Spartanburg attorney, Ben Stevens, explains what he likes about handling family law cases. He also discusses the importance of legal technology in the practice of law and other legal developments in this video made for the South Carolina Bar as part of its "Career Counsel" series.
*** Transcript ***
I'm Ben Stevens, and I've practiced family law in Spartanburg for the last 14 years. Believe it or not, handling these types of cases is actually one of the last areas of law that I would have imagined I would enjoy doing all day every day.
One of the things I like best about family law is the fact that every day is different because every case is unique due to the people, personalities and issues involved. In addition, I enjoy being able to help people get through some very difficult periods in their lives while protecting their rights.
I used to think that everyone who walked out of family court would hate each other and sometimes that does happen, but more often than not if both parties act reasonably and are represented by competent counsel they come out of court better off than when they went in, and sometimes they're even smiling.
Now, that's not to say that family law cases aren't also challenging. This type of practice involves going to court on a regular basis, so it requires that you have all the skills of an effective trial lawyer, that you know the law backwards and forwards, painstakingly prepare each case, make effective arguments to the court and think quickly on your feet.
However, because you're dealing with real people facing very emotion issues, you also have to have a good bedside manner. It's not always easy to talk with that husband who's discovered that his wife is having an affair, or to discuss child custody issues with a mother whose child is being withheld from her.
The ability to understand how your clients feel, whether they're scared, angry or betrayed, and the ability to assure and reassure them as their case progresses can make a big difference to the client. At the end of the day, the best family law attorneys balance an understanding of the law with a big dose of compassion and interpersonal skills.
Some attorneys seem to think that anyone can handle domestic cases. Just as any attorney can draft a simple, basically any competent attorney can handle a very simple divorce. However, when dealing with the types of issues found in divorce cases, it becomes quickly apparent that these cases are much more complex than one might think.
Since I began practicing back in 1995, there have been many changes to this area of the law. For instance, the court has increasingly recognized the active roles that most fathers take in their children's lives. Back then, virtually every father got no more than every-other-weekend visitation, while a few would occasionally get custody in a contested custody case. However, now, the number of fathers obtaining custody and/or increased visitation has dramatically increased with fathers now being seen on a level playing field with mothers.
Another area that's changed dramatically concerns grandparents' rights. It used to be the grandparents to attempt to obtain contact or visitation with their grandchildren in those cases where the parents did not approve; however, in light of U.S. and state supreme court cases over the last ten years, it is now much more difficult for a non-parent, even a grandparent to get any such visitation or contact if the parents disagree and they're fit.
To manage these evolving legal trends I've always incorporated technology into my law practice. The fact is that computers when used properly can make a lawyer's life much easier, particularly if they use Macs instead of PCs. I say that because in addition to publishing the South Carolina Family Law Blog, I also publish a Mac legal technology blog called the Mac Lawyer.
Anyway, our firm uses a web-based case management system and time and billing system called Rocket Matter that allows our firm to keep track of our schedules, contacts, to dos and billing information no matter where we are, in the office, in court or at home. We also used a web based document management system called Evernote which allows us to access any documents in a client's file no matter where we are. By leveraging technology to our benefit we're able to serve our clients more effectively and more efficiently and I believe to be better lawyers in the process.
*** About ***
This video features family law attorney J. Benjamin (Ben) Stevens, 1188 Asheville Highway, Spartanburg, SC 29303, (864) 598-9172. To learn more about our law firm or our services, you can visit our website SCFamilyLaw.com or email our office at Info@SCFamilyLaw.com
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