s

Jacky Campbell, April 2014

Another Strahan case—loss of legal professional privilege

Legal professional privilege is the privilege of the client, but lawyers need to ensure that the privilege is not unintentionally lost. Sometimes it is lost by waiver, but it can be lost in other ways. The Full Court of the Family Court, in another appeal in the protracted Strahan litigation, Strahan & Strahan [2013] FamCAFC 203 recently considered whether, in the circumstances of the case, the wife had lost the protection of legal professional privilege over certain documents. The wife unsuccessfully argued that it had been maintained.

Requirements for legal professional privilege

Legal professional privilege protects certain confidential communications between a legal practitioner and a client from voluntary disclosure. It is the communication rather than the document itself which is privileged. The privilege belongs to the client not the legal practitioner.[1] Communications with a person not acting in a legal capacity (eg an accountant) are not privileged unless they are acting as an agent of the lawyer or client.

The requirements to establish that legal professional privilege exists are:

  1. The communication must pass between the client and the legal practitioner;
  2. The communication must be for the dominant purpose of enabling the client to obtain legal advice or for the dominant purpose of actual or contemplated litigation;
  3. The communications must be confidential.

The common law privilege protects both oral and written communications. Communications are protected if they are for the “dominant purpose”[2] of either:

(a)        obtaining legal advice or help from a legal practitioner; or

(b)       for use in actual, pending or reasonably anticipated legal proceedings

The “dominant purpose test” has replaced the “sole purpose test” for common law privilege.

The test for determining the dominant purpose of a communication is objective; the subjective motive of the person who made the communication or prepared the document is not relevant.[3]

Statutory privilege and common law privilege are largely the same.[4]

The statutory privilege is set out in the Evidence Act 1995 (Cth). Definitions are in s 117 and include:

“confidential communication” means a communication made in such circumstances that, when it was made:

(a)     the person who made it; or

(b)     the person to whom it was made;

was under an express or implied obligation not to disclose its contents, whether or not the obligation arises under law

“confidential document” means a document prepared in such circumstances that, when it was prepared:

(a)     the person who prepared it; or

(b)     the person for whom it was prepared;

was under an express or implied obligation not to disclose its contents, whether or not the obligation arises under law.

“lawyer” includes an employee or agent of a lawyer.

Section 118 provides for protection of certain legal advice:

Evidence is not to be adduced if, on objection by a client, the court finds that adducing the evidence would result in disclosure of:

(a)        a confidential communication made between the client and a lawyer; or

(b)       a confidential communication made between 2 or more lawyers acting for the client; or

(c)        the contents of a confidential document (whether delivered or not) prepared by the client or a lawyer;

for the dominant purpose of the lawyer, or one or more of the lawyers, providing legal advice to the client.

Section 119 deals with “litigation privilege”:

Evidence is not to be adduced if, on objection by a client, the court finds that adducing the evidence would result in disclosure of:

(a)       a confidential communication between the client and another person, or between a lawyer acting for the client and another person, that was made; or

(b)       the contents of a confidential document (whether delivered or not) that was prepared;

for the dominant purpose of the client being provided with professional legal services relating to an Australian or overseas proceeding (including the proceeding before the court), or an anticipated or pending Australian or overseas proceeding, in which the client is or may be, or was or might have been, a party.

When can the privilege be lost?

Broadly, loss of legal professional privilege may occur:

  • By statute;[5]
  • By waiver;
  • By a document being circulated widely or being publicly available. The privilege only applies to confidential communications.

