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Best Practices for Family Lawyers

Best practices for family lawyers: from how to work with clients, excel in the field, & grow your practice to the value of acquiring complementary designations.

Family law is often overlooked as a weighty and important area of practice, but the truth is that it is a vital and complicated legal area. Think of the fact that when people marry or start a relationship they believe it is forever. Sadly, approximately half of all marriages end in divorce. This is not even counting the many relationships that fail without marriage but leave children to be dealt with after the breakup or a one-night stand.

Everyone is unhappy in a divorce and it can be one of the most stressful and traumatic events in one’s life. Some psychologists rank divorce among the worst possible events, second only to the death of a child or spouse. Divorces are difficult. Whether settled out of court, through mediation, or through a trial, a divorce can result in the following scenarios:

  • Parents spend 50% or less of their time with their children.
  • If one parent is paying child support and the other is receiving it, both sides are often dissatisfied with the amount; one feels that it is too little and the other feels that it is too much.
  • Similarly, if spousal support is ordered, the recipient feels that it is too little and the payor believes that they are paying too much (especially since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act removed the tax deduction for spousal support)
  • Spouses must divide marital debts as well as property
  • There is a tremendous emotional cost to every divorce or custody battle.
  • Attorney fees can be a delicate issue. Although usually untrue, many clients feel that they got a lousy deal and could have achieved the same result without having to pay for a lawyer.

Best Practices for Family Lawyers: Family Law Requires Broad and Deep Expertise

Do you outsource portions of your family law cases because you lack the experience or training to complete them yourself? Do yourself and your clients a favor by taking relevant seminars and courses and acquiring designations outside the law arena, such as:

  • Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®)
  • Certified QDRO Specialist (CQS)
  • High Conflict Institute (HCI)

If you find yourself regularly dealing with high-conflict people (clients, their ex-spouses, or even opposing counsel in some cases), consider registering for webinars and online courses from the HCI.

To excel in the divorce arena, an attorney must have a wide variety of legal know-how and must be versed in a diverse array of legal principles that go beyond divorce, custody, and support laws. A divorce attorney must also be familiar with:

  • Real estate law. Not only to deal with the marital home, but also to deal with investment property, commercial real estate, or a family farm in some cases.
  • Business and corporate law. This can be very important, especially in high-asset divorces where one spouse must be compensated for the marital portion of a family business or multiple business entities.
  • Tax law. Also, being able to read a spreadsheet, balance sheet, or a complicated tax return – whether business or personal – can be critical in many cases.
  • Retirement assets (including Social Security). Some divorces will involve gifts, inheritances, or tort claims.
  • Family trusts and wills. These could be key issues, especially when property has been accumulated over generations.
  • Ante- and postnuptial agreements.
  • Criminal law and personal protection orders. Domestic violence and alcohol or drug abuse are increasingly important factors in many divorce cases.

Consider the Divorce Variables

Every divorce will have numerous variables that can impact it to a greater or lesser degree. The first variable to consider is the reason the client (or their spouse) is seeking a divorce. The second is the client’s personality, outlook, and ability to make reasonable, intelligent decisions. The third the other spouse’s personality, reasoning, and idiosyncrasies. The fourth is the attorneys: how competent each one is, their personality, and attitude. The fifth variable is the judge: their personality, attitude, and biases.

Combined with these variables are several other factors that have an impact on the result. A wide variety of experts can be crucial. These can include therapists involved in counseling or psychological evaluations, or guardians for the children, or a “friend of the court.”

Where there are businesses, you will likely need to bring in a forensic accountant to help with a business evaluation or to establish true income for a self-employed spouse. There can be real estate appraisers for both commercial and residential real estate. Appraisers may be needed for art, jewelry or antiques, as well as collectibles. There can also be vocational experts, certified divorce financial analysts, and financial advisors.

Some divorcing clients prefer to work with mediators, arbitrators, or a collaborative divorce team in order to avoid court; the process they choose is another variable in a divorce case.

Best Practices for Family Lawyers: Tips for the Initial Consultation

  1. Do not oversell a case. There will be problems when you cannot deliver what you promised.
  2. Remember that the potential client is evaluating you just as you are evaluating them.
  3. Block off plenty of time for a new client’s initial consultation; never make them feel rushed or unimportant.
  4. Do not take phone calls or allow interruptions during the consultation.
  5. Answer questions honestly. If you do not know the answer, say so and tell the client that you will look into the issue.
  6. Elicit as much information as possible so that you have a good grasp of the case and potential problems at the end of the consultation.
  7. Discuss fees, including how time is billed for phone calls, office work, e-mails as well as work done by other members of your staff.
  8. Always present a written retainer agreement to new clients.
  9. Provide the potential client with an outline and overview of the process as well as what to expect.
  10. If you think there are potential problems, let the client know about them.
  11. Beware of “shoppers”; some unscrupulous people will try to eliminate all of the leading attorneys by conflicting them out with a perfunctory initial client interview.
  12. Similarly, do not become a potential client’s fourth or fifth attorney if you can avoid it. I was the first attorney on an infamous case where the client ultimately ended up going through more than 16 attorneys. In some divorces, there are personality issues or a breakdown of the attorney-client relationship – however, there is almost always a problem with a client who hires and fires his or her attorneys regularly.
  13. If you have a team working with you, have the potential client meet the other attorneys or paralegals who will be working with you on their case.

