Welcome to Ivy Law Group’s Podcast – The Family Five! 

In this week’s episode, we discuss the age old question about lawyer’s costs. 

We tackle what’s involved when you hire a lawyer, how the costing process works and what happens if you decide to go out on your own and self-represent. 

Shane also shares some examples of cases where it did go well with self-representation, and where it didn’t. 

Transcript: Why do lawyers cost so much?


Jessica Hamilton (JH): Hello and welcome to the Family Five Podcast with Ivy Law Group where we tackle the tough family law issues in the time it takes you to drink your coffee. I’m Jessica Hamilton, I’m the Marketing Manager for Ivy Law Group, and I’m joined by my boss, Shane Neagle, who is the Director of Ivy Law Group and the family lawyer extraordinaire. In this podcast, we will take a five in five approach, five questions in five minutes. Our aim is to keep the podcast light, easy to understand, and to give you some valuable information to take away with you.

JH: Shane, how are you today?

Shane Neagle (SN): I am fantastic. How are you going, Jessica?

JH: Yeah, not too bad, thank you. So I guess the last couple of weeks we’ve been speaking a lot about relationships and what to do if you are thinking about leaving your relationship. So the next topic that we’re going to go into is more about what you can do if you’ve decided to leave the relationship and what avenues are available to you, whether you want to use a lawyer or whether you want to self represent. I guess one of the first questions that’s often on everybody’s mind when they separate and they’re told to get a lawyer is: “do I actually need one?” So what would you say to that, Shane?

SN: I hear myself saying this constantly – I had a building background as a younger person before I went to law school. I would never for one moment seek to make a decision to put electrical wires throughout my house because it’s very technical and electricity is dangerous, and I say that with law (too), it’s a very technical world.

Now there are cases where people can self represent. There was even a case in 2020 where the father self represented and was up against big time city Sydney lawyers. The case went on appeal and he won custody of the children. He did a good job. I (also) had a banker friend who said, “I’m sacking my lawyer Shane, and I’m going to learn how to be a lawyer.” And he went on and won. And one of his points was, I just wanted my son to know that I was fighting for him. But they’re (these cases) few and far between. It takes a lot of effort, energy, it takes a lot of skill to be in a courtroom and to be responding to a judge, for example, asking you which documents (you need).

I think it’s critical that people at the very least have some kind of shadow lawyer to help them in different stages of the proceedings. The lawyer will be there to help you understand the process and know your rights, and help you get documents ready.

JH: So then, I guess the next question that comes up, is the cost. Sometimes that can deter people from using a lawyer because they’re like, well, it’s very expensive. I don’t want to have to pay that much money. So why do lawyers cost so much?

SN: Why isn’t bread for free? But in this case you are asking for a time orientated service of people’s time and skill. Now, I’m not here to be an apologist for lawyers and sometimes they can be very expensive, but what I’d say (is that) the law business itself is an expensive process. But in terms of a client, some of the costs that are associated with a matter can be due to large amounts of time having to be devoted to different technical issues. For example, in a business dispute, the lawyer will need to analyse possible tax returns and trustee deeds, and also involve forensic accountants to trying to uncover potential discrepancies. Unfortunately, as a matter goes along, things that often flare up (in parenting) where they (one party) won’t return the children. It can get very involved and time-resource heavy for the lawyer in trying to help the client.

JH: So is it fair to say that you can keep the costs down if you manage to keep things amicable?

SN: Absolutely, 100%. But everybody listening out there might say, “yeah, nice try,”  with the partner that they’re having. But it would be really helpful to have counsellors involved at your end.

JH: So what if someone decides that they want to represent themselves? They’re like, “Nope, don’t want a lawyer. I’m just going to do it myself. I know what I’m doing.”

SN: Get ready for a rollercoaster ride. Look, there’s some studies that show 20 to 30% of people do self represent during a matter. The difficult thing is that if there’s domestic violence allegations being made and you are the party who the allegations are made against, there’s specific rules that you are unable to cross-examine that person. As a self-represented party, you are going to need a lot of time to get familiar with the court form processes and issues to do with evidence. Not every document or issue that you think is relevant is going to be accepted (by the courts).

JH: Okay. So you mentioned earlier the concept of a shadow lawyer. So this is if you don’t want to pay for a lawyer yourself, but you do need some sort of legal support, how does that process work?

SN: That lawyer is critical in my view. Now, a shadow lawyer can also then come and help you where, for example, you’re at mediation and they’ll tell you what the law says and where you can make a stand. So drafting of affidavits (is something) they could (also) help with. They could help with how to strategise the case. The fees that you would incur would be possibly appraised by the lawyer to be so many hours, which they then do, and then you pay that amount and you go and try to run the case yourself.

JH: So the moral of the story is get a lawyer.

SN: I’m not trying to advertise the profession because our goal is always to try to help people to get their disputes resolved quickly and cheaply.

JH: And have there been any instances where somebody is self-represented and it’s been to their detriment?

SN: One example that sticks out for me is where the mother did not want to include in an affidavit that she’d made a whole range of allegations to the welfare agencies about what she considered was sexual-like behaviour (of the other party). And as a consequence, it was found by the court that those things didn’t happen and as a result, she lost the children. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but there’s some of the essence of the issues.

JH: Okay, so I think we’re at time now. So why don’t we just finish with a little joke.

SN: The lawyer tells the accused, I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news. What’s the bad news, says the accused. The bad news is your blood is all over the crime scene and the DNA test proved that you did it. And what’s the good news? He says, well, your cholesterol is 130.


See you later everybody.

SN: Bye. Thanks Jessica.


JH: Thanks for tuning in. Don’t forget to save this to your favourites wherever you listen to your podcast so that you don’t miss an episode. It’s important to note that the contents of this podcast are intended as a general guide to the subject matter. If you are looking for specific advice about your individual circumstances, then we would reccommend getting in touch with one of our friendly family lawyers. 

To see all episodes and subscribe to the Family Five Podcast, visit our podcast page here

Check out our NEW Podcast

We cover the tough family law issues in the time it takes you to drink your coffee.