Meet Vanessa Balnaves, our family law specialist, her compassion and commitment to providing practical advice makes her a favourite of our clients.
When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?
Legal frameworks affect every aspect of our lives, whether you’re buying or selling something; being treated fairly at work; disputing a decision made by a government department; or working out what to do when your relationship ends. It can be quite difficult to know what your legal rights and obligations might be. I have always been interested in helping people and being a lawyer is an opportunity to do that in a way which can make a very big difference in people’s lives. It might be simply explaining to someone how the law works and how their problem can be solved; or it could be the more complex role of advocating for a person when they are vulnerable and unable to access the law themselves.
You’ve travelled overseas, do you think that world experience has been beneficial in your career?
Having an opportunity to travel overseas, or anywhere in Australia really, has got to be beneficial for anyone. It makes you think about your role in the world and enables you to see why other people might hold different points of view to yours.
Travelling overseas has also brought me into contact with a diversity of cultures and I have seen how people’s lives and decision making are influenced by their economic, cultural and social circumstances. People sometimes are hesitant to pursue their legal rights because of cultural influences and it can be useful to have an understanding of those other factors when you are advising a client.
What made you want to concentrate on Family Law?
Family Law covers such a range of areas. When a relationship breaks down for example, people need advice about their financial situation and if they have children, the arrangements for them. Property settlements can involve commercial matters, bankruptcy, debt recovery, real estate, deceased estates, businesses and Trust structures. But it’s not always about the end of a relationship. I also help clients starting out together or repartnering, reviewing their financial circumstances and how they might be affected by a relationship, as well as what can be done to protect their interests or those of other family members who might have helped them financially.
Your favourite thing about working for Johnston Withers?
I really like JW’s involvement in regional areas. I am originally from the country and it’s great that we have offices around the State and now in Murray Bridge. Our Family Law team is spread across those offices so we can deliver solutions directly to clients. Although Family Law is the same in Adelaide as it is in Whyalla, our clients might have different priorities in each place and we can respond to those as needed. But I can’t answer that question without also saying that the lawyers and support staff here at JW are pretty good as well!
You have a pretty high pressure job, and caseload, what does down time look like for you?
Everyone’s life is hectic and filled with competing demands, so it’s important to take the time to look after yourself and those around you. How to do that is always a challenge!
As a firm we pride ourselves on our progressive, personal and professional approach to all areas of law.