Best Practices for Family Lawyers: Working with Your Client During the Case

  1. Timely communication is critical, so try to return all phone calls the same day. Surveys have shown that most clients expect to have a phone call returned within three hours. If that is not possible, instruct your staff to apologize and explain that there will be a delay in returning their call due to court or other pressing matters. Respond to all e-mails and texts in a timely fashion as well.
  2. Document everything, copying clients on all correspondence including letters, e-mails, pleadings, and any other information that is part of the case.
  3. Face-to-face meetings during a divorce or custody battle can help to reassure distraught clients.
  4. Divorces go in stops and starts. Sometimes there may be weeks or even months where little is happening. Check in with your client to make sure that he or she knows what is going on.
  5. If there are court appearances or hearings, make sure that the client is prepared. It goes without saying that you must be prepared, too.
  6. In court, be succinct. Judges do not want a long-winded presentation that never gets to the point. Pleadings and oral arguments should spell out what you want for your client and why.
  7. Your client should be present at all court appearances if possible. This is important for four key reasons. First, decisions are often made that are critical to the case and the client must be involved. Second, if the motion goes well it is important for the client to see that. Third, if things do not go well the client must be there so that there is no third-hand information and so that you can do damage control. Finally, it sends a poor message to the judge if your client is not there.
  8. Have your client keep a diary or journal to develop a case history as events unfold.
  9. Have a closing letter at the end of each case and or a final meeting to go through any remaining issues and make sure that all of your client’s concerns have been addressed.
  10. A well-informed client will be able to make more educated decisions throughout the divorce process. Always remember that the client must live with the results for many years – perhaps for the rest of their lives – so you want to help them make the best possible choices during the process.

Building Your Family Law Practice

Unlike other areas of the law, family law practice has few, if any, institutional clients. Thus, a family practice must “reinvent the wheel” every day: every time we finalize a divorce or other family law matter, we have to replace that client or case with a new one. The goal is to build a broad network for future referrals – and that requires satisfied clients. Remember that a satisfied client can help to build your practice while an unhappy client can do damage to your practice.

  1. Don’t forget that your clients are real people with real problems, and some may be scared to death about what the future holds. Listening to a client’s issues with empathy rather than a tunnel-vision focus on the facts has been shown to increase client satisfaction – and the likelihood of positive reviews and referrals.
  2. Work hard on every case and referrals will follow.
  3. Get or maintain a modern, professional website and hire a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) expert to improve your rankings. A good website is useless if people cannot find it.
  4. Maintain a regular blog on your website and/or on a top-ranked divorce blog such as
  5. Write articles for or pitch story ideas to your local media. Establish yourself as their “go-to” expert for all family law and divorce-related stories.
  6. Network and find opportunities to market in areas that are underserved.
  7. Join a country club or other social organization and practice your “elevator speech” to let people know what you do in a succinct statement.
  8. Give seminars and lectures, and attend seminars and lectures. Keep up to date on state and federal laws pertaining to divorce.
  9. Network with other professionals who deal with clients in possible need of a divorce. Possible resources can include accountants, therapists, financial planners, realtors, and even people who run your local fitness club.

A Team Approach to Family Law

A “divorce team” might consist of secretaries, paralegals, as well as attorneys with complementary expertise. But you should consider including a therapist or divorce coach as well for three reasons:

  1. A therapist can determine if a marriage can be saved.
  2. If the marriage cannot be salvaged, a therapist or coach can help the client work through their emotions so that they are able to recognize a good settlement proposal when they see it.
  3. A therapist or coach can help a client move on from their divorce and provide a support system going forward.

Cultivate relationships with financial professionals – forensic accountants, valuators, etc. – to call on for high-stakes or financially complex cases.

Include other experts on your team as needed; do not hesitate to seek outside advice early and often, so that there is still plenty of time to prepare for all contingencies.

Best Practices for Family Lawyers: Problem-Solving vs. Scorched-Earth Family Law Attorneys

More and more attorneys litigate with a “take no prisoners” attitude; they will shade the truth to get an unfair advantage for their clients. But in a family law practice, more so than other practices, reputation is critical. For this reason, in family law, a scorched earth tactic is wrong and harmful. Thoughtful representation is a better approach. For example, you should remind your clients that, as parents, they will have an ongoing relationship with their ex-spouse regardless of how the case resolves. Having a working relationship with their ex-spouse will be necessary to raise their children long after the dust has settled.

In the long run, being a problem-solving attorney rather than one who antagonizes the other side will make you and your family law practice more successful.

Fun facts about lawyers and the practice of law

Practicing law is a very serious business.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot about it that’s quite interesting, fun, and even sometimes funny.

Every once in a while, it is a good idea to step away from the solemnity of it all and think about the lighter side of our business. Accordingly, we’ve compiled the top 10 fun facts about lawyers and the practice of law.

#1: How many lawyers does it take?

There are currently 1.34 million lawyers in the United States. The entire population of the U.S. is 327,522,508. That means that there is roughly one lawyer for every 240 people in this country. With numbers like that, you wouldn’t think it would be so hard to find clients.

#2: The first lady … lawyer

The first woman in U.S. history to become a lawyer was an Iowan named Arabella Mansfield. She had to sue the State Bar of Iowa in order to sit for its bar exam – a privilege that had been exclusively reserved for males. Born in 1844, Ms. Mansfield passed the bar exam and was admitted to the Iowa Bar in 1869. Though the law had always been the province of men, women began to study and teach the law during Ms. Mansfield’s era because so many men were called off to fight in the Civil War.

#3: Out of the mouths of babes

Nearly 150 years later, another female is poised to shatter barriers within the practice of law. A 15-year old girl from Ohio named Danya Hamad is reportedly on track to become the youngest lawyer currently practicing in the United States. Ms. Hamad has modest goals. In her own words, “My goal is to become the youngest lawyer in America and from there I want to change the world.”

She will not, however, be the youngest lawyer to ever practice law in the States. That distinction belongs to a man named Stephen Baccus who graduated from Miami Law in 1986.

