Just finished reading “GALs are Withdrawing From Cases As Court Reform Tensions Grow” in the Connecticut Law Tribune. The article states that some lawyers and firms are no longer accepting court appointed cases:
Other lawyers and law firms that are bowing out of the court-appointed work for the time being include Glastonbury-based Brown, Paindiris & Scott, Budlong & Barrett in Hartford, Jeffrey Mickelson in Hartford, and Barry Armata.
This is most unfortunate. I’ve handled several high conflict custody cases over the past 8.5 years. Fortunately, none are occupying my life at the moment. I avoid them unless I think my representation can make a difference for the children involved.
I’ve read some of what has been posted online about Guardian Ad Litems. Frankly, I understand some of the frustration. Messy child custody cases are inherently frustrating because there is no solution. There is only fighting.
Some years ago, I have a case with the potential to get very messy. There are the usual allegations. There are disputes over money. This case has everything it takes to turn into a mess.
Barry Armata gets involved. I forget how. Either opposing counsel and I discussed having him appointed as GAL or the court ordered it. But how he gets involved is a lot less important than what he does.
The court we are in has a cafe. Barry sits down with opposing counsel and me over coffee while court is in recess. He begins laying out a framework to solve some of the issues in the case. He listens to us. He then meets with our clients. Barry recommends getting the case into an “early intervention program” which everyone agrees to. Court ends and our clients have meetings scheduled with Barry.
I wasn’t at my client’s meeting with Barry. But I know my client felt listened to and treated with respect. I know this made a difference to my client.
When we arrived in court for a full day of early intervention, Barry had the trust of both parents. The issues in the divorce were for reasons beyond the scope of this post – highly sensitive and emotionally charged. Barry laid the groundwork for those matters to be discussed in a rational and sensitive manner.
Our full day of early intervention was exhausting. There were many problems to be solved. Many issues to confront. And times everyone thought it discussions would fall apart. They didn’t in large part because of Barry.
By the end of the day, there was an agreement. An agreement that spared the parties a fortune in both time, money, and energy. An agreement that spared a child from years of her parents fighting. An agreement that 4 years later, nobody has sought to modify.
For this, Barry was paid a very modest fee. There are many other ways both in the practice of law and out of the practice of law that he could have earned more money for less hassle.
It’s important for the General Assembly to understand the important work of Guardian Ad Litems in divorce cases. Not all cases turn out like mine. But in many cases, trained GALs can save a lot of money, time, and aggravation.
Court appointed cases are often the most challenging for GALs. Parties are often not represented. These are often high need cases. Cases where skilled work, like that regularly done by Barry Armata is most needed. I hope this storm cloud passes and lawyers like Barry Armata return to accepting appointments.
One of those Attorneys is Leo Diana of Manchester.
I’ve known Leo for nearly 9 years. We have been on the opposite sides of several cases during that time. I’ve had a few highly contested hearings opposite Attorney Diana. And I can’t recall the last time I’ve appeared in family court and not run into Leo.
In early January of 2014, Leo was defending a post judgment motion that I had filed. The case was complicated to say the least with very significant problems and very limited resources.
That cold early January morning, Leo showed up in Hartford Family Court on my motion. He was volunteering his time. He had no obligation to be there, whatsoever. Serving as mayor of Manchester and running a busy law practice – Leo has lots of places to be. Yet on that morning, with no other case on the docket, he was in Hartford. He was there as best I can tell – to help someone who needed help.
I talked the case over with Leo. I educated him about my client’s position. He listened. He spoke with his client. Then he used his many years of experience to propose a solution. It was a solution that was radically different than anything the parties had considered before. After thinking it over – Leo had proposed probably the only workable solution to a complex problem. To use a painfully over used term, it was “outside the box”.
For reasons beyond Leo’s control, his solution did not resolve the case. However, both me and my client appreciated his involvement and thoughtfulness. Leo managed this result while at the same time advancing his client’s interest and protecting her legal rights.
At a time when family law attorneys, and GALs are under attack, it’s important to for the General Assembly to be reminded of the outstanding and unsung work that attorneys like Leo Diana did on that January morning.
Leo Diana is fantastic attorney who is going to make a fantastic judge. He will listen. He will help solve problems for those who appear before him.
Leo’s nomination reflects well upon Governor Malloy and his commitment to strengthening Connecticut’s courts.