Often, legal professional privilege is lost because the client or their lawyer refers to the advice given to the client. Although reference can be made to the giving of advice, the substance or conclusion of the legal advice should not be stated. An example of a statement which was found to amount to implied waiver was:

“The Board’s lawyers have been instructed to vigorously defend the claim and have advised that the plaintiff’s claim will not succeed.”[6]

Loss of legal professional privilege by waiver is dealt with in s 122 of the Evidence Act. The privilege can be waived if a client knowingly and voluntarily disclosed to another person the substance of the advice.[7] A legal practitioner is considered to have the authority to waiver a client’s privilege even if acting without the client’s express instructions.[8]

If the privilege is found to have been waived, the privilege may not have been lost if one of the statutory exceptions applies. The disclosure is still protected if it was made:

(a)        in the course of making a confidential communication or preparing a confidential document; or

(b)       as a result of duress or deception; or

(c)        under compulsion of law; or

(d)       if the client or party is a body established by, or a person holding office under, an Australian law – to the Minister, or the Minister of the State or Territory, administering the law, or the part of the law, under which the body is established or the office is held.[9]

Usually, if privilege is waived with respect to one document in a sequence of documents, then the whole sequence (or class) of documents will have to be disclosed.

Confidentiality of a document can be maintained even if it is disclosed to a third party. The privilege will be maintained if it is disclosed for a limited purpose and on strict terms as to confidentiality. It may then be possible to maintain the claim of privilege against the rest of the world.

Privilege over documents can be maintained even if the disclosure was made by mistake. The High Court confirmed this in Expense Reduction Analyst Group Pty Ltd & Ors v Armstrong Strategic Management & Ors[10] subject to certain provisos. The High Court noted that in large commercial cases, mistakes are more likely to occur than in the past, presumably because of technology, the sheer size of some litigation and the use of non-lawyers to perform the task (although the High Court was not critical of the use of non-lawyers). However, courts will normally only permit an error to be corrected if a party acts promptly. If the party to whom the documents have been disclosed has been placed in a position, as a result of the disclosure, where it would be unfair to order the return of the privileged documents, relief may be refused.

“Fairness” (as defined by the High Court in Mann v Carnell[11] is the governing principle. In Hooker Corporation Ltd v Darling Harbour Authority[12] no claim of legal professional privilege was made for notes disclosed on discovery and inspected by the opponent. Rogers J found that as the failure to claim privilege was inadvertent, it was unfair to find that privilege was lost.[13]

Strahan & Strahan

In Strahan & Strahan[14] the Full Court determined the wife’s appeal against the trial Judge’s rejection of her claim of legal professional privilege in respect of the production of specific documents.

Murphy J (with whom May and Thackray JJ agreed), did not analyse each document, but his analysis of some is instructive. He said:

The table … plainly reveals … that, many, if not all, of the descriptions comprised “…mere general assertions of the purpose of creation of the documents…” That is clearly “…insufficient to discharge [the] onus…” … For example:

    • Item 245 is described as “Letter communication from my lawyer to another party bona fide for the purpose of seeking and giving professional advice.” Leaving aside the fact that that “advice privilege” apparently claimed in respect of item 245 does not cover “third party communications”, that description by no means indicates the “dominant purpose” of the communication;
    • Item 7 of Schedule B is described as a “[c]ommunication between my lawyers and another party – Australian Federal Police.” Again, leaving aside the fact that it is not apparent whether or not the “communication” was, in fact, a communication capable of attracting legal professional privilege, the description does not contain even a general assertion of the purpose. Rather, it is preceded by a generic heading which asserts that privilege is claimed on the basis that the document is a “…confidential communication between … my lawyer acting for me and other parties…” Such descriptions are patently deficient and, in the words of the Full Court of the Federal Court in Barnes [Barnes v Commissioner of Taxation [2007] FCAFC 88] “unsatisfactory”.[15]

Murphy J concluded that he “did not consider that the descriptions … meet the requirements set out in the authorities … the descriptions are, at best, general statements of purpose. In many instances there is no statement of purpose at all.”[16]

There was greater force to the rejection of the wife’s arguments that privilege had not been lost, as she had been given and had taken the opportunity to provide a more fulsome description of the documents over which privilege was claimed. She had two opportunities and there was a two month adjournment to allow for the redrafting of the wife’s claims for privilege.

The trial Judge agreed with the husband that “the description given for many of the documents, over which privilege is claimed, was not a sufficient description to establish the necessary basis” for the privilege.

