The Modern Courtroom

In twenty years of practice I’ve won some, lost some, and practiced law in a wide range of areas. Initially , I focused on Elder law. Over time, my practice shifted toward a focus on fiduciary representation, breach of fiduciary duty claims, and exploitation. Practicing in this area I was regularly confronted with issues outside of what is normally thought of as ‘probate,’ such as contract cases, criminal law, and marriage dissolution, to name a few. Initially hesitant to move outside my lane, I eventually realized that my “lane” was as diverse as my cases and the issues arising in them. I enjoy helping people with their legal needs. Let’s talk and let me see how I can help you.

I enjoy talking to people, and the first hour of my day, from 7:30a.m. until 8:30a.m., is set up for anyone to schedule an appointment for a phone call or video conference. (Click here). However, I feel that there are things people should know if they are going to hire an attorney, so I’m going to try my hand at blogging.

Today I went to Court on a petition for a name change.

Why is this worth discussing? Because my handling a name change, a relatively simple and straightforward matter, was only possible due to the incredible reduction in the cost of hiring an attorney brought about by the Maricopa County Superior Court’s Court Connect program. Attorneys are appearing for hearings via video conferencing for routine matters. Attorneys not driving to court for hearings;. What does this mean for you? In a nutshell, it means attorneys not charging to drive to court for hearings! This matter was not heard at the courthouse closest to my office, the S.E. Courthouse. Instead, I would have had to drive (in rush hour traffic) to a Downtown Phoenix courtroom. The travel time would have likely been an in excess of an hour (walking to my car, driving to the courthouse, parking, getting through security, walking/elevator to the court room, and after the hearing, return to the office). With an hourly rate averaging $375, the savings (time and funds) of this amazing adaptation cannot be undersold.

It makes sense that most cases settle. This means most hearings fall into the ‘routine’ matters being heard via Microsoft Teams. While I’m uncertain of the long-term effects, I believe there will be an immediate push to cancel the the Maricopa County Superior Court’s Court Connect program once attorneys start seeing their billables not coming back after after society opens up after the pandemic.

I, on the other hand, look forward to keeping the Court Connect program. With its implementation, I can now offer more affordable legal services. No, my one experience handling a name change did not equip me to estimate the cost of hiring an attorney to handle the matter for you (However, you can look at the forms provided by the Maricopa County Superior Court’s outstanding law library here!).

Modern lawyering has, unfortunately, become filled with division. The Maricopa County Superior Court is divided into four administrative division – Civil, Criminal, Probate, Family. There are several other divisions you won’t find on their website, but I’ve handled juvenile dependencies and mental health cases which are considered separate administrative units. Somewhere in the Courts labyrinth of courtrooms there is a Judicial Officer assigned to handle tax matters, which I only know as I was involved in a matter in which one of the other attorneys needed to resolve a tax issue tangentially related to our case. Who knew?

This division is most apparent when someone looks for a attorney, or an attorney wants to advertise. Lawyers and clients are both forced to choose between ‘specialties,’ such probate, family, civil, criminal, etc. Advertisers, charging more for certain categories and wanting more categories to sell, seem to be spawning new categories everyday. (See link).

Many, including lawyers, believe these categories limits an lawyer’s ability to practice law in certain areas. Would a family court attorney faced with a contract issue is going to associate an attorney who specializes in contract law, or a probate attorney faced with a creditor is going to find an attorney who specializes in debtor-creditor law? An ethical attorney would refer the case to a specialist if it presents issue that is significantly complex and they feel they don’t have the time to properly research and handle the matter. This decision may trigger the lawyer trying to remember a specific case in which the issue was presented and handled by a lawyer or law firm known to the attorney. In this instance any referral is likely going to be based upon education, training, and experience only available to experienced attorneys. Alternatively, an attorney may simply reach out to attorneys in their firm’s referral network. This isn’t as bad as it seems, as most attorneys know clients as the best source of referrals. Normally, much better than a phonebook, tv advertisement, are internet search.

So why do I take up precious web space to tell you this? The answer is because the legal field is changing and I am excited to change with it. The adoption of programs like Court Connect allow lawyers to handle cases efficiently and “for liberty and justice for all.” Because really, that’s what this is all about.

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