The Florida Bar Family Law Section Monthly Newsletter
Please submit news and articles to FAMSEG Editor Ron Kauffman.

Abigail M. Beebe
The end of this "Chair's message" does NOT end with April fools! The discussion below is real and you can do it!! Promise!

While so many have this impression of lawyers, tons of jokes about our profession, constantly hearing about our fees and the never ending claim of a "horrible" marital and family law saga that each of us has "heard" about.

But do those legal naysayers ever consider the type of practice we really are entrenched in? The clients we are dealing with? The emotional roller coasters we ride along with each of them? Likely not.

How many times are you asked "How do you do that work?" "Isn't it so stressful, emotional, personal?" and "Doesn't it impact your personal life?" For so long, I always found myself answering this with "Well, of course at times it can be stressful, but I love what I do!" Lately, I have been struggling with that answer. Trying to balance running a law practice, representing clients to the best of my ability, litigating those cases that require litigation and ensuring I am always "available" to my clients, by phone, email or otherwise. All while trying to maintain some of my own life, my family and other commitments, outside of my work. It feels as if I am explaining what we all know, which is that this area of law requires a certain perspective, an understanding that this type of law is unique and requires the ability to recognize the emotional position of our clients lives and families, while trying to strike a balance between becoming emotionally invested in clients family law matters, while counseling them appropriately throughout their family law case. So, yes, at times, it is hard and stressful, but at the end of the day, there is no other practice area I would choose.

Is it always rainbows and unicorns? NO! It is no easy feat, but when comparing the pros and cons, most of us will agree that the pros outweigh the cons and that is why we continue.

Yet, it is equally important for us to allow ourselves the right to be selective, whatever that may be for your firm or practice. Our clients demand responses, at times hand holding, their stress essentially becomes our responsibility and that is a lot for any one person. Being able to say "no" to a prospective client or even a current client and parting ways, nicely, is a true gift, but not all of us are very good at it. In fact, my office has joked with me by asking "Have you EVER broken up with ANYONE in your life?" and "You are the WORST at cutting bait." Of course, I say I am going to do it, I gear up for it, but then when I try, the whole, "it's not you, it's me," strategy, I feel badly or my bleeding heart, literally, won't allow me to leave the person, going through this process, "hanging." Although we all laughed, it really made me think...

Why do we allow clients to blame us for their problems? Why do we allow clients to threaten not to pay their bill when they don't get their way? Why do we sacrifice our own family, friends or life to "be there" for clients, even when they are their own worst enemies and cause their own issues, typically by not taking our advice in the first place?

For some, the answer is simple: fear of not having clients or the next client. For others, what is it? I don't have the answer, but I do know that the clients that cause the MOST stress, make the most noise and are simply not nice to you or your office staff, are always the ones that also don't pay, cause the worst grief and make this practice more stressful than it needs to be. Honestly what is worse than working hard for a client, helping them all the way through and not getting paid for your time and services? Payment which by the way was a contractual arrangement from the onset? NOTHING!

As my former boss once said to me "If your gut tells you this client is going to cause grief, RUN." He was SO RIGHT!

In the last year, I began to see that the number of cases I have, is irrelevant. It is the quality of the client, case and facts that really counts. I have started to be brutally honest, even in the initial consultation, advising a potential new client that their case does not need or justify my services, that it seems the cost is likely prohibitive or whatever other "gut" feeling I have, from the onset. At times I have dissuaded potential new clients from even coming in for the consultation when it is clear that either they are a problem client, have had several lawyers already, cannot afford my services or seem to know more than me from the very first conversation.

This is actually exhilarating! Has this impacted my business? Not really! Even if it has given me "less" cases, it has NOT given me less income. Why? Because as I said above, the problem cases/clients are also the ones that likely do not pay, or at least not on time and cause you more grief, stress and issues than the fees you MAY collect are ultimately worth.

