Dealing with a relationship breakdown is tough no matter what the circumstances, whether it comes about through mutual decision or a necessary escape from family violence.
Apart from the emotional upheaval, working out how to share financial assets, determine custody arrangements or seeking protection from family violence is unfamiliar territory for most people. And seeking help or advice from a lawyer can be particularly daunting. The fear of the unknown and what it will cost brings added pressure to an already traumatic situation.
Recognising the worries and obstacles associated with seeking legal advice after separating – particularly for those caring for children – led Parker Coles Curtis director Jacquelyn Curtis to create a unique product called ‘Loungeroom Lawyer’.
“I had just been through a relationship breakdown, and even though it was a mutual separation, I lived the experience of being a single mother trying to negotiate a separation while juggling work and home,” she explains.
“Knowing that timely legal advice can positively affect outcomes for separating couples, I realised it needed to be easier for people to access that advice in a way that didn’t add extra stress.”
Parker Coles Curtis’ Loungeroom Lawyer product is an Australian-first initiative offering access to expert legal advice direct to your home, after hours via video or phone conference, for a fixed fee.
Based in Canberra, Parker Coles Curtis is a boutique family law firm run by specialist family lawyers. Opening their doors just over a year ago, partners Debra Parker, Catherine Coles and Jacquelyn Curtis – all accredited family lawyers – say they wanted to offer a more personal specialist family law service than what is offered by the more traditional corporate style law firms.
Jacquelyn says that people going through a family breakdown are often caught in a catch-22 situation, unable to find the time, money or resources to seek face-to-face legal advice.
“Many find it daunting to take that first step of walking into a lawyer’s office,” she says. “They might be a single parent with kids to look after and no childcare available, or they could be concerned about how much it will all cost.
“We identified a gap in the market, offering out-of-hours appointments at the same time that teleconferencing was becoming normalised.
“With people more comfortable using screen technology to contact family and friends, or accessing telehealth, we thought seeing a family lawyer from the comfort of their home would be less confronting. And no need for time off work or booking babysitters.
“With Loungeroom Lawyer you can book a session online and chat with an experienced and understanding family law expert in the evening when the kids are in bed and you have some time to yourself.
“People often turn to friends or chat groups to get advice, but every family is unique and the circumstances of every separation is different – what your friends or relatives did may not be the best for your situation. That’s why we don’t do off-the-shelf products or advice; it is tailored to your needs and circumstances.”
Jacquelyn recommends Loungeroom Lawyer as a good entry point for people wanting to take the first steps of legal separation.
“Often people just want one fixed fee consultation so they know what their options are,” she says. “Others use our services for the entire process.”
The response to Loungeroom Lawyer has been overwhelmingly positive. Since the service was launched, one in six clients wanting a fee-based advice appointment preferred Loungeroom Lawyer to a traditional in-office or in-person meeting.
“The service is available to anybody who needs legal support, but feels unable to access it in the traditional manner, regardless of the type of family law problem they have,” says Jacquelyn.
Offering their services via teleconference means people living outside of Canberra can access a specialist family law service, which is often in short supply in regional areas. Jacquelyn says Parker Coles Curtis is already assisting people in the regions around the ACT.
The response to their unique family law services have been so good, the firm has tripled in size in its first year of operation.
“While the three of us are all experienced Canberra lawyers, it was a leap of faith to set up our own firm, but we knew we were offering something special by giving people care and choice at a vulnerable and stressful time in their lives,” says Jacquelyn.
For more information or to book a Loungeroom Lawyer session, visit Parker Coles Curtis.
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