Practicing My Family Law Specialty in a Small NC Town
By Brian W. King
I remember being called as a juror the month after I turned 18 here in Rutherford County. My father had worked in a local mill all of his life, and my mother was a teaching assistant in one of the poorest schools in North Carolina. I can clearly remember seeing Attorney Bob Harris stand up to make his argument in that hot courtroom in a sear-sucker suit. Bob was a legend in our little town and had changed lives. At that minute, I knew I wanted to make that kind of difference.
Throughout my practice I have tried to remember that feeling. We give a small scholarship out to students that same age, and let them come in and work in our office for a week. I meet their parents and shake hands with their family, and give one of those oversized checks. It makes the local newspaper and people call me, including our local court officials. It is a small way for me to give back to my community and invest in our future. I am not sure that would work the same way in Raleigh or Charlotte, but it is just the kind of thing that makes me love our small offices in towns like Marion, Shelby, Columbus, and Brevard.
To be honest, I was a little concerned about how a small town would see family law certification when I applied in 2009. Much in the same way a heart surgeon may have trouble explaining that he understands a common cold, a family law specialist may seem too specialized to deal with the everyday issues of a small town. I was wrong to have that fear. Instead, board certification has allowed me to practice in every part of family law—and keep my hand in other practice areas as well. Board certification allows me to provide a higher level of service for my clients and my community.
Board certification also helps provide comfort to potential clients. The nature of small towns can lead people to be suspicious of the local attorneys. Everyone knows each other, and that can breed a little concern. Having the certification helps people breathe a little easier, and be a little less likely to go to the “big cities” to find an attorney.
Some of the highlights of practicing family law in a small town are:
· The brisk pace: I practice in cities like Asheville, Greenville, and Spartanburg, South Carolina, and I see the packed dockets. I recently opened a case in Rutherford County, had a trial, and closed the case in three months. Anyone reading this in Wake County will swear that I must be lying—but it is true. If a case lasts six months in a small town, there is a problem.
· The urgency: Family law is urgent. It is passionate. It is stressful. I love every minute of it.
· The people: I enjoy working with my awesome team (my family law paralegal and I have worked together for ten years), and we usually obtain great results for our clients. I also have an excellent working relationship with the attorneys I litigate against (I just went to a party at one of their houses last weekend), and we are able to separate our clients’ legal problems from our personal relationships.
· The value: We are providing an incredible service to our clients; we are helping them have peace of mind—and moving them from a very difficult part of their lives to a new place. That takes time, patience, heartbreak, and stress. I’ve learned to not be afraid to charge for my time and efforts.
· The opportunities: I have joined a collaborative law group, WNC Collaborative Law (check us out on the web!), and look for more tools to aid clients every day. I also enjoy working with other attorneys across the state. When a difficult point of law comes up, or a hand is needed in the courtroom, I am often called on to aid in the situation. I love these types of referrals, and would be ready to help anyone who emails me at email@example.com.
Office administration is the most challenging aspect of my work. I, together with some awesome partners along the way, have gone from a one-room office in Rutherfordton to a busy firm pushing for $3 million in annual billings in over 12 offices in North and South Carolina. I enjoy working and building a team, but it is stressful. It is, however, counterbalanced by the fun we have with our team—from cruises to retreats high in the mountains of North Carolina. Seeing the satisfaction of our team and clients when a case is resolved is the most rewarding part of my work.
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