#4: That’s not fair

Since 2002, the Institute for Legal Reform has surveyed corporate litigators and senior executives to rank the litigation climate in each state within the U.S. The survey is aimed at determining the reasonableness and fairness of litigation practices. The five states that rank as the most reasonable and fair? South Dakota, Vermont, Idaho, Minnesota, and New Hampshire. And the least? Florida, California, Illinois, Missouri, and Louisiana.

#5: Any correlation?

Why Do You Need an IT Lawyer?

Interestingly, the state that was determined to have the most fairness and reasonableness in its litigation climate nearly has the fewest number of lawyers per capita of any state. Only Arizona and South Carolina have fewer attorneys per capita than South Dakota, which boasts just 22.2 lawyers for every 10,000 residents.

In case you’re wondering, the District of Columbia has the highest number of lawyers per capita. In fact, Washington, D.C. has 788.1 lawyers per 10,000 residents.

#6: Who said lawyers are dramatic?

There are a surprising number of celebrities who attended law school. Among them are John Cleese (Monty Python), Geraldo Rivera, Ben Stein, Gerard Butler, Jerry Springer, Ozzie Nelson (Ozzie & Harriet), Jeff Cohen (Goonies), and John Saviano (The Wonder Years). Imagine having your closing argument delivered by Geraldo and Jerry Springer!

#7: Worth their weight in gold

Lawyers in America earn vastly different salaries depending on where they live. While top attorneys are reportedly charging upwards of $1,500 per hour, that is certainly not the norm. Across the country, lawyer salaries are highly dependent on location.

The highest wages for lawyers are, not surprisingly, earned in California, New York, and Washington, D.C., where attorneys average $168,693 per year. The lowest wages for lawyers are in Montana, where attorney salaries average $83,330 per year. Per-hour rates also vary wildly within states. For example, in Arizona, attorneys in the Phoenix metropolitan area earn an average of $65.44 per hour, while lawyers across the state average just $49.22 per hour.

#8: How a bill becomes a law

Historically, lawyers dominated the Congressional halls. In fact, in the mid-19th century, nearly 80% of Congressional members were lawyers. Today, however, lawyers account for fewer than 40% of Congress people. History will tell us how that trend impacted lawmaking but the final analysis should be fascinating.

#9: Lawyering isn’t for everyone

Practicing law is such a labor of love. Law school isn’t easy, passing the bar exam isn’t easy, and practicing law is probably the hardest thing of all. Perhaps not surprisingly then, lawyers leave the profession all the time. Whether it is to become a pastry chef or a writer (guilty as charged), lawyers seem to find great success in other careers.

#10: They really love us

Factors to Consider if You Want to Become a Lawyer

Perhaps more than any other profession, lawyers seem to be disliked by the public at large. As it turns out, however, they hate us because they envy us. According to one study, the reasons people aren’t fond of lawyers are: (1) they’re smarter than everyone else; (2) they have their own language; (3) they are intimidating; and (4) they’re expensive. Taken separately, those aren’t really bad qualities to possess.

We hope you enjoyed our brief escape from the day-to-day practice of law. Time to get back to work.

Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Family Law Attorney

5 Things to Know About Hiring a Family Law Attorney | Attorney at Law  Magazine

All lawyers hope to help their clients, but few do so with the emotional, personal impact of family law attorneys. After all, the things often at stake in family law cases—like a child’s welfare or justice for an abused spouse—have a gravitas many other areas of the law cannot match.

Of course, family law is about much more than those heavier topics. But wherever you find family law attorneys, they play a vital role in helping people navigate some of the more poignant periods of their lives, using vast legal expertise and extraordinary empathy.

Sound like the kind of lawyer you want to be? Keep reading for your guide to becoming a family law attorney.

First things first: what do family law attorneys do?

As the term implies, family lawyers focus on issues that have an impact on families. They deal with matters such as divorce proceedings, adoptions, and child custody. Common tasks include drafting custody agreements, wills, prenuptial agreements, and other documents. While some family lawyers engage in litigation, it is a less prevalent aspect of this practice.

But family law is also a surprisingly broad legal area, says New England Law | Boston Professor Monica Teixeira de Sousa, advisor for the school’s Family Law Concentration. It touches upon everything from constitutional law to tax law to real estate. “The best way to think about it is, what are the legal issues that are likely to impact the family unit?” she says.

In divorce cases, for example, considerations may include whether they are handled on a fault or no-fault basis, how assets will be divided, and various possible grounds such as irreconcilable differences, mental cruelty, or desertion. Child custody and support may be major factors as well. Some family law attorneys also delve into criminal law, dealing with individuals who have been accused of abuse or neglect. Finally, as society changes and technology advances, new aspects of family law are likely to emerge. Applications in genetic engineering of human beings, for example, may bring a host of new legal questions that family law attorneys will help address.

Beyond the specialized knowledge, succeeding as a family lawyer requires the same basic skills as other legal areas: strong written and verbal communication, time management, critical thinking and analysis, etc. Moreover, strong “people skills” are especially important for family lawyers. Given the deeply personal issues inherent to family law, the ability to relate calmly and constructively with people who may be emotionally vulnerable is a must. 

Another reality of a family law practice that should be recognized, Professor Teixeira de Sousa points out, is that dealing with people in these situations (divorce, custody battles, etc.) can be personally challenging. “You’re dealing with all the most intimate personal details of other people’s lives” she says. “No matter how thorough a job you do as an attorney, you may not be able to make them happy. Basic best practices such as promptly returning client phone calls are particularly important in this type of practice too.”

Despite these challenges, family law has much to offer, and supporting clients in even the most difficult cases can be deeply rewarding. Family law also remains a crucial legal specialty, covering issues core to a society’s culture and values.

“There’s a rich body of [family] law,” Professor Teixeira de Sousa says. “Students are often fascinated by the way in which the common law [cases] reflect evolving gender roles and societal expectations of the family, and how there is always a new and exciting legal development around the corner.”          

