How to Choose the Right Institutional Abuse Lawyer: A Comprehensive Guide

victim of abuse


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How to Choose the Right Institutional Abuse Lawyer: A Comprehensive Guide

It’s not often that you need a personal injury lawyer, but when you do, it is important that you pick the right one.

Individuals who have survived abuse have the potential to pursue a civil claim for compensation or seek redress for the abuse they have endured. There are various alternatives available to them, and it is essential that survivors weigh up the advantages and disadvantages.

Getting advice from an experienced abuse lawyer who knows how to help abuse survivors and understands the complex claims process is very important. Without their advice, it can be extremely hard to navigate and make an informed decision on pursuing a claim for compensation or an application to the national redress scheme.

It requires great bravery for survivors of abuse to come forward and seek legal advice. Additionally, finding a reputable lawyer who genuinely cares about their client’s best interests can be an incredibly daunting task.

This guide will help survivors make the right decision when engaging a law firm.

Engaging a ‘Middle Man’ to help find a law firm for your abuse claim

Unfortunately, some groups or organisations specifically target survivors of abuse and claim to help by connecting them with a law firm. This is called claim farming or claim harvesting.

These groups are not always looking out for the best interests of survivors. They often receive a lump sum referral fee payment from the law firm for providing the personal details of the survivor.

They are essentially connecting you with the law firm that will pay them the highest referral fee, regardless of whether the lawyer has experience or the required expertise in abuse law or representing abuse survivors.

Steps in choosing the best institutional abuse law firm

Spend time researching

Choosing the right institutional abuse lawyer is essential to a successful outcome.

Spend time researching law firms on Google and other search engines. Make sure the law firm specialises in abuse law.

Spend time reading the law firm’s case studies  so you can satisfy yourself that they have experience in similar abuse compensation claims.

Make sure the law firm have a specialist institutional abuse lawyer who practices exclusively in abuse law.

When looking for a lawyer for your abuse claim, it’s best to choose a specialised lawyer who has experience working with clients who have experienced abuse. These lawyers understand the intricate legal and emotional complexities involved in such cases and are better equipped to handle the sensitive nature of the situation. They also have experience working with survivors and their families, ensuring that their needs are met throughout the legal process. By selecting a law firm with specific expertise in abuse law, you can be confident that your case will be handled with the utmost skill, sensitivity, and professionalism.

Have you been referred to the law firm?

If you were referred to a law firm by someone else or a middle man, you should inquire directly with the law firm to see if there is any referral payments or financial arrangements between the firm and the individual who provided the referral.

If any financial arrangements are in place, you should be very cautious in engaging the firm. Reputable firm’s do not accept referrals from claim farmers or organisations acting as a middle man.

Contacting the Law Firm

The first step is to call the law firm.  This will give you an insight on how you will be treated throughout the claim process. Here are some key signs to look out for:

  • Did you speak directly with the lawyer who will be handling your case, or did you speak with a junior staff member or a secretary?
  • Did you feel comfortable communicating with the lawyer?
  • Was the lawyer empathetic towards your situation and attentive to your inquiries?
  • Did the lawyer demonstrate that they value your call, or did they treat you as just another client?
  • Will the lawyer be accessible, or are they too preoccupied to listen to your concerns and questions?
  • Do you have trust in the lawyer?
  • Will the lawyer provide you with regular updates on the progress of your case?

No win No Fee Institutional Abuse Lawyers

Nearly every law firm will act for you on a No Win No Fee basis, but does this mean they are all the same? The Simple answer is NO.

If you need an abuse lawyer, make sure you ask the following questions and understand what you are signing up to prior to engaging them.

Some hidden fee traps charged by many institutional abuse lawyers are:

Using litigation lenders to fund disbursements.

Many firms use third parties (litigation lenders) to fund disbursements, such as medical reports for cases. These lenders often charge very high commercial interest rates which you will have to pay when your claim is settled.

Some law firms obtain bank loans to fund disbursements but will then charge exorbitant interest rates to earn a substantial profit on funding the disbursements. You

It is essential that you ask the law firm what percentage of interest is charged on their disbursements, and you should be very cautious about engaging a firm that uses third parties or litigation lenders.

Charging an uplift fee on abuse claims.

An uplift fee is a fee that may be charged when taking on a personal injury claim under a ‘No Win No Fee’ basis. Certain sexual abuse law firms may charge a 25% uplift fee on their professional fees, which you will have to pay when your claim is resolved. Therefore, it is essential to ask the firm if they will charge an uplift fee.

If the law firm charges an uplift fee on abuse claims, it is best to avoid engaging them. 

Charging Staged professional fees

It’s important to have a clear understanding of how you will be charged professional fees for your institutional abuse claim, as the cost of litigation can be overwhelming. Ideally, fees should be charged based on the amount of work that is completed, rather than in stages.

Be wary of institutional abuse lawyer that charges ‘staged fees,” where they provide an amount for each step of the process, regardless of the amount of work completed on your claim.

While it may seem reassuring to know how much each stage will cost, every case is unique, and there’s no guarantee as to how much each stage should actually cost.

If the firm you’re considering charges staged fees, it’s best to look for a different firm to engage.

Percentage of fees

Some institutional abuse lawyers promise to never charge more than a certain percentage of your settlement in professional fees. While this may seem reassuring, some law firms use this promise to overcharge abuse survivors and charge the maximum percentage in every single claim, regardless of the amount of work done.

Therefore, if the firm offers maximum percentage fees, you should not engage them.

National Redress Applications

There is no reason that you should pay a institutional abuse lawyer to complete a national redress application for you. There is a service called Knowmore that can assist with redress applications free of charge.

The abuse team at Stacks Goudkamp can refer you directly to Knowmore, a free legal service who can assist with your redress application.

Deciding to pursue compensation for sexual abuse is a significant step, both financially and emotionally. Therefore, it’s important to choose the right lawyer to avoid causing additional stress and potential risks to the outcome of your case.

If you believe you are being overcharged by your institutional abuse lawyer you should make a complaint to the Office of the NSW Legal Services Commissioner.

How can Stacks Goudkamp Help?

The team at Stacks Goudkamp are advocates for survivors of institutional abuse and do so with compassion, persistence, and clear communication. We strive to ensure cases are dealt with efficiently to guarantee a timely outcome. Our experience in litigation ensures that survivors of institutional abuse receive damages according to law.

At Stacks Goudkamp, we are empathetic of the circumstances as to why our help is needed and feel fortunate to assist survivors of institutional abuse.

Written by Alessandra Pettit 

Alessandra Pettit (Ali) is a specialist institutional abuse lawer and practices exclusively in this area. She has acted for survivors from all walks of life and continues to get outstanding results for her clients. She is compassionate, thorough, professional and kind, always ensuring that her clients feel supported and confident throughout the legal process.

If you or a loved one are a survivor of institutional abuse, you may be entitled to compensation.  For more information and to arrange a free, no-obligation conference with Ali, please call Stacks Goudkamp on (02) 8294 7711, or alternatively make an online enquiry.


I could write a book as to how the last 4 years would have been different if not for Tom and his team.
The support, assistance, advice from the first conversation till even after the settlement was second to none from the team at Stacks Goudkamp.
Four years on and after many downs, my children and I have our lives back.
We are unable to THANK YOU enough, but know that you have changed our lives for the better in so many ways since the accident.