Have you ever gone on a date, or out with friends, where one person, whom you least expect, is NOT nice to the server or bartender? Not just not nice, but downright nasty! Of course, you look mortified and in shock at this persons behavior, in utter disbelief, and likely do not continue to associate with that person. It changes your entire view of this person. Well, this person is exactly like the client that will insult your assistant, not take your advice, and likely not pay your hard earned fees, regardless of the work, time or results you provide to them. Talk about good deeds, punishment, you know...

Typically, our fellow lawyers say it's the client we worry about firing us, the lawyer, because they are not satisfied for whatever reason. The natural assumption is that we, as lawyers, are gun-shy [that means downright scared] about firing clients.
Why? Well, we fear the negative impact, which may result, even if totally unjustified. Such as bar complaints, malpractice lawsuits, and negative reviews. Possibly it is because we were groomed by being told that clients are always right. So as lawyers, often we put up with a lot to keep a "bad" client.

Now, I can only speak from my 13 years of experience as a lawyer, so maybe some failed lawyer with much less experience or some former lawyer "selling the dream" can advise better, but there is certain conduct that clients exhibit that should lead you to fire them.

There is the "uncooperative" client. This doesn't mean they disagree with you. Uncooperative, in the "fire the client" sense, are clients who miss appointments, are constantly late, don't respond to communications or provide you information or documents you need to effectively represent them. This client believes you are on their schedule and terms.

Every retainer agreement should have a "client cooperation" clause. Something as simple as:

In order to effectively represent a client, the Firm requires Client cooperation. This means that in order to comply with deadlines, document requests and preparation for events, the Client agrees to assist the Firm in document production, requests and preparation for events required to represent the Client. Client agrees to assist the Firm in the representation of the Client and communicate with the Firm in the agreed upon mode of communication. Client agrees to timely provide requested documents to avoid the need to seek repeated delays in a pending case or risk sanctions for any reason. Failure to cooperate with the Firm, at the sole discretion of the Firm, will result in termination of this Agreement, and if there is a pending court proceeding, a motion to withdraw.

You can put whatever you want (subject to ethics considerations), and use the clause to remind the client that this type of behavior is not only important to your ability to properly represent the client, but is also part of your agreement.

Obviously things happen and you need to be flexible, but by having a written agreement on more than just fees, you let the client know how you expect the relationship to work. In fact, review the Agreement with the client, BEFORE they execute the document and never expect the client to read this on their own, other than once things already went south and they are reviewing for their own legal authority.

Period, end of story - uncooperative clients should be fired.

Clients who have a "shadow" lawyer . My personal favorite, next to the "internet" search lawyer or the "friend" that also had the SAME situation and "won" or "took their spouse to the cleaner". For example the client who tells you about a case with an unheard of award of alimony, child support in numbers so ridiculous that it is more than 100 children would ever need of, and of course sole parental responsibility and 100% timesharing. Right, of course that is true because it is SO UNLIKELY, it is nearly laughable, but as if you are supposed to sit there, nod with a smile and ensure the client that you too will receive similar results, without costing them a ton of money and exiting this process with a perfect outcome!!

These are clients that shouldn't be your clients in the first place but you took them on anyway. The client came in and wanted his "friend," or worse, his brother-in-law who's a lawyer in another state, on the phone. The lawyer doesn't do what you do, but the client wants this other lawyer copied on everything. Every strategy you come up with has to be run by this other lawyer. Every pleading you draft is reviewed by him. He (the lawyer) says he "doesn't want to step on your toes," but questions every single thing you suggest, do, think of, and write. Better yet, is the client that compares everything involved in the representation to what they read or heard from some "made up" person that had a much better lawyer or much better outcome that you have advised your client about.

Run from this client or fire this client, stat. Your professional independence is being affected, the client will find a way to blame you for anything that goes wrong, and more importantly, it's just annoying.

Then there is the "liar client". I often wonder if clients realize that the same behavior they swear they didn't exhibit is the same type of behavior they are exhibiting towards you as their lawyer.

