Written on the 31 March 2015 by Jenna Rathbone


IT is Brett Hartley's passion for helping people achieve fair outcomes and giving them the opportunity to move on with their life that has seen him spend 26 years in family law.

His firm, Hartley Healy (previously Hartley Family Law Specialists) was one of the first Brisbane law firms to exclusively practice in family law and has expanded its practice to 10 family law solicitors, five of which are Accredited Specialist in Family Law.

Hartley says his approach to family law is a dedication to settling family matters out of court and advocates for the use of mediation on matters to limit emotional and financial stress.

Q and A with Brett Hartley

What prompted your interest in family law and why are you so passionate about this area?

I became interested in family law because it is an area of law that provides one on one interaction with members of the public.  It is "grass roots" law in that you are dealing with real people in real life situations.  I have always been passionate about this area of the law as it is more complex than people realise it to be and the more skills and knowledge you develop, the more you can help people achieve fair outcomes and move on with their lives.

What have been some of the challenges you have faced working in the legal profession, particularly working as a family lawyer?

In my view, family lawyers are generally highly skilled lawyers at dealing with conflict.  That has probably been the biggest challenge.  You need to be able to advise your client in an objective fashion but at the same time, be considerate to their needs and concerns.  You have to keep your emotions out of the dispute and sometimes in difficult children's' matters for instance, it becomes a challenge to do that. 

What have been some of your biggest highlights and achievements?

My biggest highlight as a family lawyer has been starting my own firm and then growing that (with the assistance of Joe Healy) to the stage where it provides jobs and opportunities for aspiring family lawyers and support staff.

What do you attribute the growth and success of your business to?

Attention to detail and expertise. In family law I have always tried to educate myself and tackle all tough areas and difficult issues that are at first, somewhat challenging to understand.  As a family lawyer, one touches upon many different areas of the law.  To be a very good family lawyer, you have to learn about those areas and you cannot shy away from them.  For example, if you get given a valuation of a business, for example, from a forensic accountant, then you need to be able to read, understand and question that report.  It is not good enough just to accept it you have to make yourself skilled in that area to at least be able to understand and make sure that your client is not disadvantaged in some way.  I think that if you try to be the best in your field (even if you do not get there) then you will always have success. 

What advice would you give to aspiring lawyers and those entering the legal profession?

Specialise in an area and be good at it.  Take your time to decide which area of law you like and how, where and what opportunities exist for that area of law in the market place.  Do not confine your thinking to just working for law firms.  Find an area of law that you like, which you believe you can became good at and enjoy working in.  As you grow, use your knowledge and skills to place yourself in rewarding work wherever that may be or whoever that may be with.

Author: Jenna Rathbone
About: Jenna Rathbone is a Queensland-based journalist who writes on a range of issues including business and property affairs and social issues.
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