Caroline Counsel is an Accredited Family Law Specialist. Caroline is qualified as a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner and as such conducts mediations for couples going through separation and divorce. She has been in practice for in excess of 30 years and in 2004 she established her own firm in Victoria. In her work as a family lawyer, Caroline is professionally across the intersection of family violence with family law, child protection, intervention orders and criminal law. For approximately 20 of her 32 years in the law, Caroline represented children in contested family law matters which invariably featured the most dysfunctional families and family violence.
Law Institute of Victoria President
In 2011, Caroline was President of the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV). Unlike previous presidents, Caroline decided to ensure that her term of President amounted to something so prepared a 43 page treatise on the mental health and wellbeing of lawyers. This treatise anchored the presidency in with the strategic plan of the LIV. It also created a precedent for subsequent presidents to follow. Instead of simply leading the LIV and acting as chair of the 18 member representative board, subsequent presidents have been using Caroline’s example to highlight one element of the LIV’s strategic plan.
Caroline’s decision to highlight mental health and wellbeing was informed by her work in the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal where she was a member for VCAT. She continues to sit on the Council of the LIV.
Throughout her legal career Caroline has been actively involved in various Chair positions in the Family Law Section, including Chair of the Section, chair of Children and Youth Issues subcommittee, chair of the Education subcommittee and she presently holds the Family Violence Chair for the LIV. In that capacity, she gave evidence to the Family Violence Royal Commission. Caroline is a member of the inaugural Legal Admissions Board (Vic) as part of the introduction of the Uniform Profession and sits on the Legal Admissions Committee.
Ahead of the Royal Commission in relation to Family Violence in Victoria, Caroline approached the Chief Magistrate Peter Lauristen to discuss the creation of a Taskforce. Under CM Lauristen’s leadership, they founded the Victorian Family Violence Taskforce - a collaborative group of those in the Family Violence sector whose work intersects with the Courts, clients (victims and perpetrators) and Police. The members met on a regular basis in 2015 ahead of the Royal Commission in relation to Family Violence in Victoria as Caroline recognised that those in the sector were not communicating with each other and there was no mechanism which enabled those working in the area to share ideas.
After the Royal Commission, the Taskforce has continued to work and is now considered by government as its major advisory group to assist in the implementation of the Royal Commission’s 227 recommendations.
Caroline has been invited by and sits on the Victorian Government’s Family Violence Industry Taskforce – designed to develop a workforce to assist with the implementation of the Royal Commission into Family Violence’s recommendations.
Caroline is also the LIV’s representative and government appointment to sit on Victorian Legal Admissions Board (newly formed under the Uniform Legal Profession Act). Caroline continues to sit on the Admissions Committee and was also on the forerunner of this Committee.
She is the founder and chair of the LIV Bar Family Law Residential held biennially in various locations around Victoria. This is a unique form of CPD offered to family lawyers to learn in a case simulation whereby they participate and learn in teams. They witness part of a family's journey through the various family law processes including mediation and Court. The same concept was chaired by Caroline at the recent Law Council of Australia Family Law Conference in Melbourne, a conference attended by some 1,100 delegates. This commitment to providing quality Continuing Professional Development to the profession sees Caroline as a highly sought after presenter to those both within and outside the area of family law.
Caroline also sits on the Accredited Specialisation Board at the LIV and has been working with management at the Law Institute of Victoria to introduce a new stream of Accreditation to practitioners in relation to Family Violence to help lawyers better identify, understand and deal with Family Violence in their family law, criminal law, elder law or child welfare practices.
Caroline is a member of the inaugural national board of collaborative professionals – Australian Association of Collaborative Professionals and works in this alternative dispute resolution space using her family law skills and those of her mediation practice by virtue of her role as a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner.
Caroline is a frequent lecturer on many aspects of family law matters and she often features in the press, on radio and on TV commentating on developments in this area of the law.
Caroline has written articles for the Law Institute Journal, Victorian Family Lawyer and Portia (the Victorian Women Lawyers magazine). At present she is working on a book which will assist those who are separating to better understand how to minimise harm to their children and how to better use the services of professionals working in family law.