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How lawyers are using their lunch breaks to help family law clients in need
17 November 2021

How lawyers are using their lunch breaks to help family law clients in need

Published on 17 November 2021

Family law clients are often unique: personal crises can mean they need a lawyer more than most, but personal circumstances - and the high cost of law - can put access to justice beyond reach. New Way Lawyers, founded twelve years ago as Australia’s first non-profit law firm, started its ‘Lunch with a Lawyer’ Facebook group to address exactly this need. Insights spoke to CEO Carolyn Devries and Managing Lawyer Linda Maitland about the initiative.

Creating a supportive community through lockdown

Every day, from 12pm - 1pm, an experienced family lawyer from New Way Lawyers shares their lunch break with a Facebook group of strangers. The group, called ‘Lunch with a Lawyer’, offers a safe space for people to ask questions about family law, and domestic and family violence, and obtain free information and resources relevant to their circumstances. It’s a purely community initiative, born in response to the lack of free and reliable information online, and a growing need through COVID-19.

Lawyers respond to a range of topics, including separation, divorce, property settlement, parenting matters and domestic violence. Unlike other legal groups and forums, where information comes from unqualified peers, Lunch with a Lawyer is moderated by and engaged with by lawyers who have over 70 years’ experience in family law and domestic and family violence.

“Lunch with a Lawyer is such a wonderful way to give back and help people in our community,” said CEO Carolyn Devries. “It is particularly rewarding being able to share legal information and resources with people who are currently in lockdown and who are limited in their ability to access information and help through traditional means.” 

“I also love that Lunch with a Lawyer is not just a forum for sharing legal information and resources, it has also grown to become a community that provides encouragement, support and positivity to people journeying through separation and divorce.”

Senior Managing Lawyer Linda Maitland agrees.

“I love helping all of our members who reach out with their questions,” said Linda. “Most rewarding is when members who are most vulnerable and overwhelmed reach out. By simply imparting my knowledge and experience, both of which I often take for granted, I can help that person to understand a little better what is happening around them and most importantly, empower them to stand up for themselves and be confident in what they are feeling.”

Inside Australia’s first Non-Profit Law Firm

The initiative is emblematic of New Way Lawyers’ approach and philosophy.

“I love that New Way Lawyers provides an alternative model of legal services to the traditional models of government funded legal service provision and private law firms,” said Carolyn. “New Way Lawyers’ non-profit law firm model is so unique because the model makes the client the central focus and provides the freedom for lawyers to be involved in non-billable client care activities as well as resolving the client’s legal situation.”

It’s a vision that has seen the firm attract talent and grow. As founder and CEO of New Way Lawyers, Carolyn chiefly focuses on leadership and management, and in expanding the reach and impact of New Way Lawyers. 

“However I do still have involvement with some of our complex family law matters at a supervisory level,” explained Carolyn.

“Carolyn attracted me to New Way Lawyers!” enthused Linda. “Carolyn is genuinely the most loving and caring person, lawyer, CEO, and friend. New Way is a direct reflection of who Carolyn is as a person. It is a beautiful place to work and a wonderful firm to be represented by.”

As Managing Lawyer of the firm’s Gold Coast (Burleigh) Branch Officer, Linda oversees all the branch firm’s matters, and has carriage of the more complex matters.

“We have clients from the Tweed up to Far North Queensland so we are very busy!” said Linda. “I also work alongside the Managing Lawyers of the other branch offices as part of the senior leadership team of New Way Lawyers, helping Carolyn with the operation of New Way Lawyers.”

“New Way adopts a holistic approach to assisting people through their family law matters. Not only do we provide robust and expert representation with favourable outcomes, we understand that this is one of the most difficult times in our clients’ lives and we genuinely want to help them, to protect them, to support them, and to be there for them until we get them through to the end.