Yes, we all know clients can be our worst enemies. We know, clients at times, lie. I'm not talking about clients who lie about what happened or the circumstances of their plight. I'm talking about clients that lie to you, about almost everything. This includes the payment of attorney's fees, time of payment of those fees, the other people they are "sharing" information with or their use of drugs and alcohol. Worse are the clients who incessantly post on "social media" that hands down do NOT only hurt their case, they are just plain stupid.

I remember being taught not to be "judgmental" of clients. Some lawyers believe that means you should just calmly nod your head "yes" at everything the client says. I'm not going to pretend I don't know the client is lying. Not being judgmental doesn't mean you shouldn't let the client know you think they are full of crap. Even if you're stupid enough to ignore the fact that you don't believe what the client is saying about his case, you shouldn't tolerate the client adding to that by lying to you about matters relating to the representation - such as why fees or costs haven't been paid, or why the client is doing the very thing they assured they would not do or their unnecessary and blatant posting of things online that just really not only do not help your case, but actually hurt it.

When do you fire a client for lying to you? When your gut tells you to do so.

Clients who don't really need you. These types of clients do two things. One, they tell you at the initial consultation that "this is how we're going to handle this," and two, they never want to get to the issue at hand, using you to delay everything. They are going to make things worse for themselves, and they want you to help them.

When you are representing a client, the paramount concern is protection of the client. Inherent in the protection of the client is maintaining the ethics of the profession. There's also that thing called a "reputation." No client should manipulate you into putting your ethics or reputation on the back burner. If you find yourself being used as a tool, put a stop to it (unless, of course, you are a lawyer who prides himself on being used as a tool). Obviously there are cases where delay benefits the parties, but this is another gut check. If every time there's a deadline, the client calls you the night before and says, "Can we just get more time?" you need to have a heart-to-heart with the client and if you get no resolution, fire the client. This client is not seeking your counsel or representation, they are using you to delay the process.

Obviously, before you fire the client , try to work things out with the client. Sometimes the conduct is due to anxiety or something else, and sometimes it's just that the client has other ideas about how to handle the attorney/client relationship. Just remember that similar to the clients' right to fire us, we have the same right. There is no constitutionally protected right to "keep" your lawyer when the lawyer's professional, ethical or personal boundaries are being jeopardized. Our lives are stressful enough. The ability to strike that work-life balance, maintain our health and sanity, is not easy in this profession. We have the ability and right to represent those clients that respect our advice, our retainer agreements, our professional reputations and our ethical obligations.

Lesson:  Do not hold on to a client that sucks the life out of you by doing the types of things I've described and won't stop. Difficult, demanding clients are one thing, but clients that have no concept of the way you ethically and professionally practice law need to go.
Abigail M. Beebe, West Palm Beach
2018-2019 Chair, Family Law Section of The Florida Bar
Upcoming CLE Opportunities
2019 Legislative Update
May 9, 2019  Noon - 2 p.m.
Live Audio Webcast

Register now and join us on May 9 to hear the latest statutory updates and results from the 2019 legislative session. Family Law Section Legislation Committee co-chairs  Andrea Reid, Esq.,  Joseph Hunt, Esq. and  David Hirschberg, Esq. will discuss new laws, bills introduced but not passed, practice pointers in light of the results and more. Moderated by  Jennifer Miller-Morse, Esq.

Approved for 2.0 General, 2.0 Marital & Family Law CLE credits. Course 2959. Family Law Section members register for only $75. Sponsored by LawPay.
A Lawyer's Practical Guide to Online Criticism and Negative Reviews
April 30, 12 - 1 p.m.
Live Audio Webcast
No one wants to discover a negative online review by a client or another attorney. What happens when you do? 

