We watch lawyers on television with their fascinating, energetic, romance-filled lives. But what about those who enter the field of law? What motives them? As for the rest of us, usually contacting an attorney is either to resolve a very stressful period of our own lives such as divorce and child custody or preparing for worst such as preparing a will. So who are these women (and men) who help guide us through the legal quagmires and live the reality of what many of us only see on television.
Profiles by Debbie Hall
Steinberg Law Group: Helping families maintain their dignity
Family law can be an emotional land mine or protection of an individual’s rights within a family or securing the legality of a couple. For the past 15 years, Steinberg Law Group’s primary focus of family law includes divorce, divorce mediation, child custody, paternity, spousal support and child support actions, actions for arrears in child and/or spousal support, termination of parental rights, adoptions, guardianships, and other family-law related matters.
Steinberg Law Group’s past and current caseload includes matters of relocation (including Haig Convention issues), domestic violence and protective orders. The law group also handles prenuptial agreements, annulments, legal separations and actions between unmarried partners, including same-sex partners.
With the divorce rate at an all-time high, the scenario is all too common. Two people who were once deeply in love are now on opposite sides separating assets with children, who are often included in the emotional turmoil.
Las Vegas native Brian Steinberg, founder of Steinberg Law Group, advocates and practices divorce mediation as a viable alternative to a litigated divorce.
“I chose divorce mediation because I strongly believe that parties with children should be making their own decisions for their children and finances with the help of an experienced attorney/mediator,” Steinberg said. “Divorce litigation is an adversarial process which does not lend itself well for the parties having a continued relationship with each other as parents. Mediation allows the parties to maintain a parental relationship and resolve all issues in their divorce including custody and financial issues.”
Even though it is generally less expensive than a contested divorce action, there are other reasons mediation can be a preferable way to handle any type of divorce, particularly high net worth divorces, and can cover all of the complexities. If both parties can sit and discuss the terms with a mediation attorney, the law group can generally work out a plan for child custody, child and spousal support, and division of assets and debts. The plan is completely customized. Mediated plans have many benefits that are more favorable and less confrontational than a typical court plan than when a judge decides, particularly when children are involved. Mediated divorces are also confidential and sealed, which helps to ensure privacy for both parties.
According to Steinberg, there is always a degree of uncertainty as to how the judge will rule.
“By (choosing mediation), the parties are empowered to justifiably believe that they can resolve any future custody problems without going to court since they have already resolved a much larger number of divorce issues, including custody, without going to court,” Steinberg said. “Often, the parties in mediation also agree to a mediation clause to ensure that mediation is attempted first before either party files a future motion with the court.”
In other words, the mediation process leads the parties down a road where an out-of-court resolution is more likely and acceptable than the alternative of going to court. This serves both the best interest of the child or children and the parties themselves, especially since the savings are considerable with better overall results.
Steinberg was inspired to be a family law attorney because he is a strong child advocate. “Children need to be protected and their best interests need to be strongly considered in reaching a resolution in order for them to have a good childhood that leads to them being productive adults and good citizens,” Steinberg said.
If there is a need to hire an attorney who specialized in family law, Steinberg advises people to look for the following in a family law attorney: experience, honesty, the ability to act in the client’s best interest above their own and the ability of the client to maintain a good attorney-client relationship with their selected attorney.
Another area of concern is domestic violence and the obstacles both the attorney and client must overcome.
Steinberg advices, “First off, it is best to avoid a domestic violence situation. Frequently, one party will provoke the other party into a domestic violence situation in order to gain an advantage in a custody and/or divorce situation. It should be known that a conviction of domestic violence entails that there is a legal presumption that the convicted party should not have custody of the child or children. While it is possible to rebut the presumption, it is best to avoid this situation in the first place.
“As for the person who is the victim of domestic violence, they frequently do not contact the authorities such as police and doctors. Also, they often do not document injuries by taking pictures or going to the doctor who will place this information in the party’s record. Furthermore, the victims of domestic violence often fail to pursue a criminal action against the perpetrator and sometimes refuse to testify because of influence or threats by the perpetrator. Those who commit domestic violence are often very manipulative people. It should be remembered that in a divorce or custody situation that ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’ This often means that the victim of domestic violence, who thinks they are doing a good thing for the perpetrator, will live to regret it when the perpetrator is awarded joint or primary physical custody of the minor child or children,” Steinberg said.
Steinberg urges anyone who has been in situation when domestic violence to take steps to leave the situation and contact an attorney to protect their rights.
While a legal marriage or civil union is not yet offered in the state of Nevada for same-sex couples, Steinberg Law Group offers services for writing a domestic partnership agreement to protect both individuals.
“With same-sex partners, having an agreement indicating how property will be divided after a separation could make the difference between going to court and having an easy resolution,” Steinberg said.
In Nevada, there is a domestic partnership and the presumption is that community property laws will apply, which is similar to a marriage situation. As such, the domestic partnership agreement would serve much the same function for same-sex partners as a prenuptial agreement would for opposite-sex partners who later become married or enter a domestic partnership.
In Nevada, prenuptial agreements are enforceable. However, the formalities of the agreement are just as important as the agreement itself. Some of the formalities are that each side should have his or her own attorney, the agreement should be reviewed by both counsel with their respective clients well before the marriage, there must be full disclosure, it must be a reasonable agreement for both sides and both parties need to operate in good faith and clean hands with regard to the purpose of the agreement, no duress, and both parties should freely enter the agreement with the thought that he or she is making an informed and intelligent decision.
Navigating the tumultuous waters of love and separation can be daunting. But with the help of a good lawyer, one can come out ahead and get ready to start a new chapter in life while leaving the past intact without deep wounds or live with decisions one soon regrets.