Both parties referred to the decision of the South Australian Supreme Court in Kadlunga Proprietors v Electricity Trust of South Australia,[17] particularly the statement of White J that:

…it is both necessary and desirable that the description of a particular document for which protection is claimed should be sufficient to disclose quite readily (without disclosing contents) whether or not it is in fact a document to which the head of privilege relied upon can extend.[18]

Murphy J discussed the authorities and concluded:

Further, there is in my view a very significant distinction between identifying documents in a manner that would enable production and describing documents in a manner which enables a court to “…rul[e] that the privilege [claimed] does not in fact attach”, particularly where the “dominant purpose test” is “…much harder to apply than the sole purpose test..”…

Plainly, then, what might be sufficient to “…facilitate the production of a particular document…” may well be insufficient to enable the court, if required, to determine whether privilege attaches, especially where the test is now established as “dominant purpose”. Similarly, whilst “[a] court has power to examine documents in cases where there is a disputed claim, and it should not be hesitant to exercise such a power”, (Esso at [52], per Gleeson CJ, Gaudron and Gummow JJ), a court is not obliged to examine documents which are said to be subject to legal professional privilege and, indeed, there may be good reason for the trial judge not to inspect the documents (see, for example, Grant v Downes [1976] HCA 63; (1976) 135 CLR 674 at 677, per Barwick CJ).[19]

Murphy J quoted from the Full Court of the Federal Court in Barnes with respect to the claim for privilege made in the affidavit in that case.[20] This passage usefully sets out why the claim for privilege failed. In summary:

  • the claim was based on “assertions, conclusions and generalised comments”;
  • there was an absence of evidence from the originators of the documents;
  • lack of clarity as to why specific documents came into existence;
  • it was unsatisfactory that the Court was left to consider the documents on their face and determine as best as it could whether the documents were privileged;
  • “verbal formulae and bare conclusory assertions of purpose” were insufficient to substantiate a claim for privilege.       Focussed and specific evidence was required;
  • generalised evidence not challenged in cross-examination did not necessarily mean that it was accepted, particularly if it was manifestly inadequate;
  • mere general assertions of the purpose of creation of the documents were insufficient to discharge the onus to provide evidence of the thought processes behind, or the motive and purpose of advice being sought in respect of, each particular document;
  • it was insufficient to show that one purpose for creating the document was to obtain legal advice; the evidence must permit a conclusion that it was the dominant purpose.

Murphy J said that whilst the test applied in Grant was incorrect, the following statement of Stephen, Mason and Murphy JJ in Grant remained applicable:

He may succeed in achieving this objective [of successfully claiming legal professional privilege] by pointing to the nature of the documents or by evidence describing the circumstances in which they were brought into existence. But it should not be thought that the privilege is necessarily or conclusively established by resort to any verbal formula or ritual[21]

Murphy J also rejected the argument that the trial Judge ought to have inspected the documents before rejecting the claim of privilege. The wife’s counsel had not submitted that it was necessary and on one occasion rejected the need for the trial Judge to do so. There was no principle which required the trial Judge to inspect them to cure deficiencies in the description of documents alleged to be subject to privilege.

Public interest

It is in the public interest that confidential professional communications between solicitor and client are not restricted by any fear of disclosure. However, the privilege cannot extend to protect communications directed against the public interest. Where there is a competing public interest principle, legal professional privilege may or must give way. In R v Bell; Ex p Lees[22] a husband obtained an interim order for custody of a child. The wife disappeared with the child. The wife instructed a solicitor to act for her in property matters. She told the solicitor her address, but requested that it be kept confidential. The High Court unanimously held that the information given to the solicitor in those circumstances was not privileged.

Disclosure under the Family Law Rules 2004

Under the Family Law Rules 2004 disclosure is more informal than it was under the Family Law Rules 1984. Affidavits of Documents are not normally prepared although they may be relied on in large cases where disclosure is an issue in dispute.  In most cases, parties exchange lists of documents in their possession which are relevant to the proceedings.

The 2004 Rules require that the existence of privileged documents be disclosed, but they need not be produced.[23] In practice, despite the requirements under the Rules, unlike in Affidavits of Documents, parties usually do not list the documents over which privilege is claimed.

