Most of you readers out there in cyberspace probably have experienced family law issues personally, by listening to the experiences of a family member or a friend, or through your favorite television series or movie. The experiences of a family law attorney may be a mystery to you. Today, that changes. I present to you A Day in the Life of a Family Law Attorney. Imagine sitting in the chair in the photograph to the right, and experience the journey of a family law practitioner. The following is an example of what life as an Arizona family law attorney is like for me. Please note that names and certain identifying facts have been changed to protect the privacy of clients.
5:45 a.m. My alarm will not go off for another 15 minutes. However, my toddler son is crawling on top of my head. Looks like it’s time to start my day.
5:55 a.m. I glance at my inbox on my iPhone and skim the names of senders, subjects, and content blurbs. Okay, probably going to have a few fires to put out this morning. Client/Father in the Jones case expressing concern that Mother will leave Arizona with minor children, Client/Mother in the Michaels case emails me to notify me that Opposing Party/Father has violated the legal decision-making order by starting minor child on a medication without consulting with Mother and that Mother does not deem as necessary.
7:45 a.m. Make 45-minute commute to Southeast Court in Mesa for Resolution Management Conference (“RMC”) in the Jeffries case. I had gone back and forth trying to settle with the pro per opposing party/Mother in this case until 7:30 p.m. last night. No dice. I had to try — after all, I needed to try to come to a resolution for a Resolution Management Conference.
8:25 a.m. Arrive at Southeast Court. I know the drill. Throw my bag, file, and legal pad onto the conveyor belt at security. Walk through metal detector. Anticipate beep. As predicted, the detector beeps. Turn 180 degrees and face the door. Hold my arms out parallel to the floor before the security guard even asks. Guard takes hand wand and runs it along the perimeter of my body. I smile, grab my items, and go on my way.
8:30 a.m. Arrive outside of the courtroom. Wait for my client to arrive. A few moments later, both parties arrive. We cut to the chase. I ask opposing party/Mother if we can try to find some common ground. My client expresses his willingness to settle and desire to stop the bickering for the sake of the children. To my surprise, we work out a deal that both parties seem to be satisfied with. Wow. I guess putting in the extra hours last night and encouraging my client to negotiate with Mother has paid off. The agreement that they have come to is likely far better than what the judge would likely decide.
9:00 a.m. RMC commences. Judge asks me for an update. I triumphantly announce that the parties have come to an agreement. I feel like a mother whose child brought straight As home from school.
9:30 a.m. I leave court and head to the office. Tupac comes on the radio. Seems like good celebration music. I drive with one hand on the wheel and bob my head to the beat. Yes, lawyers listen to hip-hop too.
9:45 a.m. Arrive at office. I say hello to the team and briefly chat with Ben (my boss/founding partner/managing partner), Randi (my right-hand woman/family law paralegal), Dee (the glue that holds the office together/bankruptcy & personal injury paralegal), and Melissa (our legal assistant who brings way too many tempting treats to the office). We talk about our weekends and the Kardashians/Jenners.
9:50 a.m. Now time to get down to business. I meet with Randi to download her on the morning’s events. She gives me intel about what has been going on with our family law clients while I was gone. Believe me, a lot can happen in a few hour’s time. We prioritize our issues, including the ones from the emails that I skimmed earlier in the morning.
10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. I spend the remainder of my day checking my inbox, reviewing and signing letters and pleadings that need to go out a.s.a.p., reading my emails, and responding. I ensure clients that yes, we will notify the Court at the appropriate time of the opposing party’s violation of the legal decision-making order. Yes, we can file an emergency motion to stop Mother from leaving the state with the children.
1:00 p.m. I draft a motion requesting that the court permit my client Ms. Peters to serve her ex husband through alternative means since we believe that the ex is evading service. I reference relevant caselaw/statutes and explain our numerous attempts to serve our client’s ex.
1:30 p.m. Client meeting with Mr. Ambrose regarding his upcoming hearing. I remind Mr. Ambrose that he cannot talk to the children about his case or negatively about the opposing party/their mother or else he can get into trouble with the Court. I recommend that we try to negotiate with Mother because by negotiating, the parties have more control over what happens than they would if they left the issues up to a judge. It’s at least worth a try. Mr. Ambrose agrees.
6:00 p.m. The work day is over. I can’t help but glance at my work inbox on my iPhone. I’m working on that.