Family Matters with Reese Law Podcasts
Episode 4: Getting to Know Reese Law
In this episode, we learn all about the Reese Law office and the members and team that work so hard to make us successful. Join us as we look back at our history and dive into what makes our firm so special.
Catherine Reese: Welcome to Family Matters, Reese Law. We are a family law firm based in Fairfax and served in Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland communities. In our 4th episode, we will talk about the Reese Law team and how we work with our clients. I am your host, Kate Reese, and joining me today is one of my associates, Mario Williams.
A short but necessary disclaimer; the material contained in this podcast is not offered, nor should it be construed as legal advice. The material in our podcast has been prepared and published for informational purposes only. You should not act or rely upon information contained in these materials without specifically seeking professional legal advice. Thank you.
Mario, how would you describe the culture of Reese Law?
Mario Williams: I would describe Reese Law’s culture as a team oriented culture. It's very accommodating, very synergistic. We all look out for each other here and everyone gets along together. The setup of looking out for each other helps us maintain the standard of excellence that’s expected of our firm and performing the work for our clients, and this team oriented approach, it's so much better rather than having each person looking out for themselves, trying to get a leg up for lack of a better term.
And the other way, that's incredibly helpful really for everybody is how our clients are also brought into it. When we represent a client, they're part of that team. They're part of the decision making process. We ask for their review and their consent before communications are dispatched or proposals are sent or pleadings are filed. And having this team oriented approach, I believe that's what really makes our firm such a wonderful place to work and allows us to provide such a great work product for the clients that we represent. And, Kate, I wanted to ask you, when you opened Reese Law 16 years ago now, what is the culture that you envisioned when you first started your firm?
Catherine Reese: Well, first I envisioned that I was going to work for myself and not have any associates and only one staffer. But the influx of work did come and I had the opportunity to hire some really good people and they were helping to meet the client needs. And something I had learned in a prior practice was to have an associate in the initial consult so that the associate would be familiar with the case from the beginning and the client would be familiar with the associate from the beginning. And that's important because the associates might be doing the bulk of the work to keep the fees down for the client, but if the associate or the lead attorney is in court and not available and the client has an issue, they can still talk to somebody that they know and that knows their case. And so I really became very wedded to that idea, and I think that that works really well. Teamwork has always been important to me. I have no interest in that's my case or no, that's my case. They're all the firm's cases and the firm as a whole is responsible for taking care of all clients.
Mario Williams: Do you think that goal has been achieved?
Catherine Reese: I would say yes. We get a lot of client feedback and they are very appreciative of being able to work with other members of the staff where they can have lower hourly rate applied, but also the expertize that's needed. I don't need to do a paralegal job, a paralegal on staff who is excellent at her job and has been doing it for a very long time, does it very well. I don't need to be the one that goes over to court to hand up an agreed order. It has to be an attorney, but it can in fact be you, Mario, at a lower hourly rate than me. So it's also a process of training the staff and the attorneys on how to best serve the clients, and we do that as we work with each case and meet those client's needs because of a client does say, “I want Kate to do everything.” I'll say, “Yes, we can we can do that. But if you're saying that an uncontested order, you want me to leave my office, drive to the courthouse, and deliver the order?” They said, “Oh, no, not that. But can you be involved in all strategy?” Of course. Of course we can. So we try to match the resources to the job at hand.
How do you think we meet the goals of our clients or how do we go about meeting the goals of our clients?
Mario Williams: You kind of already touched on it, in terms of what you just said, paralegal does a paralegals job, you're involved the strategy, but the way that everything's set up here, I guess we'll start from the top, which is you.
