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Matt Reed: Do we really need lawyers?

Lowdown on TV attorneys, divorce court and job prospects for law students

12:27 AM, Nov. 27, 2011

You've probably noticed more ads for attorneys on local TV. In politics, you'll hear lawyers blamed for everything from rising health care costs to car-insurance fraud.

But what do we really know about lawyers? When should we consider hiring one?

For answers on trial lawyers, ugly divorces and other legal issues, I questioned attorney Timi Tucker, president of the Brevard County Bar Association. Tucker runs a family-law practice in Melbourne. She earned her law degree from the University of Kentucky.

Excerpts from our TV interview:

Q:One of the Bar Association's stated missions is to "promote public understanding" of the role of lawyers. What's the biggest misunderstanding?

Tucker: That attorneys are self-serving and only interested in promoting their own causes. We're interested in our communities and giving back and making sure that our community is a great place to live.

I'm not just saying that for public relations. As an attorney, you meet a great cross-section of Brevard County - people who have been arrested, people going through divorces, contract disputes - and you see that there is a need for education, awareness and help.

Q:But lawyers have a reputation in America as ambulance-chasing sharks. How do you respond?

Tucker: There's a misperception that attorneys are rich and went to law school to become rich. Not true. Most people go to law school because they want to help people.

And not every lawyer is a trial lawyer. We have real estate attorneys, probate attorneys, criminal-defense attorneys, personal-injury attorneys, insurance-defense attorneys.

Q:From your perspective, when should someone consider hiring a lawyer?

Tucker: The first one that comes to mind is if they're being arrested. Most people say, "Oh, I'll never be arrested." You would be surprised how many people file for divorce, and then the next thing they know, they're in jail for alleged domestic violence.

Sometimes the police are called to give a litigant the upper hand in a divorce, which should never happen.

If you're contemplating divorce, consult an attorney to know your rights and that you're getting what you should get out of the marriage.

If you're served with an injunction, you should have an attorney. If your spouse calls the police, and the police take no action, their next step often is to go down to the courthouse and file for an injunction, that there is a threat of violence.

Q:Who encourages that insanity? Other attorneys?

Tucker: No attorney I know would ever counsel someone to abuse the justice system.

Q:Florida overhauled child-custody rules recently. Explain.

Tucker: It's no longer called "custody." It's called "time sharing" between the parents. There are factors the courts have to go by to determine the best interest of the child, and when the child will stay with one parent or the other. A lot of courts now see 50-50 as a viable option.

The goal has been to take the child out of it.

Q:FLORIDA TODAY occasionally publishes stories about lawyers who get disbarred. How does the bar police so many members?

Tucker: The Florida Bar ... has a grievance process that starts by someone filing a complaint against an attorney. The bar reviews the complaint and requires the attorney to write a response to the grievance, which is sent to the bar and the complainant. The bar reviews it, and if it finds no probable cause, it can dismiss the complaint. Or it can investigate it, require a hearing and wind up suspending or disbarring an attorney.

Q:I've noticed more local TV advertisements for attorneys. Does the bar control what those say?

Tucker: The rules change constantly in terms of what can be said, or not, what can be put on TV, what can be put in print. I think we're finding now that the Internet is the primary source of advertising.

Q:Because lawyers can target certain online audiences? Say, a criminal-defense attorney might advertise next to the jail mugshots on FLORIDA TODAY?

Tucker: Yes. That's the potential.

Q: What would you tell a law student today about the employment prospects?

Tucker: The market isn't great. Sometimes you have to take a job in a field that wasn't your first choice and doesn't pay what you want. But that's everybody in our country today.

I graduated from the University of Kentucky. I was a staff attorney for the chief judge of the court of appeals in Kentucky. From there, I went to SunTrust Bank. I came to Florida after a divorce and was hired by J.R. Russo, the public defender for this judicial circuit. That was a phenomenal experience.

Someone asked me about a job the other day, and I always recommend they try the public defender's office or the state attorney's office. Even if you don't want to litigate for your career, it's such great experience to be in the courtroom, to be in front of different judges and to meet other attorneys.

Q:What's the caseload like?

Tucker: Well, when I left in 2004 ... I had about 130 pending criminal cases. For (prosecutors), it's actually more. They're dealing with defendants represented by the public defender and private attorneys.

