Getting to know… Lyndal Gowland of Gowland Legal
Gowland Legal is a boutique law firm with a reputation for providing legal advice that’s clear, concise and designed to get the best outcome. At the heart of our approach is our motto: Clients first. Always. We value our clients and we strive to empower them through guidance and support.
Tell us about yourself
I’m a passionate lawyer. I sometimes think I should have gone to law school straight from the labour ward! I have been a fighter for kids and women’s rights from that day; for me it’s always about social justice.
I’ve lived in Dulwich Hill for over 10 years. I have 3 amazing children, 2 girls and a boy, and I am the proud Grandma to 6 lovely grandchildren. I have had a loving partner for the past 24 years.
I hold a Masters in Family Law and a postgraduate fellow of the College of Law.
I have worked all around Australia in remote and Indigenous communities including Mornington Island, Mt Isa, Moree, Forbes, Parks, and was responsible for the left-hand side of Queensland. I was the only lawyer for that area for the Indigenous Family Violence Prevention Legal Service working with the most disadvantaged people because they need good solicitors to advocate on their behalf. There was an occasion where I was assisting an Indigenous woman where DOCS was going to take the child and they got her to sign an authority agreeing to it. However, she didn’t even read or write English and it was her 4th language. The Stolen Generation is still happening there.
I was also a Law Reform lawyer for Redfern Legal Centre in charge of the domestic violence unit and the court advocacy service. I wrote to the law reform council to provide greater protection for women and children experiencing domestic violence.
People often ask me: “why do you do this work?” For me, it’s not the horror stories – it’s the survival stories that are amazing. Without any exaggeration, we are changing generations because if you get the parenting wrong it affects the next generation. If we can help lessen the conflicts for the children and if mum is in the best place possible to parent, our job is done.
I’m also currently writing a book to help women leave relationships – it’s a practical workbook, so keep a look out for that!
Tell us about Gowland Legal
The objective of the practice is client-focused legal advocacy and support. The heart of our practice is “clients first always”.
10% of our clients are domestic violence cases, and then we have a large wills and probate area. We work on a lot of happy divorces and consent orders, where both parties agree about property and parenting arrangements. We will not have clients agree to something that they are not happy with. However, one of the things we love about this job is that if high-level litigation is needed, tooth and nail we are up for it. If we can get parenting arrangements or property arrangements that suit everyone then we know we have achieved a good result for our clients.
At Gowland Legal we understand that legal matters can be overwhelming. We listen to our clients and make sure they understand the process. We also like to do things in the most cost-effective way for our clients.
What services does Gowland Legal offer?
Gowland Legal assists clients in Family Law, Wills, Probate and Conveyancing matters.
Having worked in the area of Family Law for over 20 years, I am able to give advice on a number of simple and complex family law matters. This can include, separation and divorce, property settlements, parenting arrangements and relocation of children – to name a few.
Our practice is also very experienced in assisting families to get their affairs in order. We understand that mums have busy lives so we make the process of drafting a will as straightforward as possible. Clients often come in anxious and they walk out smiling because we simplify what it is that they want to achieve for their family and finances. We then look at who are the best people to do that and what is the best plan to do that. We always endeavour to come up with the best option for each client’s situation.
One of the things I am really proud of is we charge $440 for a simple will (husband and wife, no kids) and we offer Inner West Mums the same price for complex wills (that involve children). People think that lawyers don’t care, but we do care!
What have you learnt over the years when dealing in domestic violence situations?
Women who are likely to get into domestic violence relationships have a level of vulnerability as perpetrators are drawn to this.
90% of domestic violence is the social isolation as they have isolated the victim from her connections with family and friends.
Perpetrators are also good at making it look like they are the victim. Sadly, this can result in the real victim losing support from their family and friends.
When the victim decides to separate, the perpetrator often positions himself as her family and friends’ new best friend. All of a sudden the perpetrator is taking people out to lunch and making themselves comfortable with her connections and painting her as crazy. Perpetrators are all about control and manipulation.