Get practical advice on steps to mitigate the fallout, learn the applicable ethics rules and find out how to cope with the emotional stress that can result. Presented by Florida Bar Ethics Counsel Elizabeth Tarbert, Esq., public relations consultant Lisa Tipton, APR and Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator and licensed psychotherapist HelenAnn Shapiro. Moderated by Sara J. Saba, Esq.

CLE credit approval pending.
Paralegals Play Their Part: Skills Assisting Attorneys in a Happy and Healthy Family Law Practice
May 10, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Doubletree Riverfront, Jacksonville

Magistrate K. Beth Luna , Esq. and Sarah R. Sullivan , Esq. are co-chairs for this one-day CLE event for family law attorneys and paralegals. Topics include effective intake and client management; preparation for mediations, hearings and trials; how to create a functional and favorable financial affidavit; client communication strategies; legal writing in tumultuous family litigation; ethical case management; the ethics of getting paid for legal work; case management; and how to ethically
engage, bill and conclude the attorney-client relationship. The event will be followed by a Family Law Section membership reception. 

Course 2942 Approved for 8.0 General, 1.0 Ethics, 1.0 Mental Illness CLE credits.  Section members $215; non-section members $270;  legal aid, government attorney, full time law faculty and students  $160.
2019 Alberto Romero Making a Difference Award
Please submit nominations by April 30 for the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar's 2019 Alberto Romero Making a Difference Award. The award recognizes the work of section members and affiliates who provide outstanding pro bono services, engage in significant volunteer community activities that improve the lives of Florida's children and families and encourage other section members to volunteer. Magistrate Diane Kirigin, a former section chair, founded the award. Jacksonville attorney Sarah Sullivan received the award in 2018. Through the Alberto Romero Making a Difference Award, the section publicly acknowledges those individuals who have made a difference in the lives of the underserved or disadvantaged within our state. 
The Alberto Romero Making a Difference Awards will be presented at the Family Law Section's Annual Luncheon in June. The section will select one member and one affiliate member to honor for their service and commitment to their communities. If you have questions, please contact Robin Scher at (561) 626-5640 or . Nomination submission instructions are on the form.
Only 80 spots available. In-person, live event.  Register online now

Make plans to attend the 2019 Trial Advocacy Workshop in July. Hone your trial skills as you prepare and present a family law case from beginning to end. Choose between a "Children's Issues" track or a "Financial Issues" track (preferences will be considered but are not guaranteed). Get details The Trial Advocacy Workshop always sells out, so take this opportunity to change the way you approach a contested family law proceeding and sharpen your trial tools. For those hoping to become board certified or recertified in Marital and Family Law, remember that completion of the Trial Advocacy Workshop counts toward your trial requirement. View event brochure .

Course No. 3186. General CLE: 29.5 hours; Ethics: 2.0 hours; Technology: 1.0 hours. Certification Program (max credit 29.5 hours): Marital and Family Law: 29.5 hours. Family Law Section members $940. Non-section members $995.
Stephens' Squibs by Eddie Stephens

Squib of the Month:

Tisdale v. Tisdale 44 Fla.L.Weekly D481 (Fla. 1st DCA  2019). Trial Court erred granting downward modification of support when Husband's income was totally commission-based, and ebbed and flowed. Accordingly, change in circumstances was foreseeable.
Healthy Selfie
Here's a great photo of a Family Law Section member in action. Jeanine Sasser of  Jeanine B. Sasser, P.A. in Jacksonville submitted this selfie that was taken before a recent  USTA Doubles Seniors Tennis Match at Eagle Harbor. L-R: Jeanine with teammate Kathy Cold and her tennis partner Deb Taylor. Jeanine said, "T ennis is a lifelong sport that is so fun and excellent for mental health and wellness."

We encourage you to submit selfies for publication in the FAMSEG Health and Wellness Section. Email your photos to FAMSEG Editor Ron Kauffman.

