Part of the reason I’m having lunch with 500 strangers in five years is so I can better understand human behaviour. Dan Bottrell does something similar for a living.

Dan, the 235th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, is a family lawyer. That means he regularly meets new people, who need advice about separations, divorces and parenting issues. No two days are the same because no two cases are the same, as every client’s personality and relationship are unique. That gives Dan an insight into human behaviour that most people don’t have.

When Dan was studying law, many of the disciplines, like commercial law and property law, seemed dry. But family law was something he instantly connected with. 

Coincidentally, when Dan did his clerkship at a Gold Coast law firm, he was initially put into the family law part of the business. When it came time to rotate into the firm’s other practice areas, none of the other clerks wanted a tour of duty in family law, so he ended up staying, and specialising, in the very area he most wanted to be. Dan has practised family law ever since.

Five years ago, Dan co-founded his own firm, BGM Family Lawyers, which forced him to grapple with his own psychology. Did he have the drive and risk appetite to give up a good, secure job for the stress and uncertainty of entrepreneurship? It turned out he did. After struggling for clients in the early days, Dan and his partners have built BGM into a thriving, successful business.

If I was going through a divorce or custody dispute, I’d want a lawyer who was trustworthy and empathetic. Dan is very friendly and an excellent listener, so I know I’d feel comfortable in his presence.

In other words, to be a good family lawyer, you need to have as much interest in human behaviour as you do legal statutes.