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Tuesday, Jul 23, 2024

Law Attorneys making divorce court less acrimonious

Number of Entry-Level Associates Continues to Rise Across the Country

In most divorce cases, separation is the main focus.

Lawyers and spouses battle to end a marriage.

But two North County lawyers have decided to replace their traditional roles as litigators in divorce cases and work in a “less hostile” environment. Michelle Sullivan and Charlene Baron operate separate family law practices in Rancho Bernardo and Carlsbad, respectively.

Both are state bar-certified legal specialists in family law, and both believe divorce proceedings don’t have to be mean-spirited and adversarial.

They are the first two attorneys in North County to be trained in the collaborative divorce process. In this format, each spouse uses an attorney and a team of specialists in family matters, all trained in the process, to help achieve settlements without using adversarial techniques.

The collaborative process originated in Minnesota, and has been used in northern California, but has not been used locally.

“In the traditional adversarial situation, the results can be disastrous to all family members if the couple is not committed to understanding and managing conflict,” Baron said. “Unless there is a way to work together to solve problems for both parties in divorce, the end result often is broken and shattered family members with little or no tools to begin the recovery process.”

Although more professionals are used in this process, the collaborative process is said to be less expensive than a traditional divorce case , as much as one-third cheaper.

“The collaborative process can preclude having to spend countless billable hours and the court costs to litigate issues that can be more effectively resolved by the parties working with their respective teams,” Baron said. “Under this process, courts only have to deal with those issues requiring a judge’s determination.”

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More Attorneys:

The number of entry-level associates hired at law firms continues to rise across the country.

That’s according to the 2000 edition of Patterns & Practices: Measures of Law Firm Hiring, Leverage & Billable Hours, an annual publication from the National Association of Law Schools and Legal Employers.

According to the report, law firms increased entry-level hiring by 5 percent from 1998-99 to almost 12 percent in 1999-2000.

“We’ve been benefiting from an incredibly vigorous market nationwide,” said Paula Patton, executive director of the national association. “Law firms have been in the search for talent, so it provides new opportunities for entry-level associates than ever before.”

The growth rate was cited in firms of 101-250 attorneys. Firms of 100 or fewer attorneys expected 28 percent growth from 1999-2000.

“We came out of the recession in 1993 and ’94, and it took some time for (law firms) to get a head of steam, but since then it’s been phenomenal,” Patton said.

In San Diego, there was a 28.2 percent change in entry-level hiring from 1998-99 to 1999-2000. Fifty entry-level associates were hired in San Diego last year, compared to 39 in 1998-99.

On The Job:

Kirk Ellis recently joined the firm of Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek as of counsel. Steven G. Rowles joined Brobeck, Phlegar & Harrison LLP as a partner. Adrienne “Andy” Kotner was recently named president and chief executive officer of the San Diego County Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.

The deadline for the next Law Column is March 29. Send related items to dward @sdbj.com.


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