Dan Baldwin 2013-06-12 00:45:42
Hard Work Pays off “I didn’t take the traditional path, so my story is more about tenacity and just sticking with it,” says Jan M. Buescher, founder of Buescher Law Group PLLC, a firm focusing exclusively on family law for clients throughout Maricopa and Pinal Counties. Traditionally, most lawyers move from high school directly to college and then to law school – a path not taken by Buescher. She did not attend college immediately after graduating high school and entered the law not as an attorney, but as a legal secretary in a small Seattle firm. Buescher says, “Someone gave me a chance. From a small law firm I went to a large law firm in Seattle. From there I came to Phoenix and worked for the same downtown law firm for nine years and that’s when I saw the daily work of an attorney. I never thought I’d be a lawyer and it just seemed so daunting. By then my son was in second grade. I was handling legal secretary and paralegal duties. That’s what gave me the idea that I can do this kind of work. Attorneys began giving me work that would have otherwise gone to new associates.” She decided to become an attorney and began by enrolling at Mesa Community College and taking night classes. “I took one class at a time just to test the waters, just to see if I could actually do that. The first class I took I did very well in and then I took the next and then the next and I just stuck with it. It took me ten years. My son was in high school when I graduated,” she says. Buescher’s role model helped inspire her in those early days and continues to inspire her today. “Sandra Day O’Connor went through a lot. It was tough for her to break in, but she had the tenacity to hang on and now look at all she has accomplished.” Buescher’s first employment as a lawyer was as a prosecutor for the city of Mesa, where she worked from 1997-99, leaving to open her own firm in 1999. “I created my own way of doing things and I’m glad I did it,” she says. She is assisted today by paralegal Alicia Gallo who earned her Legal Assistant Degree from Phoenix College in 1989. She has worked in the legal field since 1976. The firm’s front office manager is Patsy Iannella who brings years of experience in office management as well as a soothing voice – the first sound clients hear when they call Buescher Law Group. She plays a key role in the day-to-day operations of the firm. A Focus on Family law The early focus of Buescher Law Group was in family law, personal injury and misdemeanor criminal defense. “After several years, I discovered I strongly disliked personal injury work, so I got out of that. I had done a little bit of family law in Seattle and I could see that there were a lot of people, especially on Fridays and Mondays, who needed some kind of legal help or they were calling in desperation because something was happening in their family. I really liked the work. I just gravitated to this one area and found out that I enjoyed it very much,” Buescher says. She adds, “I think what I enjoy most is to see somebody who is just scared, beaten down and just emotional who doesn’t know where to turn next and then seeing that person blossom at the end of the process into a fully functioning, confident person. That’s probably the best reward for what we do.” Buescher says that the family law practice area is undergoing significant change. For example, as of this year the term “custody” has been replaced with “legal decision-making authority,” which requires not only a change in legal thought processes, but also changes in the way the attorneys communicate and in the forms used for that communication. “We’ve updated all our forms and the pleadings we send out all have been updated with the new language. We’re attending seminars on the changes to continue our education. We’re doing our homework,” Buescher says. Helping clients Move Forward A recent case illustrates the challenges of family law and how Buescher Law Group approaches those challenges. A couple married for some time had five children, but they divorced. Both parents moved on with other partners. The father, who had remarried, sought sole custody of the children so that they could move in with him. The mother had legal decision-making authority (formerly known as “custody”) of the children. They “came out swinging” in court, says Buescher. The husband had been abusive during the marriage and the former wife was afraid of him. “She had all the symptoms of someone suffering from PTSD as a result of domestic violence. When we were in court, she would shake every time this guy came around. She would literally shake. I’d been dealing with this family since 2005 and there was always something going on. He was a bully and the children didn’t want to go with him. All those problems were part of the case,” Buescher says. The case went to a custody evaluator, a doctor who wrote a long report. After three years of effort, the parents reached an agreement rather than try the case. They were very cordial to each other, very pleasant, and they hugged each other at the end. Busescher, playing down her own role in the process, says, “It was amazing to see the progress these two had made. They get all the credit for making these decisions for their children – not their lawyers. There was no doubt that they both loved their children very much.” “It was really something to see. I think they just got tired of fighting. I walked out of court that day feeling a lot of satisfaction for them. I was very, very happy because they can now move forward,” Buesher says. Every client Gets the same Quality of service One of the firm’s continuing challenges is working effectively with a client who acts against his or her own self-interest. Buescher says, “The best example is the client who says, ‘He or she has put me through ten years of hell, ten years of a nightmare and I’m going to get them back.’ This is, at best, a counter-productive approach.” Her approach is to determine the real motivation behind such feelings. Once that is known she assesses the situation and provides balanced advice. “When vindictiveness is the motivation, I tell them that they are probably going to spend a great deal of money, yet fail to accomplish the goal they want to accomplish. I look for alternatives that everybody can live with.” She seeks to arrive at an alternative that perhaps the client or the other side hasn’t even thought of or to adapt a solution based on information drawn from a previous case. I use all of my experiences to find creative and sometimes unique ways to resolve the problem presented.” Buescher says that people don’t ask their attorneys to actually break the law, but they sometimes request their attorneys to do things that there’s just no purpose in doing, such as taking a vindictive approach. “Vindictiveness is expensive. I don’t play that game. I don’t do that. I don’t want someone’s kid’s college education fund or their retirement funds because they’re angry at someone at the moment. Five years from now they’re going to look back and they’re not going to be so angry. I don’t want anyone ever thinking that their attorney should have done something different. I usually try to pepper my comments and advice with common sense. I am not emotional about it. I cannot get emotionally involved in it,” Buescher says. “I tell people that if I’m up there crying at the table in front of the court with you, nothing gets accomplished. I tell them from the beginning that this is not personal for me. I usually don’t want to look at pictures of children. It’s not about ‘Here’s what you’re fighting for.’ Every client gets the same quality service no matter who their children are. I just can’t get emotionally involved. And I do better work that way.” Giving clients direction “I really love what I do every day,” Buescher says. The firm’s philosophy includes giving clients a sympathetic shoulder to lean on and a very high level of good quality at prices they can afford. Buescher says she is neither the least nor most expensive attorney in her trade area. The corporate policy is to try to keep its pricing policy somewhere in the middle ground so that people can get high quality at affordable rates. For example, when Buescher does a consult she only charges half of her hourly rate. Potential clients can come in, get to know their rights in their situation, and get some legal advice and perhaps some practical advice at the same time. “I do try to make it as affordable as possible, but I do have a business to run. My personal philosophy is to be kind. Do the best you can every day. At the end of the day know you’ve done everything possible you can to help others when you can. I feel really good at the end of the day because what I do every day is something I truly enjoy. When I go to bed at night I know I’ve done the best I could have done that day.” A key element in her success is to enjoy a good quality of life. “I made the two-hour commute to downtown Phoenix for nine years. Now that I live and work in Northeast Mesa, I only make that drive when I have court and those are usually off-peak driving hours. That time is better invested in enjoying friends, family and pleasurable and enlightening events. That balance makes for a better lawyer and a more rested and recharged advocate,” she says. “Personally, I want people to know that I did my best and I’m fair. I treat everybody with respect and I really like the kindness aspect of it. I treat people the way that helps them through a challenging process. I love it when someone is crying tears of joy because you finally gave them a positive direction. It’s a great feeling when they came in not knowing which end is up and they end up walking out happy. By far that’s the most satisfying part of being a lawyer.”
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