Expert Advice

Stars align to revive prominent firm’s family law practice

John Thistleton2 October 2020
Haydn Marsh standing outside Sneddon Hall & Gallop office.

Haydn Marsh has a team of family law specialists at Snedden Hall & Gallop. Photo: Supplied.

Haydn Marsh arrived at Snedden Hall & Gallop with exceptional experience when he re-established the specialist field of family law to the prominent Canberra practice.

Not too long before Haydn’s entry into the legal industry, Snedden Hall & Gallop had decided, for various reasons, to cease its family law practice. By the time he arrived at the firm, a number of stars had already aligned in his legal career to present him opportunities there.

Haydn’s career sprung swiftly from the starting blocks. His honours thesis on family law at the Australian National University won him the prestigious Blackburn Medal and set him on track to enter the field in front of his peers. After graduating, he landed the job of legal associate to the Deputy Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia.

“This was a fantastic learning experience while I was still relatively fresh out of university,” he says. “It thrust me straight into family law, being able to sit in with the judge and hear some of the best barristers in the country arguing out complex family law cases that were listed before the court.”

More roles followed. Haydn worked as a deputy registrar in the ACT Magistrates Court in the family violence jurisdiction, hearing from people fleeing serious violence.

“It was important to me to make sure that people fleeing serious violence were being heard by the court, and that their experience was being appropriately respected,” he says. “It was challenging, but important work.”

Haydn also worked at a large international law firm dealing with weighty contract matters, employment law and general litigation, adding to his experience across the wider legal industry.

“Doing contract law gives you good grounding in lots of different areas of the law – it regularly pops up,” he says. “It was a good learning opportunity to get across complex financial matters.”

Haydn worked as a family lawyer at another specialist firm for several years before looking for a new challenge.

Many prominent legal practitioners in the ACT have developed their careers at Snedden Hall & Gallop since its inception in 1962. Haydn had a conversation with managing director Richard Faulks about restarting the firm’s family law services after a long absence.

“Richard discussed it as an opportunity to build up the practice at the firm and have a little more say in the way I wanted to focus the practice under my guidance,” he says.

Now a senior associate, Haydn has developed a team of four specialists within Snedden Hall & Gallop’s family law practice. He finds helping people through a difficult time rewarding.

“Often clients are at a low point in their lives, emotionally coming out of long-term relationships, trying to get advice so they can move on,” he says. “With considered advice and guidance, many cases can be resolved quickly so clients can turn over a new page and start afresh.

“If people have children, particularly young children, often the most important thing for them is to make sure they have appropriate arrangements in place for the kids. On the other side, for property, it is crucial to ensure that parties to a separation are securing their financial position so we can then act quickly to start negotiations towards a settlement.”

Haydn says the way his team practices family law is important to him – to focus on achieving outcomes for clients through negotiation and alternative forms of dispute resolution, such as mediation, rather than going to court.

“One of the difficulties facing family law jurisdiction across the country is a severe lack of resourcing for the courts and for judges,” he says. “Consequently, it is crucial for people entering the family law space to understand how a lack of funding can cause significant delays in the court process.

“We try to help our clients reach agreements with their former partner without the need to involve the court. Unfortunately, some matters cannot be resolved through negotiation and need to go to court. Having the chance to advocate on behalf of our clients in court is rewarding, and it brings me a sense of satisfaction.

“We prepare our court matters in a way that permits us to be confident in the arguments we make for our clients.”

Born and raised in Canberra, Haydn enjoys being close to his family, going to cafes on the weekend, and the ACT’s easy access to nature.

“I feel in Canberra, as opposed to Sydney or Melbourne, you can go for a bushwalk, even in one of the suburbs where there are walking trails close by,” he says.

Original Article published by John Thistleton on The RiotACT.

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