Tag: law practice

What are two lines of work that fit together well?

What are two lines of work that fit together well? For example, a remodeling contractor and a divorce lawyer.

I do not believe a lawyer or client would really want to interact with each other any more than necessary. I wouldn’t want to remodel my divorce client’s home, and I doubt that my client would want me remodeling his/her home either. 

But now you have me thinking. Perhaps one could practice law and write novels. The problem there is that if you’re really good at one of the two, you’re likely to be pretty mediocre at the other and want to give up the “sideline” as more trouble than it’s worth. That’s what John Grisham did (after he hit it big as a novelist he stopped practicing law and—based upon the scornful way he describes the practice of law and lawyers in his novels—joyously never looked back). 

It’s extremely hard to practice law profitably on a part-time basis, I can’t think of another line of work that fits together well with the practice of divorce law other than perhaps teaching a law class or two in law school or college. Even then, it wouldn’t be a “I have two part-time jobs I work equally” situation; you’d still be practicing law full-time. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277 

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Is it illegal for a lawyer to charge their ex client for a copy of their case file?

Is there anything illegal about a previous lawyer wanting to charge their ex client for a copy of their case file?

I can’t answer for all jurisdictions, but in Utah the answer is: 

  • If you were previously given your case file or previously given a copy of your file—and lost those—so now you want another copy of your file (and assuming your lawyer still has a copy of your file), then it’s fair for your former lawyer to charge you a reasonable fee for the cost of making you another copy of your file. You’re not entitled to a free copy or copies. 
  • If you were not previously given your case file or previously given a copy of your file, then Rule 1.16(d) of the Utah Supreme Court Rules of Professional Practice – Rules of Professional Conduct provides: “The lawyer must provide, upon request, the client’s file to the client. The lawyer may reproduce and retain copies of the client file at the lawyer’s expense.” Thus, if you have not requested a copy of your file, you are entitled to your file (not a copy, the file itself). 
    • How long must your attorney keep your file after representation terminates? I’ve been told no less than three and no more than five years. Rule 1.15(a) provides, “[O]ther property shall be kept by the lawyer and shall be preserved for a period of five years after termination of the representation.” So if representation terminated more than 5 years ago, your old lawyer is not required to keep your file any longer, and so if you want a copy of your file then, you are likely out of luck. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 48

Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 48: Personal Statement for Law School 

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant  

My time as a legal assistant to attorney Eric Johnson has served the exact purpose I was hoping it would. I wanted to gain experience in the legal field before starting law school. I have now been accepted to Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and will be attending starting this fall. In honor of that, my blog post this week will be my personal statement I used for my law school applications: 

The serenity prayer, attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” I have needed each part of this prayer at different times in my life. As I have applied the three elements of this prayer, I have found healing for myself, and I know that other people deserve to experience the same. I can help bring this healing to others by practicing law. 

First, “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” This was difficult for me to accept because I did not like to think I could not change certain things. I am an American, and I have been taught from my youth that my choice is paramount in everything I do. And I believe that I have the power to make whatever choice I want. However, I have had to learn that even though I always have my choice, I cannot eliminate the consequences of my choices. For instance, I regret not playing hockey when I was younger. I love hockey, and I am one of the few American boys born in the 90s whose favorite athlete was Joe Sakic and not Michael Jordan. I cannot go back and choose to play hockey now and accepting that helps me change my mindset. Instead of dwelling on what could have been, I can now focus on enjoying things like acting, singing, and dancing. Things I did as a youth, and that enhance my life now. That acceptance brings healing, and I think that by helping people see they cannot always change the consequences of the law, I can bring this essential healing as a lawyer. 

Second, “courage to change the things I can.” To me, this means I have responsibility when I want to see a change in my life. For instance, when I served a two-year mission for my church in Hungary, I did not speak Hungarian well at first. I would say that I was like a child, but even Hungarian children can communicate with words instead of pointing and acting out what they mean to say. Despite the struggle, and because of my love for my faith and the people of Hungary, I did everything it took to improve my language skills throughout my mission. I worked at it every day and persevered until I could confidently hold a real conversation with any Hungarian I met (even the children). The work I put in to get better at the Hungarian language helped create closer relationships with others and built my confidence. These things are examples to me of the healing that comes when I accept responsibility for what I can do for myself. People need good lawyers to help them do what they can for themselves in a lawsuit, and I can offer people this necessary healing through practicing law. 

The final principle of the serenity prayer, “and wisdom to know the difference”, has been crucial to me in my relationships with others. I have learned that I cannot control how other people react to me or what they think about me, but sometimes I forget that I cannot control these things and I need wisdom to keep myself from trying to manipulate other’s reactions and emotions. For instance, I used to work with my brother at a company he started in college. We did not have the healthiest dynamic as kids and I could tell this was playing out in our professional lives together. I had to quit, but I was scared to tell him because I thought he would “freak out.” I needed wisdom to tell him I was quitting while allowing him to have whatever reaction he wanted. It turned out, he felt the same way I did, and it helped bring healing to our relationship. A good lawyer helps their client find the same healing by helping them exercise wisdom to know how they should or should not act, and that’s why I want to pursue the law as a career since I know other people would benefit from that. 