The procedure for resolving disputes over a claim for privilege is set out in r 13.13. If a party claims privilege from production of a document, another party may, by written notice challenge the claim. The party making the claim must file an affidavit setting out details of the claim within 7 days of receiving the notice. An application to the Court may be necessary to resolve the dispute.

Conclusion

Legal professional privilege must be considered in the process of disclosure in family law proceedings. The possibility that it may be lost through the actions of the client or their lawyer cannot be overlooked in even the simplest of cases. Whilst most lawyers are alert to loss of privilege by waiver, insufficient attention is given to loss by claiming it only in general terms. Broad statements stating that the documents ought to be protected are insufficient. More detailed statements are required whilst not being so detailed as to detract from the privilege being claimed.

 

 

© Copyright – Jacqueline Campbell of Forte Family Lawyers. The writer thanks Hannah Aroni for her assistance with this article.

[1]    Baker v Campbell (1983) 153 CLR 52

[2]    Esso Australia Resources Ltd v Commissioner of Taxation (Cth) (1999) 201 CLR 49. See also Grant v Downs (1976) 135 CLR 674

[3]    Esso at 66

[4]    One difference is that common law privilege, unlike s 118 Evidence Act, applies to third party communications even if the third party was not an agent of the client (Westpac Banking Corporation v 789 TEN Pty Ltd [2005] NSWCA 321 at 29; Commissioner of Taxation v Pratt Holdings Pty Ltd [2005] FCA 1247 at 138-8)

[5]    For example, offences under Commonwealth taxation legislation

[6]    Switchcorp Pty Ltd v Multimedia Ltd [2005] VSC 4235

[7]    Section 122(1) Evidence Act

[8]    Esso at 79

[9]    Section 122(2) Evidence Act

[10]    [2013] HCA 46; (2013) 303 ALR 199

[11]    (1999) 201 CLR 1

[12]    (1987) 9 NSWLR 538

[13]    At para 49

[14]    (2013) FLC 93-570

[15]    At para 33

[16]    At para 32

[17]    (1985) 39 SASR 410

[18]    At 414. Although it was held in the Queensland Court of Appeal decision of Interchase Corporation Limited (in liq) v Grosvenor Hill (Queensland) Pty Ltd (No 2) [1999] 1 Qd R 163 that Kadlunga was wrongly decided, this passage appears to be correct. Both cases were, however, decided prior to the High Court decision in Esso Australia Resources Ltd v Commissioner of Taxation (Cth)[1999]HCA 67; (1999) 201 CLR 49 where the High Court rejected the "sole purpose test".

[19]    Paras 27-8

[20]    Barnes v Commissioner of Taxation [2007] FCAFC 88 - at paras 16, 18

[21]    This passage appears in para 28 of Grant v Downs. A transcription error has been corrected in this article

[22]    (1980) 146 CLR 141. See also s121(2) Evidence Act 1995

[23]    Rule 13.12(a)

Jacky Campbell

Partner

University qualifications

Master of Laws, Monash University

Bachelor of Laws, Monash University

Bachelor of Arts, Monash University

Graduate Diploma of Professional Writing, Deakin University

Other qualifications
Accredited Family Law Specialist,
Law Institute of Victoria

Email Jacky Campbell
jcampbell@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

Connect on LinkedIn

Publications
To read Jacky Campbell’s articles and papers click here.

In 2020, Jacky was recognised as a leading family lawyer in Melbourne by Doyle’s Guide to the Australian Legal Market as well as one of Melbourne’s leading family lawyers in High-value and Complex Property matters, and a recommended lawyer in parenting matters. Jacky was also a recommended lawyer in the Doyle’s leading family and divorce lawyers in Australia. Jacky writes extensively on complex aspects of family law and her up-to-date knowledge means that she is able to provide accurate information about the law. She combines this with offering strategic advice to clients and guidance as to the best approach to take in their particular circumstances.

