Why did you choose to practice Family Law?
The law can be complicated and clients are sometimes dealing with the hardest times and biggest transitions they’ll go through in their lives. When families confront such important issues as divorce or child custody, they need someone to guide and advocate for them through the legal process. I like using my training and talents to be that guide for my clients. I sometimes see people who are struggling with a problem that could have been avoided – they neglected to meet with an attorney early in the process and made decisions that had unfortunate repercussions. For example, the court does not have the power to retroactively modify child support. So, if the payor loses a job through no fault of their own, or if they are in an automobile accident and can’t work for a period of time, they might struggle to continue making support payments as long as they can, but they usually fall behind and get in trouble in court. Once an arrearage accumulates, the money is owed. The court doesn’t have the power to change that. If they had known to file a Motion to Amend Support as soon as the setback happened, the court could have temporarily lowered their support obligation until they could resume employment.
Why did you get into law practice?
I enjoy looking at a problem, trying to see what the best possible solutions are, and figuring out creative solutions when necessary. The law frequently is not clear. People often assume that it is black and white, but there is a lot of gray. There is a lot of room for argument, which is when lawyers are often most helpful. That’s the part that I really find fulfilling: advocating for clients so that they obtain the best possible result.
How do you see your practice changing and is there anything that benefits the client in these changes?
There are more resources available online. In many ways, I think that is good for clients because they can educate themselves and when they do meet with an attorney, they can ask better questions. People should be cautious, though, because there is a lot of inaccurate and incomplete information online. I’ve also seen many documents drafted incorrectly by clients, sometimes with the help of an online template. It can be very costly to sort out and correct. Have it done right the first time.
I have also seen social media become a significant factor in many cases. Some people post an incredible amount of information about their personal lives. If, for example, they are involved in a child custody case, we can use their own posts to show that their behavior is not in the best interests of the child. My advice, typically, is don’t use any social media when you are or may become involved in litigation. It’s just too risky.
Another relatively new development in legal practice is the use of text messages as evidence in court. Since so many communications occur by text, we can show the judge the actual conversation and the judge can see exactly what was said by whom. Texts and emails can be a helpful way to communicate with an opposing party because it gives you a written record. If there is a dispute in the future about what was agreed upon or communicated between you and the other person, you have that record that you can go back and refer to. Just keep in mind that anything you put in writing could someday be seen by a judge.
What is it like working at Davies, Barrell, Will, Lewellyn & Edwards, PLC?
This is an extremely collegial environment. All of the attorneys are open to mulling over problems together or discussing trial strategy. As a result, our clients receive the benefit of having many experienced attorneys available to consult about tricky situations. Our staff works hard and is truly dedicated to making sure that our clients receive the best possible service. Many of our staff members have been with the firm for a very long time, so they are well acquainted with the legal areas in which they provide support and are a great resource for clients. They help us provide high quality legal services in the most efficient and least costly way possible.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking for an attorney?
It’s important to find an attorney with whom they feel they have a good working relationship. The communication between the attorney and the client needs to be strong on both ends. Clearly communicate your goals and all facts relevant to your situation. There are plenty of attorneys out there who have a basic grasp of what the relevant law is, but not everyone will provide a high level of responsiveness and dedication to making sure you understand the legal process and potential outcomes.