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Recently I had an opportunity to talk with the lawyers of the newly formed Wake Family Law Group, a practice based on specialization in family law. In their newly appointed and comfortable offices, I had rare access to the six certified specialists who came together with this innovative idea: a highly specialized law firm, offering a wealth of experience and skill in handling all aspects of family law. The mood was jovial and collegial. They are enjoying the ride, watching their hard work and vision come together. Their comments on establishing a new firm, specializing in family law, and shaping the practice follow.

Q: How did you establish the Wake Family Law Group?

We brought together a mix of experienced lawyers and newer lawyers, both men and women, but all certified specialists in family law. The five partners each came from different law firms to form this group. We really thought about respect, admiration for each other’s talents, and a blend of trial experience and knowledge of recent case law. We all wanted to enjoy our work, so we looked for both complementary personalities as well as complimentary work experiences. We must be one of the few firms in the state in which all of the partners are certified specialists in one practice area. We’ve since hired two associates, one who was already certified, and one who plans to sit for the exam as soon as she is eligible.

Q: Have you done any advertising to announce the firm?

We’ve done no advertising per se, and minimal marketing at this point. We’ve sent announcements to colleagues and clients, as well as the Triangle Business Journal and we held an open house. We didn’t design the firm so that we could advertise, rather we plan to let our credentials speak for themselves. Our best referral sources are generally other satisfied clients, who know our work and our level of commitment to the field.

Q: What types of cases/clients do you work with?

With our breadth of experience, we really feel that we can handle all types of family law issues. It’s a great approach for the client, a cost effective way to get the benefit of our combined knowledge base, while having one attorney as a main contact. We routinely seek each other’s opinions on case law, strategy, and even hiring outside resources, including business valuation specialists and psychologists. We work closely on cases, both on an informal basis and through regular strategy sessions.

Q: What is your vision for the firm?

We want to produce quality work and believe that together we can create a better work product. We hope to upgrade the level of practice in Wake County. We plan to offer seminars for lawyers who don’t specialize in family law, but who do handle a few cases. We’re scheduling one in the fall to focus on the new bankruptcy code and how it will affect the practice of family law, particularly in divorce cases. We also plan to present seminars for the public, focusing on different aspects of family law, which will be educational in nature.

We are pleased with our choice of location and think that it will be a contributing factor in our success. It’s convenient for clients and a great space with a mixed-use appeal. (Clients can plan their appointments around necessary errand-running to Target and great lunch options!)

Q: What are the benefits to your clients?

Beyond our combined years of experience and the prime location, our focus on family law seems to provide a measure of comfort to our clients. We haven’t yet heard “Can you handle this case?” Clients seem to understand that with a firm of certified specialists in family law, we do handle all types of cases, from relatively easy to highly complex. There are many excellent family lawyers in Wake County, many who are also certified specialists and we have established a strong mutual respect. This level of commitment to the practice area is a great cost-saver to all of the clients involved. We work together well and know how and when to settle cases.

Individually, before coming together, we had strong reputations in the field. Combined, we really offer a depth of knowledge and experience that is atypical.

Q: What would you say to encourage other lawyers to pursue certification?

While studying for an exam may not seem appealing, it is a very useful exercise. Every lawyer should have to read Chapter 50 and the Rules of Civil Procedure again, maybe even on an annual basis. It’s a good way to refresh your knowledge and show your commitment to the field. Certification is very reassuring to clients, especially those who don’t know you personally, but have been referred from outside sources.

Q: Any tips on preparing for the exam?

Read the latest cases. Read the Family Law Forum for good updates on hot topics. We found it to be a practical exam, focusing on the situations family lawyers encounter on a regular basis. Most of us spent a good amount of time studying, and found it helpful to study with another lawyer, even if just to commit to the time.