“It’s a great event. It’s what we’re about.” – Ryan McKeen
The McKeen Law Firm Race to Fill the Pantry, a 5K course/ 2-mile course/ 1/4-mile children’s race hosted by the Glastonbury River Runners, will take place on Sunday, November 9th, 2014 at Riverfront Park in Glastonbury, Connecticut.
$5 from every registration fee will be donated to the Glastonbury Food Bank. Runners and walkers are asked to donate a non-perishable food item.
The Glastonbury River Runners were able to collect a trailer full of food for the Glastonbury Food Pantry as well as a check for $1500.00. In addition, I presented the food pantry with a check for $305.00, or $1 for every consecutive day that I ran in 2013.
The course is accessible and registration fees are waived for all Achilles International (Connecticut chapter) guides.
The weather is usually great. I have run my two fastest 5ks on the course. We hope to see you in Riverfront Park on November 9, 2014. Click here to register.
Connecticut’s divorce laws, courts, and judges have come under significant scrutiny in recent weeks. The system is in need of reform.
I’ve practiced in the area of family law for the past 8 and a half years. Right now, my family practice consists of helping parties in a divorce solve problems. I cannot deal with the anger and frustration that comes with some cases. Life is too short.
In no particular order here are my thoughts:
1. There should be a mediation center – not in court. Family relations is overwhelmed. Parties often sit around for hours waiting to speak to a mediator for 15 minutes. Mediations should be scheduled at set times and less rushed. Early intervention works. Combine housing, foreclosure, and family mediators into a building suitable for mediation.
2. If mediation is not successful, then promptly assign hearing dates. Family courts can use more judges but that’s likely not in the cards. Judges resolve problems. They don’t solve them. In the event the parties are unable to take control of their own affairs – prompt resolution is the best course.
3. Create a Guardian Ad Litem office. Pay Guardian Ad Litems through the State. In the event parties need a GAL, they should contribute to the cost on a sliding scale.
4. Eliminate the 90 day waiting period. For some parties, the 90 days is purgatory. They have their affairs in order. They reached a fair and equitable resolution of their affairs. Let them get divorced.
5. Set alimony by guidelines. This works so well for child support. Parties should have certainty in this respect. Alimony disputes often spill into custody disputes. Take away the alimony fight.
Connecticut family courts have great people serving in capacities on the bench, at the bar, in family relations, and as guardian ad litems. They do lots of good within the existing framework. But that framework needs to be fixed.
Maligning Judges, attorneys, and guardian ad litems with vicious attacks is poor advocacy. They aren’t the problem. Structural changes are needed.
McKeen Law Firm, LLC cannot help everyone with a legal problem. We are small.
We only take cases when we know we have the experience, competence, and resources necessary to make a difference.
This means we turn down work. All of the time.
Our commitment is to turning down work in a good way. At McKeen Law Firm, LLC you’ll never get “no, we can’t take your case”.
Clients and potential clients call us for help. We will never turn you away without trying to help you.
We may often be able to put you in the hands of a competent attorney who handles your kind of case. We know lots of good lawyers. We may be able to put you in contact with a no cost legal services provider or point you in the direction of an appropriate non-profit. We may be able to point you to an online resource.
Whatever your problem – big or small – we are happy to speak with you.
This lawyer won’t.
Yodle is an online advertiser. They “provide local businesses with a simple and affordable way to promote their services and generate new leads using internet marketing.”
I find buying keywords from Google to be complicated. Am I buying the right ones? How many should I buy? How much should I spend? I went to law school not marketing school. I have no idea what’s a good approach with Google. Yodle attempts to solve this problem buy doing it for you.
For example, if I were interested in marketing a real estate practice, I tell Yodle this, we set a budget, they create a website for me and buy keywords. In theory, it is a great service for a small business – I have no idea whether or not it works but the concept is good.
The problem for lawyers is in the details. Yodle sets up a phone number for you and then records your calls. Yodle monitors the calls.
Here are Yodle’s terms of service:
6. Call Recording and Monitoring
For quality assurance, Yodle records and/or monitors calls between Customer (including the Locations) and Yodle agents, employees and/or its affiliates regarding the Services (the “Service Calls”). If the Services include call recording or monitoring, Yodle will record and/or monitor incoming calls and e-mails between the Location, or the Location’s agents, employees, and/or its affiliates and people who contact the Location through the tracking telephone numbers or contact forms Yodle provides (the “Inbound Calls” and, collectively with Service Calls, “Call Recording and Monitoring”). By this Agreement, Customer, on behalf of itself and each Location, consents to any and all Call Recording and Monitoring performed by Yodle or its agents, employees and/or its affiliates.