Jacky wrote her Masters thesis on the relationship of bankruptcy and family law. She continues to have a special interest in matters involving bankruptcy, insolvency, liquidation and receivership.

Jacky received the Law Institute of Victoria Rogers Legal Writing Award 2004—for the article “Splitting the Super…and Selling the Home”. She is experienced with complex superannuation interests such as defined benefit funds and self managed superannuation funds.

Jacky is the consultant editor of Wolters Kluwer/CCH Australian Family Law and Practice and contributing author to Wolters Kluwer/CCH Australian Family Law and Practice to the Property, Spousal Maintenance, Financial Agreements, Maintenance Agreements, Procedure and Precedents tabs. She writes several chapters of the Wolters/Kluwer CCH Australian Master Family Law Guide, and is the author of the family law chapters in the Thomson-Reuters Australian Financial Planning Handbook and in the CCH Australian Master Superannuation Guide.

Jacky is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, a board member of the Asia Pacific Chapter of that Academy, and an Associate of the American Bar Association. She acts for many clients who are overseas or where there is an international element such as overseas assets and international child abduction under the Hague Convention. She is also experienced in Australian and overseas surrogacy arrangements and in disputes about the role of a sperm donor. She is a member of the Maintenance and Property Committee of the Family Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria, the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia and Victorian Women Lawyers.

Jacky is keen to assist clients to resolve matters before trial through alternative dispute resolution processes including mediation. She is a trained arbitrator and is an arbitrator with The Alternative Courtroom.

Wendy Kayler-Thomson

PARTNER

University qualifications

Master of Laws, Monash University

Bachelor of Laws, University of Melbourne

Bachelor of Commerce, University of Melbourne

Other qualifications
Accredited Family Law Specialist, Law Institute of Victoria

Email Wendy Kayler-Thomson
wkaylerthomson@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

Connect on LinkedIn

Wendy Kayler-Thomson is a partner of Forte Family Lawyers and has practised as a lawyer specialising in family law for more than 25 years. Wendy is recognised as one of Melbourne’s leading family lawyers in Doyle’s 2020 Guide to the Australian Legal Market.

Wendy is the Immediate Past Chair of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia, the peak body for Australian family lawyers, and has been a member of the Executive of the Family Law Section for more than 10 years. The Family Law Section is regularly consulted by the Federal government and the Courts about changes to family law and court procedures. As a result, Wendy is able to offer her clients the most up to date advice on family law and strategies to take advantage of future changes.

Wendy’s time as Chair of the Family Law Section (from 2016 to 2018) coincided with a period of great controversy and unprecedented attention on the reform of family law and the family law system. This included the Victorian Royal Commission into family violence, the Federal Parliamentary enquiry into the family law system and family violence, the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Family Law Review and the Federal Government’s proposal to restructure the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court.

Wendy was a member of the Advisory Committee to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Family Law Review, the most comprehensive review of family law and the family law sector in 40 years.

Wendy was also a member of the Advisory Committee to the Law Council of Australia’s 2018 Justice Project, chaired by former High Court of Australia Chief Justice, the Hon. Robert French. The Justice Project is one of the most comprehensive, national reviews into the state of access to justice in Australia in the past 40 years.

Wendy develops close and trusted relationships with her clients and the wide network of professionals that refer her work. Wendy’s approach is tailored to each individual client’s needs, recognising that for most people, the breakdown of a relationship is one of their most stressful and challenging experiences. Wendy brings a high attention to detail, strategic advice and a depth of expert knowledge about family law. Wendy has a commercial background and has acted for many clients with complex financial arrangements. She works closely with her clients’ accountants and other professional advisors to ensure that all the complexities of those arrangements, including tax impacts and restructuring, are dealt with as part of any settlement.

Wendy has undertaken extensive training in a wide range of social sciences that impact on families and their children, including family and domestic violence, parental alienation, personality disorders, drug and alcohol addiction and high conflict. Wendy’s clients benefit from her knowledge of the most up to date approaches by child psychologists and other experts to managing the post-separation care arrangements of children. Wendy has particular expertise in cases where one parent wants to relocate with the children interstate or overseas.

