BEN Hoffman, lawyer by day and national tug-of-war champion by, well, also day.
With 14 years of practice under his belt, Ben has taken 2020 by the horns and started his own legal practice, Hoffman & Associates, focusing predominately on family law and criminal law.
Ben has been humbled by how many clients have already sought him out and said he tries to take the most pragmatic path for his clients to resolve their matters as efficiently as possible.
“It’s very much being the family doctor when you’re someone’s lawyer, they do like the certainty…so people do seek you out,” said Ben.
“I’ve just been humbled by people who have been actively looking for me,” he said.
“It’s a good business model to build upon word of mouth referrals and you’re not going to get that if you’re billing unreasonably or dragging matters out, you need to look after people,” he said.
“I grew up in Maitland, my dad’s a house painter, my mum’s a secretary, I know how it works; money has to come from somewhere.
“I’m quite interested in alternative methods of dispute resolution, whether it be mediation in family law matters, direct negotiations between other solicitors or charge negotiations with the police will often result in a quicker, cheaper outcome for clients…So far so good, I’m really busy,” he said.
“I’ve always practiced in the country…I’m based in Muswellbrook, but my first matter was in Tamworth and I’ve already been to Newcastle and am prepared to go anywhere in between, as the work takes me,” Ben Hoffman said.
Making the time
Ben has worked in the Hunter since 2011 and prior to that was at Moree for five years.
He started his own practice to make more time for his family and of course, his tug-of-war team.
“I wanted to run my own practice for a long time, I also have a young family and I also like the flexibility being able to pursue my sporting goals, I’m in the Australian tug of war team,” Ben said.
“I’ve been competing in tug of war at a national level since 1997…I’ve been to Ireland, England, Switzerland, Sweden and South Africa for tug of war,” he said.
“My baby is my last child, I have four kids, a one year old, four year old, thirteen and sixteen year old, so I just want to enjoy it,” he said.
“My dad often says to me, because I’m the eldest of four boys, he regrets not spending as much time with us until we were teenagers but he had to work and I don’t want to say the same thing in 15 years time,” said Ben Hoffman.
Family and criminal law hand-in-hand
Hoffman and Associates focuses on both family and criminal law, including AVO and traffic matters.
Ben said most criminal solicitors also practice family law and vice versa, because “they seem to go together”.
“It is really common in the profession to do family law and crime because there is a a lot of change over, a lot of criminal matters have their genesis in family law, a lot of family law matters have their genesis in a sudden domestic violence pattern or allegation,” Ben said.
“The core skill is advocacy, being able to argue or submit in Court and that’s the hard part,” he said.
“For every 100 people that come into a family law matter only two percent will go all the way to a trial, most of them can be resolved somewhere along the path and I ideally look for those opportunities because it can be tens of thousands of dollars and months of difference,” he said.
Ben said the art of tug-of-war and practicing law are similar, when it comes to preparation.
“Preparation, training, the standing up in court or competition at the world championships, it’s a very small sliver of the time you’re actually putting into what you’re doing,” Ben said.
“All of the countless days of preparation for trial, client consultation, gathering evidence, drafting affidavits and what you do in court is built upon all that work your do under the surface,” he said.
“Same as with competing at the nationals or the worlds, it only goes for one hour when there’s been two years of consistent training and strategics to get to that one hour, in that way they’re similar, you’ve got to prepare,” he said.
Adapting to COVID-19
The court system has had to rapidly adapt to COVID-19 restrictions since the beginning of the pandemic.
Ben Hoffman said there had been drastic changes, but by “embracing the technology world that we live in” it can really help country clients.
“If you told me in January that by the middle of the year I’d be running Federal Supreme Court Family trials for two days via video link, I would have laughed and said no judge would allow that and now the judges actively push that,” Ben said.
“It’s all different, even in these local courts it’s much more common not to have your defendant before the court on anything absent to a hearing or a sentence so long as you’ve been instructed, where as previously they had to attend almost every mention whether they’re represented or not,” he said.
“It feels like we’ve had a decade of change in six months,” he said.
“This may well drive the change in the departments to funding better AVL and digital alternatives,” Ben said.
“I’ve recently had a district court appeal via the web and that would have saved my client over $1,000, just by having to physically drive to Newcastle to appear at the district court,” he said.
“I think it will be a good thing and it’s one of the reasons that has slightly driven me to go out on my own as I can cover more matters by appearing electronically if necessary,” he said.
If you would like to speak to Ben about a legal matter, book an appointment here.