How to become a family lawyer

How to Choose a Right Family Law Attorney | Attorney at Law Magazine

The first basic requirement in becoming a lawyer is, of course, earning a bachelor’s degree. However, it’s worth noting that there is no single degree or program that leads to law school or even a family law career in particular. Students who aspire to attend law school major in a variety of areas such as political science, history, economics, or business. Even more technical fields such as engineering or nursing can be good precursors to a legal career. The same is true of graduate degrees in any number of fields. 

After successfully navigating the admissions process and enrolling in law school, the courses you take will help determine your future career options. An array of basic courses is required for all law students, but over the duration of your studies, you’ll also be able to take classes that will prepare you more specifically for family law. At New England Law, for example, students may complete the concentration in family law by earning ten credits from a selection of courses such as Children and the Law, Divorce Law, Domestic Violence, Family Law, Juvenile Law, Law and the Elderly, and more.

Law students can gain early exposure to family law through volunteer work, internships, fellowships, or part-time employment. Students also gain valuable experience through clinics and externships. In the Family Law Clinic at New England Law, students get to help real clients with such vital work as filing restraining orders against domestic abusers. They also work under the supervision of two attorneys who have decades of experience in family law.

These hands-on experiences are especially important in helping students determine if becoming a family lawyer is right for them. “Get experiential training early to see if you’re really cut out for it,” Professor Teixeira de Sousa advises. “It’s one thing to learn about [family law] in the classroom, but you won’t know if it’s the right fit for you until you roll up your sleeves and begin interacting with real live clients.”

It’s one thing to learn about family law in the classroom, but you won’t know if it’s the right fit for you until you roll up your sleeves and begin interacting with real live clients.

Like so many lawyers just starting out, a fateful experience early in her career exposed Starlene Alves to family law, setting her on a path in this legal niche. “I was young and had an amazing opportunity to work for an experienced [family law] attorney in my hometown,” Alves says. “She practiced predominately divorce, custody, and support cases, so I was exposed to that type of family law for nearly eleven years.”

Alves eventually enrolled at New England Law | Boston, looking to expand her career options. “New England Law prepared me to be a well-rounded attorney by giving me the opportunity to explore other areas of law and to be involved in different internships,” she says.

After graduating, Alves started a family law firm with another New England Law graduate, Sania Santos: Alves|Santos, LLP. “We both had very different tracks in law school and experiences post-graduation,” Alves says. “When we decided to open a law firm together, we were able to combine our experiences and offer a variety of services.” Today, the partners delve into everything from personal injury to juvenile law to employment discrimination to immigration.         

“If you’re thinking about opening up your own family law practice, there are many things to learn,” Professor Teixeira de Sousa adds. She suggests taking classes in areas you might not otherwise consider such as taxes, modern real estate, and wills, estates, and trusts. These diverse experiences can round out your legal skillset. But she adds, “Don’t let the number of discrete topics that fall under family law scare you away, as you’ll have a lifetime to build your expertise.”

After passing the bar exam, future family lawyers often go on to work with nonprofit organizations, small to mid-sized firms, or government agencies. For example, state or regional associations that advocate for survivors of domestic violence may employ attorneys with a background in family law. Or they might start their own firms like Alves and Santos. Individuals with the required credentials and experience may find teaching family law to be a rewarding experience as well.

Where to learn more

Choosing Between a Divorce Lawyer and a Family Law Attorney in NC

Ready to explore a possible future in family law?

Start by taking a closer look at law schools with family law programs; their websites can provide a great introduction to what this career path entails, as you explore related courses and experiential learning opportunities. Then try visiting the schools themselves, scheduling a meeting with a family law professor if you can. You might also contact the admissions office to see if they can connect you with family law faculty, students, and alumni via phone or email, so you ask them your questions and learn firsthand about becoming a family lawyer.

Similarly, for a personal view on studying and working in this field, you can conduct your own outreach to family lawyers in your local area. Many lawyers are quite receptive to polite requests for brief informational interviews, which can be informative and motivating. (You may be able to make this connection through a family friend or relative too.)

Of course, there’s also no such thing as too much online research, and you can learn more about becoming a family lawyer through professional organization websites. For example, The American Bar Association offers a “Section of Family Law” that features information not only for working lawyers but also students and others interested in the field. Their resources include conferences and webinars, magazines, email updates on recent family law cases, and online access to archived cases. Other organizations of interest include the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys.

As you review information from these and other sources, you’ll find that family law offers many challenges and rewards. Perhaps this multi-dimensional field will be part of your own future as well.

9 Skills Of A Successful Lawyer

There are some who have it and some who don’t. Having the right set of skills of a lawyer can lead a career of abundance and great success. If you’re looking to brush up your skills, here’s a list of 9 skills to become a better lawyer.

1. Strong Communication Skills

Lawyers must have strong oral communication skills and written communication skills to accurately relay critical legal information. As well, a significant portion of a lawyer’s job is to create strong and convincing arguments which are presented in the courtroom. Judges and juries all have their own opinions, beliefs, and backgrounds so a lawyer’s ability must be able to reach out to all of them and convince accordingly.

In addition, good listening skills are found in a successful lawyer. Every client has their own version of their situation. Lawyers must listen carefully to the details and analyze what their clients need and how to take action.

2. People Skills

Lawyers are in constant contact with people with is why people skills are required. The entire system of law has engagement with people. Judges, clerks, senior partners, barristers, and other legal workers are just some of the people lawyers will encounter on a daily basis. Being able to be relatable, polite, respectful and interesting some skills to consider.