The serenity prayer has been a guiding influence in everything I do, and I have been blessed with healing by choosing to follow these principles in my life. I am immeasurably grateful for this healing, and I want to share this with others because it will help them. I know these principles paired with law degree can help me be a “healer” for other people in my own way. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277 

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 47: The Healer’s Art

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant  

One thing my boss, attorney Eric Johnson, has told me that has had an impact on my view of law is the idea that law was traditionally supposed to be a healing profession. I myself will be starting law school soon and will be learning more comprehensively the ins and outs of the legal profession, and I think that the best lawyers that I have seen seek to bring their clients healing. 

There is an important distinction I need to make here. I am afraid that there are some out there who would think that what I am saying is that good lawyers get their clients what they want or avoid conflict. That is not what healing is in my opinion. You would not want a doctor who only performs you the procedure that you want at the expense of the procedure that you need. To truly bring about justice and appropriate mercy, a good lawyer must uphold the law, and that means not just giving the client what the client wants. It also means not running from conflict every time it arises because conflict is part of life (and some conflicts can be resolved only by confronting and overcoming them, not avoiding or compromising them). The healing comes from doing what is right by your client but also what is fair to the opposing party. Healing comes at times through conflict, but keeping an eye on what the absolute truth of any given situation is, at least when it comes to the law. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277 

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 46

Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 46: Simplify, but do so Elegantly 

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant  

As a legal assistant to a divorce attorney, I find that one of the most difficult things to do in the law is to take a legal concept and simplify it without dumbing it down. A good lawyer has the ability to simplify, but can do so in an elegant way.  

The best way to help a client, is to help them understand enough about their case so that they feel empowered. That doesn’t mean that the client will understand everything about their case (any divorce case can get complicated quickly), but if a client can feel empowered and that they can do something then that will make the attorney’s work more effective. Legalese is a real phenomenon and any uninitiated individual would feel overwhelmed by too much lawyer speak. However, if you simplify legal concepts too much, then that same uninitiated individual can be misled because they do not understand enough about their situation.  

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277 

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Would you want to groom your children to become lawyers?

Would you enlist your children into a pre-law school program which grooms them to become top notch lawyers? 

No. I have gone in the opposite direction. I have told my children (who love dogs and want dogs because their mother and I do not want a dog and have never had a dog) that I will buy each of them a dog, if they promise not to go to law school and become lawyers. The “legal biz” can, and often does, ruin good people who become lawyers. I don’t want to risk my children being ruined by the legal profession. There are some good people in the legal profession, but there aren’t enough good people in it to redeem it, in my opinion. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 19: Litigation

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant

Litigation is not fun. It’s anything but fun. Now, I am not a lawyer and I have only been a legal assistant since this past summer, and that’s the sum total of my experience with the legal system to this point in my life. But even then, I feel that I know enough to say that litigating is hard and I see why people hire lawyers when they’re involved in litigation. I am not a naturally argumentative person. I do not really go looking for arguments and I do not enjoy arguing because the point of arguing is to show why you are right and the other person is wrong, and I prefer to stay out of stuff like that because I do not feel qualified to say someone is right or wrong (even if it is as clear as day). So, what on Earth is driving me to want to pursue law? It seems like I would hate it as a career, so why would I bother seeking to gain more knowledge in that area? 

Well, I might be a fool, but as much as I hate arguing, I hate to see other people become victims of the very system that claims to defend their rights even more. I hate seeing other people being taken advantage of by people who are supposed to be watching out for that person’s best interests (I am talking about lawyers and judges). It is cliché now to suggest that the system is broken (which is only causing people to be more complacent about the broken system), but I think people deserve to be treated like people and when we do not stand up for the rights of all people we eventually stand up for the rights of none (also cliché, but no less true; in fact, all the more true because it’s fallen to the level of cliché).  

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 18

Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 18: Financial Declarations and Initial Disclosures

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant

My minimal exposure to the legal profession as a legal assistant to a divorce attorney has given me the opportunity to learn about financial declarations and initial disclosures. These forms are necessary for any party going through the process of litigation for a divorce, and they are straightforward as to what they require.  

The financial declaration is a statement of income, expenses, debts, assets, and financial accounts for each party to a divorce action.  

One’s initial disclosures form identifies people with information relevant to the case, the potential witnesses, and documents and other physical evidence a party asserts supports his/her case.  