Wendy is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Family Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria, the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, the Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators and Victorian Women Lawyers.

Jemma Mackenzie

Senior Associate

University qualifications

Bachelor of Laws (Hons) Monash University
Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Monash University

Email Jemma Mackenzie
jmackenzie@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

Other qualifications
Accredited Family Law Specialist,
Law Institute of Victoria

Connect on LinkedIn

Jemma is a Senior Associate at Forte Family Lawyers. She has worked predominantly in family law since being admitted to legal practice in December 2009.

Jemma obtained Specialist Accreditation as a Family Lawyer from the Law Institute of Victoria in 2015. Accreditation recognises the high level of knowledge and practical skills Jemma brings to each family law matter.

Jemma is mindful that the breakdown of a marriage or de facto relationship can be a stressful and often overwhelming experience for clients. She works with her clients to identify appropriate pathways for resolving both parenting and property matters.

Jemma prides herself on her ability to effectively communicate what can be complex legal principles and to provide realistic, up to date and accurate legal advice at each stage of a matter.

Jemma has experience in a wide variety of family law matters including division of property, maintenance (including urgent applications), Financial Agreements (including Agreements made prior to marriage), care and living arrangements for children, child support and family violence – including Intervention Order proceedings.

Prior to joining Forte Family Lawyers, Jemma worked in a Bayside family law firm and a boutique firm in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. She has conducted litigation in both the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne and interstate.

In addition to her daily work with clients, Jemma has made presentations to financial advisors and medico-legal professionals about the family law system in Australia and what clients should know about family law prior to separating.

Jemma is a member of Victorian Women Lawyers, the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia and the Family Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria.

Kristy Haranas

Senior Associate

University qualifications

Bachelor of Laws, James Cook University

Email Kristy Haranas
kharanas@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

Other qualifications
Accredited Family Law Specialist,
Law Institute of Victoria

Connect on LinkedIn

Kristy is a Senior Associate at Forte Family Lawyers. Kristy is an Accredited Family Law Specialist as recognised by the Law Institute of Victoria. Accredited Specialists are required to maintain a high degree of continuing professional development to ensure their advice is based on the most current legal principles and to the highest possible standard. Kristy was recognised in the 2020 edition of Doyles Guide as a Family Law Rising Star.

Kristy has undertaken further tertiary study in the area of family law and has a Masters of Applied Law (Family Law) from the College of Law.

Prior to joining the firm, Kristy worked in a range of practice areas including several years in family law in Queensland. Kristy also worked a lawyer for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission on large-scale financial investigations. During her time at AISC Kristy gained valuable commercial experience and developed a high level of attention to detail which she now applies to her work in family law financial cases.

Kristy has a wide range of experience in different areas of family law including parenting issues, property settlements (including complex matters with multifaceted trust/corporate structures), financial agreements, child support and family violence cases.

Kristy prides herself on building strong relationships with clients from the outset. Kristy recognises that for most people, the breakdown of a relationship can result in stress, conflict and confusion. As a result, Kristy ensures that clients receive not only strategic and commercially focused legal advice, but empathy and compassion. Kristy has strong communication skills which she uses to confidently guide clients through what can sometimes feel like a complicated legal system.

Kristy is a member of the Courts Practice Committee of the Family Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria which provides her with valuable insight into recent developments in the Family Law Courts. Kristy is also a member of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia and Victorian Women Lawyers.

Matthew Beckmans

Senior Associate

University qualifications

Bachelor of Laws, University of Western Sydney

Email Matthew Beckmans
mbeckmans@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

Connect on LinkedIn

Matthew commenced his legal career practising in a medium-sized rural law firm. Matthew is able to draw on his broad experiences over a number of practice areas, prior to practising exclusively in family law, to offer clients a well-rounded approach to tactically resolve complex legal issues.

Matthew has developed a special interest in complex disputes involving companies and trusts, insolvency and bankruptcy, taxation, and international/domestic relocation.  He also has a particular expertise in child support.