If this is a skill lacking in a lawyer, it can lead to some very nasty situations with clients seeking retribution for their perceived mistreatment. Regardless of how good a lawyer may be at formulating arguments and winning cases, maintaining good relationship develops a deeper sense of professionalism

3. Time Management Skills

Lawyer’s have a heavy workload and can experience demanding deadlines at short notice. Having the right time management and organizational skills allows for a lawyer’s work to be performed more effortlessly and efficiently.

Time management is the core of a lawyer’s work ethics. Lawyers who prioritize their work and stay ahead of their tasks can lead to more time to enjoy extracurriculars or taking on more cases.

4. Research Skills

Lawyers will spend a lot of time digging around in archives and reading up on old cases. Research skills include the ability to read large amounts of information in short time, understanding facts, figures, and charts, and analyzing matter in a way that can be used later are vital features of a lawyer.

Research skills should be honed early in a lawyer’s career. To do so, make a habit of summarizing a few important points from large documents and articles. This is extremely advantageous when caseloads increase which require more background details, legal document drafting, and preparation advice for clients.

5. Detail Oriented

All lawyers have to have an eye for details. Accuracy and precision is needed to become a successful lawyer. If a lawyer makes a mistake on a single word it can change the entire meaning of a contract or a clause. Lawyers must ensure all their communications, such as email, letters, lawyer websites and legal documents, are always perfect for giving them to a client.

Small mistakes can lead to a bad impression on a client and a bad experience for a lawyer. The worst case scenario would be a lawyer getting sued for malpractice for mistakes that could have been avoided.  

6. Creativity

The fundamental part of a lawyer’s job is to win cases for their clients or protect their client’s interests. Being creative is a skill needed by successful lawyers because it allows for flexibility and a wide range of possible solutions when working on a case.

Lawyers have to be both logical and analytical. However, they should not ignore their creativity. Having that creative edge allows for a lawyer to outmaneuver any situation, in and out of the courtroom.

7. Judgement

Although creativity is important, a lawyer also requires strong judgment at the core of their practice. Lawyers need the ability to logically and reasonably draw conclusions based on the limited amount of information they receive.

Throughout a court hearing, lawyers must be aware of the arguments their opponents are making which finding weaknesses and flaws in logic through the hearings.

8. Stress Management

Lawyers spend a great amount of time listening to clients and trying to solve their problems. There are some clients who have often experienced an extreme incident that creates a difficult and stressful situation for themselves and the lawyer. Mentioned early was the importance of having both people and communication skills. It is during these high-stress situations that these skills are needed to help handle a client’s stress.

In fact, these same skills are critical for lawyers themselves. Lawyers will occasionally take on the stresses of their clients. Having the ability to manage stress, both in clients and within themselves, is a valuable skill to maintain a long-lasting career as a lawyer.

9. Business Skills

Every lawyer, whether working at a firm or solo practitioner, must be aware of the business side of their practice. Law is a billable service that receives the majority of their income by the hours they can bill. If lawyers lack the necessary business skills to bill their clients accordingly, it could lead to significant losses for the firm or personal practice.

Being able to explain your hourly rates, additional charges, and contracting with clients is critical for a lawyer to continue to practice law. However, billing is just one aspect that has to be learned. Marketing, networking, and accounting for lawyers are equally important.

Choosing the Right Family Law Attorney

Choosing a family law attorney in Raleigh, NC can be a very difficult decision. The right lawyer can make a real difference both in the outcome of your divorce and how you make it through the very emotional process. You want a trusting relationship. You want a lawyer who is serious about your case and listens to your needs. You want a lawyer who moves your case forward to the conclusion. Here are some tips on choosing the right lawyer.

Our family law attorneys offer tips on how to pick the right family law attorney.

Whether you’re considering a divorce, attempting to work out custody and support issues, planning an adoption or facing another family law issue, choosing the right family law attorney can ease your mind and produce better results. Your lawyer becomes your partner in the process, helping you achieve the outcome you want within the boundaries of the law.

Here are some tips to help you select an attorney whom you can trust, who listens to your needs and who keeps your case moving forward until it is concluded.

Find an attorney you can work with.

Your lawyer will be your partner throughout your case. You may need to confide sensitive or embarrassing information to your attorney – things you would prefer not to tell anyone. You’ll be speaking to your attorney frequently, and you’ll need to be able to provide information and understand your lawyer’s explanations of certain steps in your case or how the law applies in your situation.

Consequently, choosing a lawyer you trust and can communicate with is crucial. While a law firm’s website and other materials provide a good start, don’t base your decision solely on the law firm. Instead, speak to each attorney you’re considering. Ask questions like: Does the attorney have experience with cases like mine? Do they explain things in a way that makes sense to me? Do they answer my questions? Do I feel like I can trust this person?

Interview prospective attorneys with your needs in mind.

Interview prospective attorneys with your needs in mind.

When you contact a law firm to speak to a prospective attorney, be as clear as you can about what you’re looking for. Many lawyers will agree to speak to you for no charge so that both of you can determine whether you’ll be a good “fit” for one another.

While speaking to a prospective attorney, keep the following issues in mind:

  • Does your personality mesh with the attorneys? No matter how experienced a lawyer is, if you do not get along, your case will be more difficult.
  • Communication and promptness. Ask each lawyer how you can contact him or her and how long it will take them to get back to you. Excessive delays or “radio silence” from your lawyer can cause unnecessary aggravation, so choose an attorney who is dedicated to regularly touching base.
  • Willingness to work within your budget. It’s important to talk about money, so that you can get the results you need without draining your bank account. Most attorneys are accustomed to discussing fees and costs up front and will appreciate meeting a prospective client who also understands the need to budget wisely.

Ask for advice, but make your own decision.

Asking friends, family members and co-workers to recommend an attorney is one way to collect information about family law attorneys and law firms in your area. Attorney guides like Martindale-Hubbell or Avvo can also point you to local law firms, as can reading law firm websites and reviews.