Matt Reed: Do we really need lawyers?

Lowdown on TV attorneys, divorce court and job prospects for law students

12:27 AM, Nov. 27, 2011

You've probably noticed more ads for attorneys on local TV. In politics, you'll hear lawyers blamed for everything from rising health care costs to car-insurance fraud.

But what do we really know about lawyers? When should we consider hiring one?

For answers on trial lawyers, ugly divorces and other legal issues, I questioned attorney Timi Tucker, president of the Brevard County Bar Association. Tucker runs a family-law practice in Melbourne. She earned her law degree from the University of Kentucky.

Excerpts from our TV interview:

Q:One of the Bar Association's stated missions is to "promote public understanding" of the role of lawyers. What's the biggest misunderstanding?

Tucker: That attorneys are self-serving and only interested in promoting their own causes. We're interested in our communities and giving back and making sure that our community is a great place to live.

I'm not just saying that for public relations. As an attorney, you meet a great cross-section of Brevard County - people who have been arrested, people going through divorces, contract disputes - and you see that there is a need for education, awareness and help.

Q:But lawyers have a reputation in America as ambulance-chasing sharks. How do you respond?

Tucker: There's a misperception that attorneys are rich and went to law school to become rich. Not true. Most people go to law school because they want to help people.

And not every lawyer is a trial lawyer. We have real estate attorneys, probate attorneys, criminal-defense attorneys, personal-injury attorneys, insurance-defense attorneys.

Q:From your perspective, when should someone consider hiring a lawyer?

Tucker: The first one that comes to mind is if they're being arrested. Most people say, "Oh, I'll never be arrested." You would be surprised how many people file for divorce, and then the next thing they know, they're in jail for alleged domestic violence.

Sometimes the police are called to give a litigant the upper hand in a divorce, which should never happen.

If you're contemplating divorce, consult an attorney to know your rights and that you're getting what you should get out of the marriage.

If you're served with an injunction, you should have an attorney. If your spouse calls the police, and the police take no action, their next step often is to go down to the courthouse and file for an injunction, that there is a threat of violence.

Q:Who encourages that insanity? Other attorneys?

Tucker: No attorney I know would ever counsel someone to abuse the justice system.

Q:Florida overhauled child-custody rules recently. Explain.

Tucker: It's no longer called "custody." It's called "time sharing" between the parents. There are factors the courts have to go by to determine the best interest of the child, and when the child will stay with one parent or the other. A lot of courts now see 50-50 as a viable option.

The goal has been to take the child out of it.

Q:FLORIDA TODAY occasionally publishes stories about lawyers who get disbarred. How does the bar police so many members?

Tucker: The Florida Bar ... has a grievance process that starts by someone filing a complaint against an attorney. The bar reviews the complaint and requires the attorney to write a response to the grievance, which is sent to the bar and the complainant. The bar reviews it, and if it finds no probable cause, it can dismiss the complaint. Or it can investigate it, require a hearing and wind up suspending or disbarring an attorney.

Q:I've noticed more local TV advertisements for attorneys. Does the bar control what those say?

Tucker: The rules change constantly in terms of what can be said, or not, what can be put on TV, what can be put in print. I think we're finding now that the Internet is the primary source of advertising.

Q:Because lawyers can target certain online audiences? Say, a criminal-defense attorney might advertise next to the jail mugshots on FLORIDA TODAY?

Tucker: Yes. That's the potential.

Q: What would you tell a law student today about the employment prospects?

Tucker: The market isn't great. Sometimes you have to take a job in a field that wasn't your first choice and doesn't pay what you want. But that's everybody in our country today.

I graduated from the University of Kentucky. I was a staff attorney for the chief judge of the court of appeals in Kentucky. From there, I went to SunTrust Bank. I came to Florida after a divorce and was hired by J.R. Russo, the public defender for this judicial circuit. That was a phenomenal experience.

Someone asked me about a job the other day, and I always recommend they try the public defender's office or the state attorney's office. Even if you don't want to litigate for your career, it's such great experience to be in the courtroom, to be in front of different judges and to meet other attorneys.

Q:What's the caseload like?

Tucker: Well, when I left in 2004 ... I had about 130 pending criminal cases. For (prosecutors), it's actually more. They're dealing with defendants represented by the public defender and private attorneys.

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