Founded by Barbara Campbell in 2000, Campbell & Co Lawyers has grown from a one-woman operation to one of Canberra’s most respected local firms, focusing on Wills and Estate Law, Family Law and Dispute Resolution. The firm was initially run from her own home until it outgrew the space. In 2004 the firm amalgamated with Helen Small & Associates. In 2012 the firm relocated to their current offices in Deakin. While it is a local firm they service clients throughout the region including Batemans Bay, Goulburn and Young. Clever use of technology means they also have clients from as far away as Austria, the USA, Scotland, Italy and India.
Barbara has been an Accredited Family Law Specialist since 2002 and is passionate about Estate Law. She completed her Masters in Law in Estate Law a couple of years ago to ensure that she was, as with all her staff, ‘ahead of the pack’ in specialist knowledge about this burgeoning area.
Today, Barbara says she has the perfect team comprising of five solicitors, three excellent paralegals and amazing administrative staff who keep the firm running. And it’s this team that formed the plans to move forward. Barbara has proudly announced that three of her team members will be joining in ownership of the firm. The new directors will be Paul Salinas, Senzeni (Zeni) Zambezi and Alicia Prest.
When asked about the decision to incorporate the firm, Barbara said she received offers from various firms locally and nationally who were interested in buying her out. But with the best interest of her staff at heart, knowing this would have huge ramifications for some, Barbara spoke to her team and some expressed interest in buying into the business.
“I feel honoured the team think so much of the firm that they want to be part of it. It is also a really good way to progress a business with ownership by the staff. I have incorporated the firm so that all staff members can if they wish – as did Alicia – buy shares in the firm and have ownership of it,” Barbara said.
Both Zeni and Paul will be appointed formally on 1 July with Alicia becoming a Director next year.
What we do
The structure of Campbell & Co Lawyers has an Estate Law and a Family Law team. The Estate Planning and Superannuation team is managed by Paul while the Family Law team will be led by Zeni and Barbara. Barbara specialises in both Wills and Estate areas and hopes to be free to work on the complex Estate and Family Law matters and team work with all her staff as well as continue to grow the dispute resolution side of the firm.
As Dispute Resolution Specialists Campbell & Co Lawyers use their skills and experience to explore resolution to all matters first before resorting to court whether it be negotiation, collaborative law, mediation or any other alternative to traditional dispute resolution.
In 2007 Barbara developed Legal Resolution Services whereby senior Family Lawyers, retired Judges and barristers throughout the country were available to evaluatively mediate matters early in proceeding. Barbara was ahead of her time as only now is the idea becoming fully accepted.
Financial abuse of the elderly, misuse of Enduring Powers of Attorney and Will disputes are a growing concern and causing much litigation. As with Family Law, mediating a settlement in Family Provision Claims is mandatory so that only the most intransigent or difficult matters end in a Court Hearing.
Ensuring that options for settling a dispute where children are involved are first explored, Barbara and Zeni often encourage clients to see an expert Family Psychologist, or other services where appropriate, before hitting the litigation button where there are few winners and the children are the biggest losers.
Barbara explained: “I studied Advanced Mediation at Bond University early this century and have been a qualified Arbitrator since 1997. Arbitration, which ends matters within a few months, with Arbitrators having only 28 days to write their Judgement, is finally being encouraged by Family Court Judges around the country for Family Law Property matters. The region desperately needs dispute resolvers and this is where we want to focus our practice. We are in the position to travel to the regions where we hope to value-add to those legal teams already there.”
“I don’t think pushing people through the Court system is really working. In ten or twenty years, that is not how we are going to be resolving disputes. Chatting with a Judge at a recent conference it was agreed cases need to be triaged and apart from serious cases with risk to children, children’s matters probably do not belong in a Court. We are going to be resolving them primarily through Dispute Resolution. There is nothing ‘alternative’ about Dispute Resolution any more.