No matter where you gather your initial information, however, speak to the lawyer before making your decision. Remember that every family, and every family law case, is unique. Your needs are different from the needs of friends or family members, even if they faced a similar problem. Also, remember to take online reviews with a grain of salt. It may be impossible to tell who posted them or what agenda the writer had when they made the post.

Get help from a family law attorney to get you through troubling times to a brighter future.

 Contact us today to learn more about us and how we can help you.

Pick a lawyer, not a law firm.

The most important relationship is not between the law firm and the client, but between the law partner and a client. Seek out a relationship with an individual partner in a firm as your lawyer. Never have a relationship with a law firm — have a relationship with a lawyer. Make it that partner’s responsibility to manage your case. If your case is passed off to an associate, demand an explanation and demand to know the associate’s experience. If the law partner that drew you to the law firm wants to pass off your case to an associate, then you should be thinking about another firm. Ask the lawyer you meet with this question: “Will you be handling my case?”

Ask yourself: “Do I like this lawyer?”

You must be able to get along with your lawyer. The initial interview is as much about deciding if you can have a working relationship with your attorney as it is finding out about how the law applies to your case. If the lawyer you are meeting with is abrasive, distracted, disorganized, or acts in any other way that does not give you confidence, consider how you will feel later on in the case if you chose this lawyer.

Demand expertise and experience.

It used to be common for North Carolina lawyers to handle all manner of cases from divorce to traffic to real estate. More and more lawyers are limiting their practice to specific fields, including family law. You would not go to a general practitioner for open-heart surgery, and you should be very hesitant about going to a lawyer who does not limit his or her practice to family law matters if you need a divorce.

Fees: Don’t give your lawyer a blank check.

You should be able to get a very good idea of the cost of your case from your Wake County lawyer. Ask if there is an option for a flat fee so you will know what the case will cost you. Unless a lawyer can offer you a flat fee option, you have no way of knowing how much legal representation will cost.

Settlement and litigation.

Settlement and litigation are two sides of the same coin. Most family law cases settle out of court. Some do not. You need a lawyer that is equally comfortable in settlement negotiations and the courtroom. Ask your lawyer what training and experience he or she has had in family law negotiations, mediation, and collaborative law. Ask your lawyer if he or she has the experience to handle your case in court should attempt at settlement fail.

How Courts Work

Steps in a Trial

Civil and Criminal Cases

The law deals with two kinds of cases. Civil cases involve conflicts between people or institutions such as businesses. A civil case usually begins when a person or organization determines that a problem can’t be solved without the intervention of the courts. In civil cases, one (or more) of these persons or organizations brings suit (i.e., files a complaint in court that begins a lawsuit).

Criminal cases involve enforcing public codes of behavior as embodied in the laws, with the government prosecuting individuals or institutions. In a criminal case, the government brings charges against the person alleged to have committed the crime.

What types of cases are civil? Divorce and related lawsuits (child support, custody, and the like) account for a very large number of civil cases. Cases involving contracts are also frequent. Automobile collisions account for many tort (personal injury) cases, another common kind of civil case. An auto collision gives rise to a civil case if one driver sues the other, or if a passenger in one of the cars sues either driver. An auto collision might also lead to a criminal case, if it involves allegations of a crime such as drunken driving or leaving the scene of an accident.

In many parts of the world, civil and criminal legal actions are combined into one case, but in our country they are not. If there are serious civil and criminal aspects of an event, there will be two (or more) distinct cases. An example would be a crime leading to a criminal trial of the defendant, with the victims filing a separate civil suit against the defendant to recover damages caused by the crime.

5 Ideas to Improve the Family Law System’s Efficiency and Accessibility

Raising family law system’s efficiency could make domestic disputes less traumatic and their resolution less expensive— besides streamlining the litigation.

family law system's efficiency

Many divorce lawyers practice some form of alternative dispute resolution in addition to estate litigation because of the traumatic impact judicially determined divorces have on families who are already traumatized emotionally, mentally, and financially by the divorce process. The current system does not do enough to utilize available resources to make the process less confrontational and more user-friendly for divorcing couples. There is a dire need to improve the family law’s efficiency for improving resolution of cases involving custody, child support and divorce.

The most common complaints I hear about the divorce process are its expense, the lack of availability of courts, and lack of consistency of results. This frustration is exacerbated by the fact that clients usually have a “friend” who got what they wanted and don’t understand why their results weren’t similar. This gives clients the impression that courts aren’t fair, and that justice is fleeting. This does not even include the horrible toll custody litigation has on the family. Here are five common-sense alternatives that could make domestic controversies less expensive – both financially and emotionally.

Ideas To Improve Family Law System’s Efficiency

Budget 2021: Boost to assist women with family law system

1. Divorce Panels

Family lawyers know that the judicial system was not designed to handle divorce cases. As a substitute for battle, the court system often appears to litigants as cold and unfair. Until we can mandate a substitute for courts applying a medieval concept to the breakup of a family, litigants who can’t agree on their future will be forced to apply a “win-lose” resolution to the breakup. My first recommendation for fixing the system is to create panels of lawyers, mental-health and behavioral professionals, and guardians ad litem to decide the ground rules for failed families.

Perhaps family lawyers should be required to serve on the panels, which would decide custody, visitation, child support, and protective orders. Court “policies” that award custody and support may not be in the best interest of the family – but if a lawyer, mental-health professional, and child advocate could decide these issues, parties would be reasonably assured that a fair and impartial result could be found. These panels would serve pro bono and therefore greatly reduce the cost of the process. There would be no need to involve courts unless there was evidence of bias or manifest injustice.