Steinberg Law Group
2250 S. Rancho Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89102
While becoming an entrepreneur is a dream for many, the legalities of owning your own business can be overwhelming without the guidance of the right attorney
Patricia Lee is a partner of Hutchison and Steffen law firm, and manages the legal needs of entrepreneurs and small business owners through the firm’s program The Legal Solution for Entrepreneurs & Small Businesses. Lee practices primarily in business and commercial litigation, including partnership/shareholder disputes, contract enforcement/defense, noncompetition agreements, and commercial lease review and litigation. In addition, Lee also practices in the areas of trademark registration and litigation, collections, mechanic’s liens/foreclosures, and medical claims billing.
Originally from the small town of Lompoc, Calif., Lee was inspired to go into the field of law because, “of all of the great advocates who preceded me. I noticed very early on how lawyers could influence various facets of our society, from facilitating policy to defending justice, and I wanted to be part of that fraternity. To quote Al Pacino from the movie, ‘Devil’s Advocate,’ law is the ultimate backstage pass.”
Lee graduated from the University of Southern California with a dual degree in psychology and communications. After graduating from USC, Lee assisted in the establishment of the Rosa Parks Community Computer and Learning Center for inner-city youth. She then attended the George Washington University Law School where she obtained her juris doctorate in 2002 and joined Hutchison & Steffen.
Despite the demands of her career, Lee still makes time for giving back to the community, which includes serving as a volunteer attorney for the Child Advocacy Program where she represents abused and neglected children in Clark County. In addition, she serves as president of the Las Vegas Chapter of the National Bar Association Foundation. In 2010, Lee was appointed by Governor Gibbons to serve as chair of the newly established Nevada Crime Commission. She also volunteers as an attorney for the Children’s Attorney Project through Legal Aid, Legal Aid firm liaison for newly adopted domestic violence project and Lili Claire Living Library Board Member.
While reel life might not mirror her real life, Lee acknowledged, “For the most part, I love the way that lawyers are portrayed on television and movies. They really make us seem smart, aggressive and witty. It’s all true of course (wink)! One of my all-time favorite legal movies is ‘Mississippi Burning’ with Matthew McConaughey and Samuel L. Jackson. It’s the perfect balance of legal heroism and vigilante justice with just a tad bit of jury nullification on the side. I also love the ‘Devil’s Advocate’ with Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves. The almost satirical portrayal of the devil being the ultimate attorney advocate is, while perhaps just a smidge offensive to my people (my ‘people’ being my fellow jurists), nonetheless brilliant.”
As for advice for women wanting to enter the field of law, whether influenced by the media or not, Lee said, “I would give the same advice that I would give to any other person looking to enter into the field. Make sure that you have a propensity for the attributes that make for a good attorney, namely good reading comprehension, strong writing skills, the ability to communicate your ideas clearly and decent analytical ability. If you want to be a litigator, you should also join some kind of mock trial or debate team during your undergraduate years.
Once you are a practicing attorney, make sure that your significant other (be it your spouse or life partner) is willing to be supporting and somewhat sacrificing of your time and find a firm that genuinely adopts a culture of family first. That way you can minimize any feelings of guilt stemming from your firm or from your spouse while giving one more attention than the other … It’s all about balance.”
It is easy to overlook the importance of law in our everyday lives. But think of this scenario: You are walking with your family in a commercial building going down a flight of stairs. Suddenly, the step you just put all of your weight on cracks and you grab the handrail. You are okay but what about the stairs? Who would be responsible for the defective step?
Cynthia G. Milanowski would be one attorney that can help find the answer. She is an associate attorney of Hutchison and Steffen and, as she explained, “My practice is primarily focused in the areas of commercial litigation. Recently, I have been involved in a construction defect action involving a high-profile commercial/hotel complex. I anticipate that my work over the next year or so will be concentrated almost solely on this case. I also represent a government agency in matters relating to failed credit unions. I have also been involved in cases relating to wrongful termination, personal injury, breach of contract, partnership dissolution and various tort claims.”
Originally from Whittier, Calif., Milanowski graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and received her juris doctorate from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles and was named to the St. Thomas More Law Honor Society.
As for going into law, Milanowski said, “I was working toward my undergraduate degree in business administration, and was looking for a career path that would allow me to use my degree, and, at the same time, allow me to expand beyond basic business administration. Luckily, I attended a small liberal arts college that also had a well-respected law school. I had the opportunity to spend time with friends and faculty members who were attending law school or had graduated with a juris doctorate degree. After spending time discussing the legal field with several people whose opinions I respected, I realized that the practice of law would allow me to use my undergraduate degree as the building block for a successful and exciting career. ”
When not working, Milanowski is dedicated to spending time with her two young daughters and providing them with a safe and happy home. She is involved in her children’s school, extracurricular activities, and spending time with family and friends in Southern California as often as possible.
Despite her demanding career and busy home life, Milanowski also devotes time to serving the community.
“Over the years I have had the opportunity to provide legal services for several nonprofit organizations. Currently, I, along with my fellow associates at Hutchison and Steffen, have the opportunity to provide pro bono legal services to needy residents of Clark County through the Clark County Pro Bono Legal Project,” she said. “I have enjoyed the cases that I have been assigned and I look forward to continuing to assist the pro bono project.”
As for entering the field of law, Milanowski would advise, “(that) First, I would tell them to be prepared to work hard in law school. The hours are long and stressful. However, I would also tell them that the time and the effort are all worth it when you have a chance to use your education in your chosen practice area. I would encourage them early on in their career to seriously consider working for a small- to medium-sized firm or governmental agency that is going to afford you the opportunity to have substantial case authority as quickly as possible. Finally, I would encourage them to make sure they take the time to do things completely away from the practice of law. In other words, they need to remember to have fun!”
Hutchison & Steffen
10080 W. Alta Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89145