New director Paul agrees that the way to get the best solution for the clients and in the most time efficient way possible is to use alternatives such as collaborative law, mediation or negotiation. Court should be the last solution.
“Nine times out of ten even when we go to Court these things get settled anyway – often on the steps of the Court. Why have a client spend a fortune and go through the stress of preparing affidavits, applications and everything else, if we know that if the same effort was put in negotiating out of court, as negotiating in Court, you could achieve the same, or better, outcome for the client?” Paul explained. “I have achieved successful out of the box outcomes for clients in the past which you would never get in a litigated process.”
OUR NEW DIRECTORS
Paul is an experienced lawyer who grew up locally and has a passion for Estate Planning and Wills. He has a particular interest in tailoring Wills for clients with complex circumstances such as high wealth, blended families or family members with special needs. In 2016 he was recognised by Doyles Guide as one of the leading Wills and Estates Litigation lawyers in Canberra.
Paul, along with Wills and Estate Planning, is also a recognised expert in Superannuation. Paul is often contacted by other lawyers to provide expert advice on how to deal with Superannuation in Family Law or Estate Law disputes. He is particularly passionate about Self Managed Super Funds (SMSFs) and is an accredited SMSF Association Specialist Advisor. He is also the community leader for the ACT local community of the SMSF Association. He is often asked to speak at seminars nationally on the interaction between Family Law, Estates and Superannuation. He is looking forward to the challenge of continuing to build on that practice at Campbell & Co Lawyers.
Zeni moved to Australia from Zimbabwe in 2004. She studied law and started working as a solicitor in Bunbury. In 2015, she moved to Canberra and started working at Campbell and Co. Lawyers, focusing on Family Law. Like all lawyers in the firm encouraged by Barbara to study to be at the top of their game, Zeni is completing her Masters of Law in Family Law.
“Although I settle many Family Law property matters, children’s issues are my passion and what I am concentrating on because that’s where most of the emotions are when it comes to Family Law. Having first-hand knowledge, and having that extra qualification on top of my law degree, and majoring in that area, makes you a go-to-person because you are aware of where the system is going to take you,” Zeni commented.
Zeni, who speaks Shona and is part of the local African community said: “I am honoured to have been invited to be a Director. It also shows the very large African community, many of whom have come here as refugees, that anything can be achieved with hard work. It’s a good opportunity to inspire these young children and show them it’s not about the colour of your skin, it’s what you are determined to do and you just aim for the stars.”
Alicia is in her final year of law school (taking out several university medals on the way and completing 1st class Honours). Having previously worked for Barbara, Alicia returned to Campbell & Co. Lawyers last year after a period as a para-legal in a Federal Government department. She is also a mother of three small boys and is passionate about Family Law. After nearly 10 years working in law, Alicia will continue with the firm next year as a lawyer.
“As a ‘people person’, what really appeals to me is the human relationship between lawyer and client. Campbell & Co Lawyers represent, and more importantly, help, people through some of the most difficult times of their lives,” Alicia explained. “I also appreciate the work-life balance Barbara encourages with all staff members, always permitting time for study and family responsibilities.”
Take it to the Moon
Barb said: “Along with my young team we decided to modernise. I was more than happy to take on the new look with the ideas of the younger members being seminal to such decisions. Social media, which does need some care in a law practice, is also becoming de rigour. Our website is also being totally revamped with a fresh new look.
As I wish to step back a little and enjoy my current and future grandchildren and perhaps even complete that PhD that has been a dream, I am delighted to be passing the baton and working with such a homogenous, hard-working and wonderful team.
“Campbell and Co. Lawyers now belongs to the team. They can take the firm to the moon. After a lot of hard work, I’m looking forward to watching the firm growing and becoming even more of the first stop for those we serve: our clients; who like our team work approach, and the empathetic professional focus on their matter at what is often a very difficult time in a client’s life.” Barbara concluded.
So, with a rebrand, new directors and new structure, Campbell & Co Lawyers are set for the future.