Matthew is aware and mindful of the financial challenges and restraints when attempting to resolve family law disputes, and sets out to achieve negotiated and cost effective outcomes which avoid court where possible. Matthew recognises the emotional issues attached to the breakdown of a relationship, and draws on his strong communication skills in demystifying the family law process, and to identify and explain possible options for resolution in a concise manner.

Matthew was a member of the steering committee of the Riverina Family Law Pathways Network, secretary of the South West Slopes Law Society, and a mock trial magistrate for the Law Society of New South Wales.

Prior to practising law, Matthew was rookie listed by the Sydney Swans, where he enjoyed a brief career.  He now plays for the Monash Blues in the VAFA.

Matthew is a member of the Family Law Sections of the Law Council of Australia and the Law Institute of Victoria.  He is on the Court Practice Committee of the Family Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria.

Vinh Nguyen

Associate

University qualifications

Bachelor of Laws, Deakin University

Bachelor of Commerce, Deakin University

Email Vinh Nguyen
vnguyen@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

Connect on LinkedIn

Vinh first worked at Forte Family Lawyers as part of his Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice at the Leo Cussen Institute for Law in 2017. He joined Forte Family Lawyers as a lawyer after his admission into legal practice in October 2017 and has, since then, worked solely in family law.

Prior to his admission as a lawyer, Vinh worked as a paralegal in a community legal centre and in a property and commercial law firm, where he gained valuable experience in property transactions.

Vinh is a member of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia, the Law Institute of Victoria and the Asian Australian Lawyers’ Association. Vinh also volunteers at the Darebin Community Legal Centre.

Vinh is fluent in Vietnamese.

 

 

 

Natasha Mastroianni

Associate

University Qualifications

Bachelor of Laws (Hons), Latrobe University

Bachelor of Arts, Latrobe University

Masters of Applied Law (Family Law), College of Law

Email Natasha Mastroianni

nmastroianni@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

 

 

Connect on LinkedIn

Natasha Mastroianni has experience in a range of family law matters, including property settlements, financial agreements, parenting matters (including interstate and overseas relocation issues), child support and intervention order proceedings.

Natasha was admitted to practice in August 2014 and commenced her career in a generalist practice where she gained experience in family law, property law, wills and estates. Natasha worked in a boutique family law practice prior to commencing at Forte in February 2020.

Natasha has a Masters of Applied Law (Family Law) from the College of Law and speaks conversational Italian.

Having practical experience in other areas of law assists Natasha to understand the interrelated issues involved in her clients’ family law matters. She regularly appears on behalf of clients at Duty List Hearings and other Court events in the Federal Circuit Court, Family Court of Australia and the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria. Natasha also appears as a solicitor agent for interstate or rural practitioners when required.

Natasha prides herself on being able to understand and manage her clients’ expectations whilst providing realistic and practical advice. She acts with empathy and compassion when striving to achieve the best possible results for her clients.

Natasha is a volunteer lawyer with the Women’s Legal Service and is the Vice President of the Northern Suburbs Law Association. She is also a member of the Courts Practice Committee of the Family Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria, the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia and Victorian Women Lawyers.

Mark Di Donato

Lawyer

University Qualifications

Bachelor of Criminology and Justice, Navitas College of Public Safety

Juris Doctor, Monash University

Email Mark Di Donato

mdidonato@fortefamilylawyers.com.au

Connect on LinkedIn

Mark started work at Forte Family Lawyers as part of his Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice at the Leo Cussen Institute for Law in 2019. Mark was later admitted into the legal practice in September 2019 and transitioned into a lawyer role with Forte Family Lawyers in February 2020.

Prior to his admission as a lawyer, Mark volunteered as a paralegal at Darebin Community Legal Centre and interned at a commercial law firm, where he gained valuable experience in property transactions and in intellectual property. Mark also completed a Professional Placement whilst completing his law degree where he provided legal advice on various family law matters through the Monash Law Clinic.

Mark is a member of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia, and the Law Institute of Victoria. Mark volunteers at the Darebin Community Legal Centre and has provided advice on a range of issues including family law.