Clients, litigants, and others with whom family court lawyers work often believe that the law is black and white, clear and unambiguous, and absolute. As lawyers, we understand the law is gray, murky, changing, and subject to different interpretations. We also understand we cannot always find the law in constitutions, statutes, cases, regulations, or rules of court. Customs, traditions, local practices, and quirks of judges and clerks of court sometimes control the law. Every area of the law practices not found in written rules. They can be learned two ways, from a mentor or by losing in court. I prefer a mentor.
Every lawyer needs mentors. The profession has a lot of room for solo practitioners but little room for loners, who frequently fair poorly. When I began my practice as a solo lawyer in 1968, I was fortunate to have mentors in different areas of law. My wife and my brother are terrific mentors, although they can be quite critical. I never hesitate to call Barrett Martin, Michael Smith, or Connie Payne for advice. Lawyers without mentors are more likely to make mistakes, be fired by clients, criticized by judges, sued for malpractice, reported to the South Carolina Commission on Lawyer Conduct, or disciplined by the Supreme Court. One of my best mentors and best friends is Phyllis Barrett, a retired court reporter. Phyllis was complimentary when I won but would also tell me why I lost. She also commented on what other lawyers did well or poorly, teaching me a lot.
The blogs of lawyers and other legal professionals are not a substitute for mentors, but they serve many of the same purposes, providing information on substantive and procedural law, and the unwritten rules, and strategy, and tactics applicable from the initial interview through the appeal. Lawyers should encourage their paralegals to subscribe to blogs. Both lay and lawyer mediators will benefit from subscribing to blogs.
When I was a young lawyer, lawyers and judges had more frequent and personal relationships, frequently had meals together, and socialized. Lawyers received invaluable war stories and advice from the judges. The judges benefited by learning the lawyers’ points of view. Now that judges are more isolated (and I am not referring to Covid-19 social distancing), they need input from lawyers, which they can get from blogs.
Gregory Forman, Ben Stevens, and I write the best family law blawgs (law blogs) in South Carolina, but each is different. In The Stevens Firm Blog, Ben writes for litigants with much good advice. In Gregory Forman’s Blog, Greg writes for both lawyers and litigants, explaining recent court decisions for lawyers but advising litigants on trial and procedural strategy. In Debating Family Law, I write for legal professionals, lawyers, paralegals, guardians, mediators, and perhaps judges. I recommend all three blogs for family court professionals who want the best information on legal, procedural, and factual issues in family court. Saying this is the best information does not mean it is always correct. Still, it represents the best opinions of the authors who have experienced, researched, and thought about these issues. Still, we have our perspectives. You may not always agree with us, just as Gregory, Ben, and I do not always agree with each other, but these blogs should cause you to think.
I also subscribe to TechnoLawyer, which is a compendium of blogs, articles, essays, and news relating to the practice of law. I usually read three or four items from TechnoLawyer each week. I read the digital American Bar Association Journal online every Friday morning.
To what blogs for legal professionals do you subscribe? By responding as a comment below, you will reward your favorite authors by helping others find them. What subjects would you like for other bloggers or me to address?