced ability to think and make good decisions. 

So much of dealing with your legal matter can be about your emotional regulation. We don’t want you to be feeding a drama, or feeding a conflict, and getting into a highly emotional state. 

There’s more and more brain science coming out which supports this, that when you’re in a stress response (fight, flight or freeze) your brain and your decision-making capacity actually doesn’t work well.

Also, when you’re triggered, it can take 20 minutes to half an hour to even get the brain to come back down, to start being able to work again. 

This is why quite often I’m saying that a single day of mediating may not be the best thing for parties, particularly women. A full day of mediation or court will put you under such stress, with everyone saying you’ve got to resolve it that day. Yet your brain doesn’t have the time to actually go through all the information, and weigh your options, and make a decision that’s actually from a less emotive place. 

We don’t want to be making decisions from stress and fear. We actually want to be making decisions that are best for us, and that are in line with all our values and what we actually want. 

How can we actually keep in mind what we truly want when we’re stressed and angry? 

When you’re stressed and angry, you’re just defensive and wanting to hurt others, and hide, and protect yourself, which is not the best outcome. Hence, high emotion = low intelligence.

The way your emotions play out do impact your legal matter. Being able to understand this, being able to regulate yourself, and being able to manage the strategy of the legal matter is key. Having a solicitor that actually supports the management of your emotional state, to make sure that strategically you can make your best decisions, will have significant impact on the overall outcome.

I help women within Legally Wise Women, firstly, to have the resources and understanding of good decision-making, good negotiation skills, and being able to find and hire the right lawyer. But then how to also communicate with the lawyer to make sure that these strategies come into play and that the lawyer also understands what your emotional state is and what is best for you.

Let’s make 2021 a better year for legal outcomes for women, because it’s really about time that women start getting good outcomes for themselves.

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

Beliefs to Avoid

I would encourage you to find a lawyer who is less traditional. A non-traditional lawyer will encourage a different sort of approach than a traditional lawyer, and will rely heavily on alternative dispute resolution. Whereas traditional lawyers have a number of beliefs that are quite often incorrect, beliefs to avoid; and these beliefs don’t serve women with a legal problem in particular.


Firstly, a traditional lawyer believes that the lawyer should be in control.

A non-traditional lawyer is going to want you to have more say in your own manner because it is your life. This is your dispute, and it is your responsibility to decide what outcome you want and need.

Whereas a traditional lawyer often takes over the issue, and runs a strategy without fully discussing it with you, or discussing all the options with you. A traditional lawyer decides what’s best for you, based on their own views of your matter and based on precedents that they are following. 

Sometimes, women find a lot of comfort in handing over a distressing part of their life to a lawyer to handle for them. Yet this sense of relief will be short-lived. It will lead to you ultimately feeling out of control, frustrated that things are taking so long, and dissatisfied with the outcome.


Another belief that a traditional lawyer has, which is generally a bad approach, is to cement you into a position. 

During your first appointment with a more traditional lawyer, they will either set an expectation that you should get a certain percentage or that your rights need to be fought for in a particular way. 

Research and dispute resolution theory has developed faster than legal training, and we know that position-based negotiations doesn’t allow for much fluidity or flexibility. Position-based negotiation also goes for longer, and doesn’t actually take into account all the options available, or what outcome you actually want. 

A traditional lawyer, who likely bills on an hourly basis, also earns a lot more from you by cementing you into a position. If it’s going to take longer to resolve, then they are going to earn move!


The third mistaken belief that traditional lawyers hold is that they trust the Court system will give you a just outcome. 

Unfortunately, our Court system doesn’t often result in justice. We’ve heard many, many, many stories where it costs a lot of time and money to get all the way to Court, and the outcome is bad for all parties. 

Women, in particularly, don’t often fair well in the Court system, for many biased reasons that have developed over time in this system that was developed by men, for men. 

There is a better way! And a non-traditional lawyer will help you explore all those options.

There’s plenty of ways to find a non-traditional lawyer, but Legally Wise Women is certainly a place that can help you find and hire the right lawyer for you and your matter.

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

I’ve failed myself

Around 80% of women who have a legal problem don’t get professional advice. 

One of the main reasons for that is shame. 

Particularly when someone thinks, “Well, I’ve failed myself. I’ve got myself into this situation”; they’re too embarrassed to tell someone the story. They think they will be judged. 

It’s really unfortunate that they feel a deep sense of shame, and it’s unnecessary to feel that. Firstly, because there are legal professionals that really are here to help. Many of us have gone into being professionals because we want to help people. Secondly, there are many, many people in very similar situations. So don’t think that your situation is all that unique.

Finding the right lawyer means that you’ll find someone who you don’t feel is judging you. There shouldn’t be any judgment. There should just be, an empathetic assessment of the situation. What are your options moving forward? 

With the right lawyer, you’ll get a sense that they’re there to help you solve the problem; for you to work through what you think you’ve failed and take responsibility for getting yourself in this situation and then getting yourself out.

If you got yourself into a situation, it’s under your control to get yourself out. 

But get help, don’t just bury your head in the sand or just listen to the friend of a friend who gives you legal advice, without actually knowing your rights and obligations and what is available to you. 

There actually are more free resources available than you probably know or think. 

At Legally Wise Women, that’s what we’re here to help with. To direct you to the free information that you need, to help you find and hire the right lawyer if you need a lawyer, or at least find the right one to get some initial advice from, and to teach you how to work out what you want and actually negotiate for what you want by yourself as well.

So please don’t feel like you failed yourself or feel that much shame that you can’t talk to someone about it, or get some initial advice. That’s what we’re here for.

by Jacqui Brauman Jacqui Brauman No Comments

Getting it over and done with

In their rush to get things over and done with and find some relief, we often see women either completely giving up their legal rights, or putting their head in the sand and let someone else barrel over them.

Basically, they’re often completely walked all over, either because they’re given up or because they give in. 

This is one of the things that frustrates us the most; that women find the anxiety or the uncertainty too much to step forward and deal with, or they don’t have the confidence to be able to work out what they want and know how to go about it.

So those are a couple of things that Legally Wise Women is addressing through this site and our community program. 

  • Through being able to find free, relevant resources. 
  • Having where to start kits, so that you can start confidently and know where you stand. 
  • Having a “How to find and hire the right lawyer” course, so that you understand the legal industry and understand what you’re looking for and know what questions to ask. 
  • And the other thing that we will be developing in the New Year is a course about “How to negotiate like a pro”, so that you have an understanding about what you actually want, rather than taking a position that you’re told to take, but advocating for what you want and how to go about that.

So let’s not have women walking away from their legal rights anymore, just for the sake of having something over and done with. 

It’s now time that we have an equal footing, with men, who have a legal problem.

Over and Done