In speaking with Yodle, they advised me that the call monitoring service could be dropped. However, when I pressed the sales representative to remove the above clause from the contract they refused to do so. I then refused to hire Yodle.
Rule 1.6 of the ABA Code of Professional Conduct requires lawyers to protect the confidentiality of client information. The relevant comment reads as follows:
Paragraph (c) requires a lawyer to act competently to safeguard information relating to the representation of a client against unauthorized access by third parties and against inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure by the lawyer or other persons who are participating in the representation of the client or who are subject to the lawyer’s supervision. See Rules 1.1, 5.1 and 5.3. The unauthorized access to, or the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, information relating to the representation of a client does not constitute a violation of paragraph (c) if the lawyer has made reasonable efforts to prevent the access or disclosure. Factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of the lawyer’s efforts include, but are not limited to, the sensitivity of the information, the likelihood of disclosure if additional safeguards are not employed, the cost of employing additional safeguards, the difficulty of implementing the safeguards, and the extent to which the safeguards adversely affect the lawyer’s ability to represent clients (e.g., by making a device or important piece of software excessively difficult to use). A client may require the lawyer to implement special security measures not required by this Rule or may give informed consent to forgo security measures that would otherwise be required by this Rule. Whether a lawyer may be required to take additional steps to safeguard a client’s information in order to comply with other law, such as state and federal laws that govern data privacy or that impose notification requirements upon the loss of, or unauthorized access to, electronic information, is beyond the scope of these Rules. For a lawyer’s duties when sharing information with nonlawyers outside the lawyer’s own firm, see Rule 5.3, Comments -.
Yodle’s promise to “turn off call monitoring” while insisting on maintaining it in their terms and conditions presents an interesting problem for any lawyer seeking their services.
Any lawyer can tell you clients leave all sorts of highly personal information on voicemails. Especially, calls for initial consultations. Lawyers never know what they are going to find when they check their morning voicemails.
Any lawyer looking to advertise with Yodle should at the very least contact their malpractice carrier. My carrier provides free advice on such matters. Lawyers should also consider seeking an advisory opinion with State ethics counsel.
In the meantime, this lawyer will not be advertising with Yodle.
Ryan enjoys running in Connecticut. He is a veteran marathon runner. What he sees on Connecticut’s roads scares him – drivers choosing to drive distracted. These drivers needlessly endanger runners, cyclists, and pedestrians.
He understands the rights of runners because he loves running.
The purpose of www.ctroadsafety.com is to educate readers of the rights of runners, cyclists, and pedestrians. Ryan believes awareness is the first step in making Connecticut’s roads and highways safe.
The second step is accountability. Ryan regularly trades his favorite running shoes and the road for a suit and court. Ryan takes great pride in holding drivers who needlessly endanger the public accountable for their choices. He represents injured cyclists, pedestrians, and runners – and their families. It is his passion.
The third step is community. McKeen Law Firm, LLC pledges 10% of any fee it earns representing injured runners, cyclists, and pedestrians will go to charity. After a settlement or verdict, Attorney McKeen and the client will meet and mutually decide on a charity.
Justice is healing and protecting the community. McKeen Law Firm, LLC relentlessly seeks justice.
Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or by calling (860) 560-8163.
Connecticut juries have the difficult task of assigning a dollar value to a life in a wrongful death case.
In January of 2014, a Connecticut jury awarded a total of 8 million dollars in loss of life and loss of life’s enjoyment for a middle aged man who died as a result of a defendant violating safety rules designed to protect the man.
The jury found 4 million for loss of life and 4 million for loss of life’s enjoyment.
I’m thrilled to announce Ruth Deslauries is joining the McKeen Law Firm team. Ruth will be working as a litigation paralegal. Ruth brings 30 years of litigation support experience to the table. In the course of her career, she has worked tirelessly to provide the highest quality assistance to very talented lawyers and firm clients.
When I started practicing law she was my assistant. Ruth helped break me in as a lawyer. In addition to producing a first rate work product, I saw first hand the ways in which she connected with and cared for clients.
In addition to assisting clients and handling litigation matters, Ruth served as a sounding board. Whenever I have a case, I try to hone and refine arguments. Starting out, Ruth was the closest person to my office. She heard all of my first drafts. Talking a case out with her helped my clarify issues and focus arguments.
Ruth will be working part-time with me. I’m grateful she agreed to join the team. Her addition is a tremendous asset to the firm and the clients we serve.