2. Loser Pays

The American rule, which requires parties to pay their own attorney’s fees, can have a detrimental effect on quick resolutions of issues and oftentimes forces the “poorer” spouse/litigant to give up because they don’t have the resources to battle like their opponent. The party with resources might refuse to settle or compromise because they know they can outspend their opponent.

The British rule, which requires the party who loses to pay all of the attorney’s fees, could even the playing field and force the party with resources to have to risk having to pay the winner’s attorney’s fees, which is a powerfully persuasive reason to compromise. To take this one step further, if the loser’s attorneys are responsible for paying the winner’s attorney’s fees, this would be an even more powerful persuasion to reach a compromise.

If the jurisdiction has administered court preferences regarding custody, child support, and other family matters, and a party challenges those preferences because they are “different”, they should pay the court costs and their opponents attorney’s fees if they lose.

3. Clerk’s Courts

Unfortunately, a lot of court, judges’, and litigants’ time is wasted by cases that don’t really rise to the level of a controversy. Jurisdictions could institute clerk’s courts who deal with prepackaged divorces, uncontested custody matters, and parties who have a settlement agreement in place. The judicial system could institute relatively lower fees for choosing this route and make the filing fees for cases requiring judicial determination more expensive. This would result in people choosing to appear before a clerk rather than a judge because of the cost of the latter. The economic pressure to choose a clerk would take a tremendous strain off our domestic court systems.

4. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify

The more we can streamline the family law system’s efficiency by creating user-friendly forms, the better – especially if we make the forms simple enough for lay people to use. Sometimes, it appears that forms are unnecessarily complex only to require litigants to hire lawyers to fill them out.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the court system is that litigants cannot get help from court staff to fill out the usual forms. Perhaps lawyers could provide pro bono services, in proportion to the size of their practices, that are limited to filling out the forms. If the litigants choose to hire the lawyer who has helped them to fill out the forms to represent them in litigation, good for the lawyer. Most litigants just want help to fill out the forms and will take their chances in court. If we go to divorce panels as suggested above, litigants would have a better chance of having their concerns heard after filling out the forms.

5. Small Claims Property Division

There will always be a need for judicial supervision of large and complex marital estates. However, equitable distribution is simply not justified in estates that are less than some reasonable threshold amounts – such as $100,000 of marital assets, or even higher depending on demographics. The success of the creation of small claims courts for civil disputes warrants giving a similar threshold amount for property division. This could also be relegated to the divorce panels mentioned above.

Improving Family Law System’s Efficiency: Conscious Approach to Specific Disputes

Kerala high court allows young couple to be in live-in relationship |  Latest News India - Hindustan Times

As the number of divorces rises along with custody and property conflicts, there has to be a more conscious and mindful approach to these specific types of disputes. Marital and family conflict should be decided with compassion and understanding with the input of mental- and family-health professionals – not just left to a judge who may or may not appreciate the consequences of their actions on a family in a combative courtroom setting. Contact us for more information.

Pros and Cons of Being a Family Lawyer

Biggest Law Firms in South Africa - Business Link

What are the pros and cons of being a family lawyer?

First, you will really get to know your relatives. That’s because they will talk to you about delicate family issues more than your immediate family — like who’s having an affair, who’s the crazy uncle, where the dead bodies are, etc.

So yeah, that’s both a pro and a con. After that, they kind of line up like this:

Pro 1: Referrals

The Art of Referrals | SCORE

Statistically, it’s not that hard to find clients because half the people you know will get a divorce. Just do a good job, and they will come.

And family clients, who entrust their most important concerns to their lawyers, often turn to them for other legal services. So even if you don’t practice outside of family law, you can build a referral network by sending out cases to lawyers who do personal injury, criminal, medical malpractice, and other work.

Pro 2: Practice Variety

Family lawyers often say they enjoy the variety of their practice because the issues go beyond custody disputes and community property.

It can be more like a general practice with cross-overs into property law, criminal law, constitutional law and even probate. You may start by filing a petition in family court, spend a day in domestic violence, wend your way through juvenile proceedings, and end up in probate court.

Pro 3: Career Satisfaction

People find career satisfaction in many ways. You may value money, peer approval, community recognition or simply doing good.

Family law, unlike some practice areas, offers all these rewards. Financially, a family lawyer can do as well as other billable-hour attorneys — let’s say, $400 an hour? And in the colloquial community of family lawyers, peer approval is almost necessary to survive.

Being of value to society and doing good is also within the family lawyer’s grasp, as more practitioners embrace collaborative family law — focusing on helping families through divorce amicably.

Con 1 Emotional

Perhaps more than any other field, family law is inherently emotional because the cases are about people’s biggest life choices and corresponding feelings of failure.

While it helps to be empathetic, it can also be hard professionally to be objective in the break-up of a family. You will have more than one client break down in tears as you advise them of legal realities.

Con 2: Stressful

7 Tips On How To Handle Stressful Situations | Betterhelp

Unfortunately, the emotional nature of family law can spill over into even more stressful areas. More than a few family cases have turned into criminal cases, including the murders of family law attorneys.

Criminal lawyers, who see the blood and guts all the time, develop tough skins to deal with criminal behavior. Family lawyers, on the other hand, are more likely to take their clients’ pains and stresses personally.

Con 3: Addiction

Alcohol and other addictions too often become pseudo-salves for stressed-out attorneys. It’s not an occupational hazard for family lawyers, but it is a problem in a significant number of cases.

“At some point in your career, you will probably encounter another lawyer whose addiction problems impair their ability to practice,” according to Family Lawyer Magazine.

Because family lawyers often work alone or in small firms, isolation and addiction problems may follow.