Signature Annual Sponsor

Gold Level

Law Firm Sponsor

Florida Bar 2018 Economics and Law Office Management Survey
How does your firm compare with others with regard to salaries, benefits and technology? Read the newly release  Florida Bar economics and law office management survey to find out

The Bar performs this survey every two years to supply Bar members with useful data to assist them in their daily practices. The survey is intended to keep attorneys informed on how their colleagues are doing in terms of salary information, benefits, hourly rates, number of hours worked, usage of software/technology, and more.
How to Avoid Getting Hooked by Phishing Scams
Cybercriminals continually use new tricks and ploys to get their victims to grant access to protected accounts and data, often through phishing emails. Every employee in your office should be aware of how to handle spam emails and unsolicited business opportunities that seem too good to be true. This excellent article outlines helpful tips and advice on how to protect your confidential files and data. Some key takeaways: 

Use two-factor or multifactor authentication. The more layers of defense you can apply, the more difficult it will be for a break-in to happen.

Use VPNs for security.
 Virtual private networks help secure privacy and data, especially when you are operating over a public access point like an airport or hotel. Activating a VPN on your computer or device will greatly help encrypt your communication flow.

Use secured communication for important information.  Phishing emails can direct you to a fake webpage that looks exactly like the authentic page and tricks you into inputting your login, password and other personal information. One quick tip: Make sure the website is secure and starts with "https," often with a locked lock symbol in the browser address bar.

Keep your computer updated.  Your operating system maker (Microsoft or Apple) has dedicated software engineers creating updates to better protect you from malicious attacks. Check for updates often and install/reboot whenever you find new ones.
Read the full article to get more tips on how to keep your data private and secure.
Andrea Reid

Who is someone who inspires you?  My former law partner, Denise Rappaport Isaacs. We cannot forget, as women, that we stand on the shoulders of the women who blazed the trail before us. She has blazed an incredible trail and built an awesome firm, that I was honored to be a part of .
How do you define success? Success to me is raising a healthy happy family.
Why do you practice family law? I practice family law because I seem to be suited for it. I love the opportunity to change the course of someone's life by advocating for them or their children and helping them navigate a seemingly arduous process.
What is something few people know about you? I am basically an open book. You get what you see.... And hear! 
Favorite Bible verse? "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight." 
Favorite family law case? It's a tossup between Hooker and Wit-Bahls, simply on name alone, because I am the mom of boys and those case names would make them laugh, I love their laughter! 
Favorite book and why? Without Rival by Lisa Bevere. This book is a perfect articulation of the fact that comparison and rivalry are a waste of energy. 
Favorite TV show and why? I am actually more into podcasts these days; my favorite is the Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell. The episodes just change the mindset and make you look at things with a different perspective.  
Favorite song lyric?  "Money can't buy everything... but it can by me a boat, it can buy me a truck to pull it...."
Favorite superhero? Toss up again, my husband or my dad. 
Best place you have traveled? The U.S. Supreme Court to be sworn in with the Family Law Section.
Proudest accomplishment within the section? Fighting the alimony war of  2019 (which may or may not be over by the time this is published!)
What benefits do you receive as a result of your section participation?
I have made some great friends, and learned from some incredible mentors. Also being able to participate in the legislation process, in fashioning statutes or preventing the passage of bad statutes. It is a unique challenge that only participation in the family law section can provide for me at this time.
Something we did not know about you?  I love to clay shoot.
Coffee or tea? Diet Coke.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items could you not live without? My husband and my sons Max and Xavier.
The Family Law Section WANTS YOU to write for one of three publications: 
  • JournalTo be considered for publication in The Florida Bar Journal, the article should be scholarly and relate in some manner to family law. It should be 12-15 pages in length, complete with end notes. 
  • Commentator: The Family Law Section's glossy quarterly magazine. Articles could range from substantive articles to advice about lifestyle and wellness.
  • FAMSEG: Have an announcement? Pictures of a section event? FAMSEG is your place! Please contact Editor Ron Kauffman.
For more information about section publications, please contact Publications Committee Co-chairs Laura Davis Smith or Sonja Jean.
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