Of course, you're the head of the firm lead counsel on most cases, not necessarily every case, depending on the complexity involved. But of course, you're familiar with everything that's going on in the firm, even the most straightforward matters that we have. When it comes to many of the cases, of course, an associate is involved, either myself or Christine, as you mentioned earlier, and every consult we try to have two attorneys, so that way, if one person is out because of a trial or something like that, then if they call in, there's someone else that they can interface with in the event that something is going on, the case that requires immediate attention or something along those lines. The other piece here is for you specifically, not pertaining to Christine and I is that you have a master's in counseling and you want to mention how you came about that?
Catherine Reese: It was a court case. A little girl wanted to commit suicide and she was paired up with the right counselor. The opposing counsel had recommended the counselor. I hadn't heard of her. I talked to her I thought would give it a try, and the counselor was amazing. She was able to connect with the child and within a short period of time, say less than three months, the child was no longer suicidal. The case went on, because that actually was not the issue of the case.
But it was amazing and it was something the court could not have done, simply; family law in court. The judges have limitations that are statutory and they cannot take care of every need that a family may have. Sometimes mental health assistance is the most important assistance that you can give to a client. In fact, I recommended a client yesterday. Do not hire us. Put the money towards getting proper mental health for the children and then we'll see where we are. So that was it, and I think that the degree has helped me with my practice every day. I'm more knowledgeable about it. But I can also be a more intuitive and empathetic with clients in helping them understand the positions that they are in or what we are facing; and that's been invaluable.
Mario Williams: Absolutely. Kind of touching back to the associates, everyone here, you, Christine and myself, we're all collaboratively trained. You and Christine are a Virginia Supreme Court certified mediators currently in the process of obtaining my certification. Not there just yet, but hopefully in the near future. And of course, all three of us being licensed attorneys, we all go to court when necessary. However, having these different processes available to us, give us a much larger toolbox to work with when representing our clients. What we've seen is that, many clients are better served through not going to court and instead using these alternative dispute resolution processes. And so having everyone trained allows for much more flexibility as opposed to other firms where maybe only one attorney in the firm is a mediator. Only one attorney in the firm is collaboratively trained, whereas here we all are.
Catherine Reese: And I think that that gives us the opportunity and we have the knowledge to come up with more innovative solutions that are accepted by the other side. They just simply hadn't thought about it or hadn't thought about it in that light, whereas because of our training, we do have a lot of tools to work with and we consider all of them. While a client may not be able to be in the collaborative process because the other side will not do the collaborative process and both have to agree there are still tools from that process that we can employ and get agreement on, like the use of neutral experts, which then save both clients money and forgo a battle of the experts. It's not rocket science, but you've got to be thinking about it when you're talking with that client, when you're analyzing that case.
Mario Williams: Of course, and actually, because you touched on neutral experts and I guess people outside of the firm. Of course, part of the law firm is not just the attorneys, but the support staff, and that's for us, I feel like they're part of the most important individuals here because they provide that foundation to allow us to do our job as attorneys. Here we have four individuals on support staff, our senior paralegal, who, as you mentioned earlier, she's very experienced. She knows all the paralegal duties backwards and forwards and has many years of expertize there and her ability to organize and review documents makes things so much easier when they eventually get to my desk.
And so I can actually go through them in an orderly fashion and figure out what's going on here in this case, what are the finances look like here? Because usually many of these cases, they're very heavy on the bank accounts, the retirement accounts, real estate documents, things like that. So we can understand, for example, in a divorce case, what's the property at issue here? And so this job and getting that organized is incredibly valuable for me.
Catherine Reese: Yes. And it's appropriate that that sort of work be done at a paralegal rate rather than an attorney rate. We're talking about organizing bank statements. We're talking about looking for the needle in the haystack sometimes. So not that attorneys won't also get involved and assist, especially if there's something difficult that's trying to be identified or something is not quite matching up. But the first person to have that job should be the paralegal.
