Reflections from our 2017 Law Clerk, Hayden-Anne Breedlove

My first day as a summer law clerk at Smith Strong was a welcoming experience. I was greeted with such enthusiasm and kindness that I became excited to begin working and learning the methods behind such a successful firm. My first two weeks involved learning from, shadowing, and being trained by some of the team members. This provided me the opportunity to see how each part of a family law firm works. As a 1L, I had learned the basic court proceedings and rules that must be followed in civil procedure, but did not know in detail how procedures within a family law firm work. I knew the textbook definition of pleadings, exhibits, and discovery, but I had never seen these processes in action. Through my summer experience at Smith Strong, I had the opportunity to work, hands on, with discovery, and witnessed the long process in which the firm has to develop questions, request documents from the opposing party, wait for responses, and then craft well-formed arguments using all material gathered.

 

Thoughts on the Practice of Family Law at Smith Strong

I had the opportunity to attend court with Van on multiple occasions. This was not my first experience in a court room, nor will it be my last. However, it was my first time seeing two former lovers filled with hate and bitterness towards each other. My initial thoughts were, “How could two people who once shared a house and family together not even speak to each other in the courtroom?” I didn’t understand how two people who were once in love could be arguing in the courtroom. This seemed to be cold and bitter behavior, but it is an unfortunate reality of the world we live in. People fall in love, have children, grow as a family, and then, sometimes, divorce. It is the job of family law attorneys to be there for their clients throughout this difficult process and advocate for their interests. Van and the other attorneys at Smith Strong do this through their compassion, knowledge, and strong work ethic.

 

One thing that surprised me was the emotional element in the practice of family law. So many of the issues dealt with on a daily basis are somber, troubling, and usually depict the type of love stories not seen in Disney movies – the type of stories that end in heartbreak, abandonment, or abuse. The way in which the staff at Smith Strong was comforting and welcoming to these clients going through difficult situations was positive and eye-opening. Van was always willing to lend a listening ear to his clients, and would allow appointments to run long just so he could finish a conversation, always providing the kind of comfort, support, and assurance only an attorney can provide. Van has a way of making all of his clients feel good about themselves. It’s as if they come to Smith Strong for both legal advice, a listening ear, and a pep talk.

 

The attorneys at Smith Strong all have a thorough understanding of each client’s case. The firm holds tri-weekly meetings in which they sit down and review each case, alphabetically. This process helps ensure that a client’s case is always being worked on and never put on the backburner. It also provides the opportunity for feedback and ideas from each attorney in the office, not just the attorney working on the case at hand. Although the attorneys are all intelligent and knowledgeable in what they do, it is still helpful to bring in fresh ideas and different perspectives.

 

A Changed Perspective on the Legal Profession

One thing that inspires me about Smith Strong is the fact that, while some of the attorneys are just beginning their careers, they have already achieved a high level of competence and thoroughly understand the field of family law. They are able to negotiate successful outcomes inside and outside the courtroom for a large majority of their clients. As a young law student, I aspire to gain the knowledge, skills, and ability to provide the kind of top-notch legal services found at Smith Strong.

 

One thing I fear going into the legal profession is the long hours at work each day and the constant contact and communication with opposing counsel through the world of smartphones and email. Another concern is not being able to strike a healthy balance between work and fun. At Smith Strong, the employees incorporate fun into their daily work lives. Whether it’s an office outing to lunch for a birthday, a 5K, a Squirrels game, or even simply taking a ten minute break to paint their fingernails with each other, the staff at Smith Strong incorporates fun into their workday to maintain their positive morale.

 

I have truly enjoyed my summer at Smith Strong. I will miss coming to work and seeing the smiling faces of each team member, now considered friends and colleagues. My perspective on family law has expanded--I am now fully aware of the work, effort, and thought process behind the successful representation I have witnessed by Van and his team. There is much strategic preparation and detailed planning that creates an effective attorney-client relationship. My summer position has given me a hands-on experience in family law, while implementing the knowledge and skills gained in my 1L classes. 

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