When women are in a domestic violence situation and we are giving advice on separation it is important for us to talk with our client about empowerment strategies. I often say ‘stop talking to them.’ I also advise the client that it is important to have a liaison person as the perpetrator knows how to trigger all of the victim’s buttons.
What is the usual process of engaging your firm?
There are number ways to do this. If a client is in desperate need we can do an emergency talk on the phone or they can come in quickly to see me. We are flexible.
For non-urgent enquiries, they can call or contact via the website or just pop in to see us.
What level of service can clients expect from Gowland Legal?
We develop a strategy that suits the client individually such as it being cost effective, and tailoring the communication to suit their needs. We provide a “client first” service and ensure the client is front and centre in all dealings. We offer great flexibility; we work around their schedule and if we have to do a home visit, we will.
Every single element of our Dulwich Hill office has been workshopped to ensure the client feels comfortable and it gives the message that we are different from other lawyers. We have old family furniture, and flowers in the window to give a feeling of warmth and comfort. You will be offered coffee or tea and the best indicator is the feedback we receive and the clients walking out with a smile.
What advice do you have for someone experiencing custody disputes and/ or domestic violence?
Safety first! Do whatever is required to keep you safe. Get support and quickly get legal advice from a solicitor that understands the complexity of these cases. Recently we saved a woman and her children’s lives. She wanted to relocate with her children and every single support agency she spoke with told her she could not move.
Solicitors give up a bit too often in our view and they don’t know how to get the evidence. We know how to get the evidence. We can prove social isolation, financial control, and evidence where they say you can’t find evidence. It’s about working with you to know who the perpetrator is, what their character is and implementing a carefully thought out strategy to accommodate that.
Many domestic violence survivors are accustomed to the perpetrator winning so they give in to the perpetrators demands too generously at the beginning. You need to start small with contact and custody as it’s too hard to change once you’ve been too generous at the beginning.
How can you help IWM become more educated in law?
We are doing a series of legal information sessions through Facebook Live, exclusively for Inner West Mums. This Wednesday, 23 August at 8pm we will be doing a Facebook live event called “All About Wills.” We’re taking all your questions about Wills and will be answering them in real time.
In the future, we are planning on covering many more legal topics through Facebook Live. We’d like to hear from Inner West Mums about what they want to learn about next!
We have also published a number of blog posts on Inner West Mums, which provide legal information on various areas of law.
Make sure to also check out our Facebook Page, which is filled with updates on the law (as well as cute animal memes for good measure!)
What is the best impact you have made to one of your clients through your services?
Saving lives of women and children tops it all. It could be 1-2 families per year, which is significant!
What drew you towards the legal profession? What do you love most about being a lawyer?
The capacity to empower people. The law is a way to help people to achieve a happier life. When I was a kid I was always sticking up for someone and I was one of the student representative council members. I have always been an advocate for the underdog. The law affects everyone and the law is about power. As I see it, this is my opportunity to help people gain justice.
When have you been most satisfied in your life?
Now! I have attained my goals and am really lucky. I always wanted a women’s focused practice. I love the Inner West. When I first moved to Dulwich Hill I dreamt of having an office here, and had my eye on a particular office in the heart of Dulwich Hill. I am so pleased that a year later I was able to buy it!
What law would you change if you could?
That the Family Law Courts take on the default position that anyone attending the court is considered to be in a domestic violence situation. If it was a default position, the Family Court would then look at the services needed and provide safer rooms. It would fight the apathy of the current system.
Which historical person do you respect the most, and why?
Nelson Mandela and Mrs Mandela because they changed the whole country of South Africa; millions of people went from being sub human to humans in their own land.
Favourite spots in Sydney’s Inner West?
Loftus Street Park – if I stand in one spot I am 10 paces from my favourite cake at Strawberry Hills Patisserie and then 10 paces to the right I can get my favourite chardonnay. And when I stand there in that spot, I can’t see the gym, where I should be!