Ashleigh Wisbey accidentally fell into family law when she was searching for a job while studying at the University of Wollongong, but it’s the connection and relationships with her clients that keeps her committed to what can be a difficult and draining field.
“I’ve dabbled in a few different areas but always seemed to gravitate back to family law,” Ashleigh said. “I was never going to be a commercial lawyer reading contracts day in and day out, I very much like that human contact and real-life aspect.”
Her line of work allows her to help community members in a vulnerable time, by empowering them with information and options to make the best decisions about their own life and situation.
“You’re meeting people often at one of the most difficult times of their life, they’re in crisis.”
“Yes, they need a good lawyer in terms of the legal advice but often they’re just overwhelmed, they’re anxious, they don’t know where to start so just that comfort in knowing that you’ve got their back and going to look out for them.”
Having a child of her own helped open her eyes to understand her clients even further.
“I’ve got a little one who’s almost two and I think it definitely changes your perspective and you just get it a bit more.”
“Just understanding the things that might seem like little issues or not a big deal, you can really understand from their perspective why it could be very important.”
The need for flexibility and control that comes with motherhood helped motivate her to start Seacliff Family Law, as well as receiving an accreditation held by less than five per cent of family lawyers in the state.
“There’s a lot of criteria that you have to meet and different types of assessments and there’s a high fail rate so I thought I would just give it a go and learn a lot out of the process.”
“Then I got it and it really gave me a confidence boost.”
But despite having more than a decade in the industry, Ashleigh is still coming across clients with new challenges, many of which are brought on by the cost of living crisis.
“I just generally see people coming in and not so worried about the end result, more worried about who pays the mortgage, how is it going to work, what does it look like, and the now issues are really causing them a lot of stress and anxiety.”
She said these stressors are seeing some people choose not to leave relationships due to the risk of losing that additional financial support.
“I’ve definitely noticed a change especially with the cost of living in terms of solutions and what people are experiencing in that they may be staying in a relationship that they wouldn’t be because of the concern if they can afford it.”
This is leading to more creative approaches to housing arrangements particularly if children are involved, and people living separated under the same roof for longer.
“Like nesting arrangements I’ve seen quite often where parents will move in and out as they rotate their roster and the kids stay living in the same house.”
And while the rental and financial crises may be a deterrent for clients, Ashleigh said getting professional help early actually help save time and money by providing wraparound support.
“I can assist with the legal advice but I can also connect people with support services that they might not know ever existed.”
“There is help out there and it’s just making the referrals early can make the world of difference.”
“Connecting them with a good counsellor or psychologist, accountant or financial planner, we can get a good team on board to sort that out.”
Ashleigh is currently taking on clients across the whole spectrum of supports and situations, offering them a personal approach where they work directly with her to create the best outcomes.
“I have a more bespoke kind of approach where it’s more select clients but I make sure they’re being looked after well and they have that direct access to me.”
For more information or to contact Ashleigh visit the Seacliff Family Law website.