Trust in The Legal Industry: How Law Firm Culture Can Affect Client Acquisition

Trust is an incredibly powerful resource for any business. Workplace trust is the basis for strong relationships and is crucial to success in business. Why? Well, businesses are built on relationships. All businesses no matter their size or the industry in which they work rely on relationships. This is no more true than when it comes to law firms and chambers. The importance of trust in the legal industry cannot be understated. Trust has a huge influence on the outcomes of casework and future business for those working in law. Losing trust, whether it be with employees or clients is hugely detrimental.

Reputation is a firm’s most valuable asset

Trustworthiness is one of the most vital considerations that clients make when choosing legal counsel. To quote the official guidance of the Solicitors Regulation Authority: ‘Clients often place their confidence in solicitors during times when they are at their most vulnerable; assuming they will protect their interests, money and assets and personal, often sensitive, information.’

A meta-analysis by LawNet of nearly 70,000 satisfaction surveys and 5,000 experience reviews found that two thirds of new business for firms is won by reputation and perceived trustworthiness. On the other hand, only 4% was won on price. But when cost was important, clients were actually more concerned with the pricing structure itself than the final cost. 

This highlights the need for transparency that led to the rule changes at the end of 2018 requiring firms to be more open about their credentials and pricing models. Clients are taking more interest in being regularly updated on the progress of their cases and getting to grips with the benefits of their chosen firm. It is therefore vital that firms take practical steps to meet the needs of the public.

The highest performing teams share one key characteristic: trust. Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Why low-trust firms are doomed to struggle

But it isn’t just the relationship between a firm and its clients that can cause issues. A breakdown in trust between co-workers can be disastrous for productivity. A study of over a thousand US workers, covered in the Harvard Business Review article “The Neuroscience of Trust,” found that respondents in the top quartile for workplace trust reported more than twice the level of energy at work, were over three quarters more engaged and had 50% greater productivity than those in the bottom quartile. They also experienced 40% less burnout from their workload.

With the current regulations demanding transparency, and prospective clients placing greater value than ever before on clear pricing models and regular updates, it would be problematic to assume that internal disputes don’t spill over to the client-side. So the question is, what steps can law firms take to foster trust in the workplace?

Here are a few tips for building trust and an open, honest culture in your firm:

  • Update your firm’s performance review methods
  • Harness the power of social employee recognition
  • Give people control over how they work
  • Prioritise management skills training for new partners
  • Build-in accountability to all you do
Open communication is vital in order to build relationships that produce success in firms. Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

Update your firm’s performance review methods

The annual performance review is near-universally despised. Bosses hate conducting them, and employees dread sitting through them. What’s worse is that according to workplace analytics company Gallup, 8 out of 10 staff feel they are highly ineffective, and 6 in 10 managers believe the time that goes into setting them up is a waste of productivity due to the fact they are often untimely, based on best guesses and require a sizeable chunk of time to complete.  Regular but ultra-lightweight employee check-ins, such as those championed by Weekly10 give both staff and managers a way to raise issues, share successes and present feedback in a timely effective manner while only taking a few minutes to complete. 

Harness the power of social employee recognition

Giving staff a tool for social/peer recognition (such as Weekly10), letting them nominate a co-worker for the great work being done that may be missed by leadership, is a great way to build a workplace culture based on trust. Employee recognition helps create bonds across teams and locations within a firm, helps senior leadership unearth top talent and acts as an effective motivator for anyone recognised. This could be especially beneficial for paralegals and other support staff whose work can often be overshadowed by that of fee-earning associates. 

Give people control over how they work

One factor that can negatively impact workplace trust is when a worker has no control over how they perform their job. Be it non-standard office hours or the ability to work remotely, providing options for flexibility can be great for creating a sense of trust by making employees feel relied upon to complete their workload at their own pace. Flexible working arrangements are also becoming increasingly expected in today’s job market, so it’s as much an issue of recruitment potential as it is one of trust. If you’d like to know more about flexible working then we work with dozens of great clients (some of whom in the legal sector) utilising a range of approaches to give staff greater autonomy in how and when they work. We’d love to introduce you. Or alternatively, read our recent blog on the topic.

Where possible, look to remote or flexible working opportunities to build trust and a feeling of being valued within staff. Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

Prioritise management skills training for new partners

And finally, it’s important to make sure that anybody entering a management position has a working knowledge of key management skills. Associates are often promoted for their skill at legal casework rather than any perceived management potential, and many are forced to learn on the job. Research by the CIPD connects rising levels of at-work stress to poor management style. The only way to combat this is with practical, evidence-based leadership training so that employees feel they can be open with the firm’s partners. 

Who Gets the House in a Divorce?

Divorce and Home Ownership

Splitting a house during divorce Divorce can bring up a lot of questions. One of the main ones is “what about the house?” A house is not only typically a couple’s largest asset, but it’s also often the asset with the most emotional attachment. Your spouse and you decided that this was where you were going to spend the happiest of times – raising children and building a life. This emotional attachment can make it impossible to let go of and assign a value to. The personal importance of a house can make it the lynchpin of property division negotiations. Here are some common ways the family home is settled in a divorce.

Put the House Up for Sale

If neither spouse wants to stay in the home, or neither spouse can afford to stay in the home, you might want to put it on the market to try to get the best price possible. This can be hard for families because of the moving out process – everything can feel very final and “done.” But often times it’s easier to have the money from the sale than a large asset that reminds them of their divorce.


A house buyout is when a spouse releases hers or his interest in the house – this is in exchange for cash or the promise of cash to be paid in the future. This often happens in instances where the primary caregiver for the children want to stay in the house with the children. There are a lot of intricacies with a buyout – you’ll want to work with a negotiator that can help advise you on this if you feel it’s the best option.


Sometimes a sale nor a buyout will work for your situation. In this case it might be best to consider co-ownership for a predetermined amount of time. This will need to be clearly defined. Essentially, this will redefine your relationship with your spouse – you will now have a business relationship of “co-owners” of the property.