Mario Williams: Absolutely. In terms of the other individuals we have, Reia, our office manager, and treasuries are and Reia is the one who handles -- she handles billing. She handles interfacing with a number of clients. Really, she's really the glue that kind of holds everything together. Because if it wasn't for Reia, I have a feeling it would be so much more difficult to get through the daily tasks that we have to get through. Then we also have Alisa who's got our communications liaison. Whenever a communication comes in from the outside, say, a fax, or we receive something in the mail, things like that. She's usually the first person who has her hands on it. Make sure it's to the person that needs to get to and vice versa.
When we have something to dispatch, whether it's pleadings to the court, getting something faxed to an opposing counsel or something like that, she's usually the person that handles it and make sure it gets filed in the right place and so on and so forth. The other individual handy woman, she's the one who deals with marketing social media. She manages the calendars of the firm, which is an extraordinarily important task here, because we're in court. We have certain deadlines. We want to make sure we're not booked in two courts at the same time, things like that, and her job is very important for making sure things stay organized and that, again, we're not in two places at once when we otherwise shouldn't be. And in sixteen years of practice, you mentioned before that you've never had an issue where, oh, I need to be in this court and that court 20 miles apart on the same day because of that strict organization.
Catherine Reese: Right and our calendars change every day, every time a new client calls and wants a consultation that changes our calendar. So is something that she's got to keep up on hour by hour, if not minute by minute, just to keep everything organized.
Mario Williams: Absolutely. Yeah. And how do you hope that the firm will evolve over the next few years? What does this Reese Law look like in 2025?
Catherine Reese: Well, I think that we will always have a litigation segment because it's unavoidable things like laws to show, cause when somebody is violating a court order can be difficult to resolve in any place other than court. You already have somebody who's comfortable with disregarding a court order. But I'd like us to be doing a lot more collaborative work and a lot more mediation work.
We have seen time and time again people leaving the collaborative process and leaving mediation sessions, having friendly conversations, not staying back, and Kate’s off, is hanging out, and waiting for the other person to leave the building. And we always try to impart to people that what happens here in their case can affect the family as a whole. How do future Christmas's work? How do birthdays work? How do weddings work? How to bridal showers work? Your parents for life, and that's just the way that it is. And your child shouldn't have to choose. Well, where does mom have to sit and where does dad have to sit for it to not be a problem on a special day like their wedding? They should be able to be paying attention to their wedding instead.
So the studies all show that when two people come to a resolution of their own, they are much more likely to abide by it than if they are told what they will do, meaning a judicial ruling. And we always want compliance. You worked hard to get a good agreement. Now we need everybody to follow it. And we write in plain English. We do our very best write in plain English so everybody understands exactly what they're going to do. Of course, you'll be done with all of your training by then.
We might just find new things to learn, although I think we're probably fairly cutting edge on the fact that we've got so many collaborative attorneys and soon to be so many mediators in one place. So we just will go with the flow. We'll pay attention to the trends. We will be mindful of who we take us as clients. We will still do litigation because it's unavoidable. But I want the blood out of your veins case may not be one that we want to take when it's just pure fighting and exorbitant on the fees. It sometimes it cannot be avoided, but it's usually not a pleasant situation, and that means for the client is more so than the attorney's worse.
Mario Williams: So can you tell us, what have you heard in terms of client feedback after they've been represented by the firm?
Catherine Reese: A lot of people indicate their gratefulness. Many indicate that they feel that they are on stronger footing as parents and can have a better relationship with their children. Some feel much more financially secure than they did before the process began. Generally, it's a huge life change for a party to go through a custody case or through a divorce, and they just really appreciate that they didn't go through it alone and that we were there for them.
Thank you for joining us today on Family Matters with Reese Law. Please subscribe to our shows that you will never miss an episode. You can also visit our website at www.reeselawoffice.com for more information. I will say that this is a very enjoyable part of my job and that is having the wonderful staff that I do and being able to have happy clients. It's just exactly what you would want if you were running a law firm in my opinion. We will be getting on to episode number five in the near future with David Tyson as a mental health professional talking to us about families in transition. Thank you.