Completing the financial declaration and initial disclosures forms completely and correctly, along with gathering all the necessary supporting documentation, is a time-consuming process. With rare exception, divorce litigants do not want to prepare these forms. I know this because anyone I have tried to help through this process always fails to complete the forms and/or complains about the work that needs to be done on these forms. I get it, but what the clients often don’t seem to get is that your financial declaration and initial disclosures are not optional. Court rule require both you and your spouse to fill them out, fill them out correctly, and fill them out fully. Failing to do so can result in the court penalizing you and/or making erroneous rulings based upon incorrect and/or incomplete forms.  

I am not a lawyer and thus cannot give any legal advice, but as someone who has taken part in the process of helping clients prepare their financial declarations and initial disclosures, I can see that preparing these forms completely, accurately, and on time greatly benefits you and your lawyer, saving you both time and frustration, as well as sparing you grief, on the back end. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

Financial Declaration ( 

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What is the success rate of having a court-appointed legal aid?

I don’t know, and I doubt that statistics are kept on such a question. If there are such statistics, I do not know of them. 

Generally, the reputation appointed counsel has is being not as effective as paid counsel. 

But counsel is not appointed in Utah divorce and child custody cases anyway, so it’s not an option you’d have to concern yourself with. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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Does saying after an answer “I truly believe that”, “it truly is”, damage your credibility as a lay witness in court or is it better to don’t add this type of qualifiers?

First, whether you “truly believe” something or “find it hard to believe,” testifying to something you believe or don’t believe, as opposed to testifying as to something you know, is the first and biggest problem. 

Testifying about something you believe (but do not know) is inadmissible testimony. Testifying based upon belief (as opposed to personal knowledge)—whether you testify that you “believe” or “don’t believe” a thing to be true, is known in legal parlance as “speculative” and speculative testimony is objectionable and inadmissible. Speculation is no different than guessing, and it would be frightening unfair to decide a case based upon beliefs, instead of based upon facts. 

Second, and somewhat ironically, trying to qualify or bolster your statement to make it more believable may have the opposite effect. Adding qualifiers to your testimony may raise the question as to why you would add them. For example, if you were to answer a question with “To be honest, I do(n’t) know,” use of the phrase “to be honest” is unnecessary. So, one could (could, not must, but could) infer that someone who starts a statement with “to be honest” may often answer questions dishonestly as a general matter, which is why the person distinguishes between when he/she speaks honestly and when he/she does not. So why introduce the doubt as to your credibility at all when there is no need to do so? Better to say merely “I don’t know” and “yes” and “no” than to say, “To be honest, I do(n’t) know” or “To tell the truth, I do(n’t) know”. 

Many people have the linguistic tic or affectation of responding to questions with the phrase “I believe” when in fact such people are not guessing or speculating but know. Imagine a situation where when the witness left the office on a particular day is a crucial fact to be established. Imagine that the witness knows precisely when he/she left the office that day, i.e., 5:15 p.m. When such a person is testifying and says, in response to the question as to what time he/she left the office at the end of the day, “I believe I left the office at 5:15 p.m.,” then the witness is needlessly confusing the judge and/or jury. Saying, “I believe” before making a statement of fact changes that statement of fact into a statement of speculation, a guess. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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How do I best grab the attention of an attorney regarding a child custody case that is unusual, difficult, and I need help?

With money. 

And enough money to prove you can afford to pay the attorney to do the job well. 

Enough money to make the job worthwhile for the lawyer. That’s not just the best way, it’s effectively the only way. With rare, rare exception (so rare it’s not worth so much as hoping for) lawyers practice law for a living, not for fun, not out of their love for humanity generally and not for you or your child. They can’t. 

Trying to appeal to the lawyer’s sympathies or trying to guilt the attorney into helping won’t work, but go ahead and try, if you don’t believe me. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 6: We jump out of airplanes

By Quinton Lister, Legal Assistant

I wake up with a knot in my stomach every morning. I am not sharing that to get sympathy or to indicate that anything is wrong, I just realize my new job (being a legal assistant to a divorce and family law attorney) still makes me nervous. I am not sure how much longer it will make me nervous, but it probably will not be any time soon when that feeling will stop.  

I have never had a job where the quality of my work has mattered so much. I want to do my best because my boss and his clients are counting on that. I am confronted with new situations every day. I appreciate this because each day is an opportunity to get better at being brave and trying new things, things that sometimes I did not know I could do.  

My boss once told me about how jumping out of airplanes is quite common in certain branches of the military. Each soldier must learn to be comfortable doing something that is uncomfortable for so many other people. For these soldiers, the uncommon thing must become the common thing. I am not a soldier, but certain aspects of my job feel like I am jumping out of an airplane. I am grateful for the opportunity to become uncommon, and I hope each person who reads this can take encouragement to jump out of the “airplanes” in their own lives.  

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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