Vicki Hogue-Davies 2013-07-16 23:45:57
Exceptional and affordable family law, bankruptcy and debt settlement representation Practicing family law is not only a profession for Jeff Biddle, managing attorney at Biddle Law Firm in Mesa, Ariz. It is a personal passion. His dedication to creating the right results for the firm’s clients extends from the legal aspects of handling divorces and related life challenges to recommending support services, books and other information to help clients navigate life after divorce. Biddle and the members of his firm recognize that the client cases they represent are important and often stressful forces that can significantly affect their clients’ lives. Biddle, whose family practice also handles paternity, decision-making rights, parenting time modifications and other areas related to divorce and separation, opened his doors in 2007. At that time he focused exclusively in family law. As it became obvious that fracturing families also experience financial stress, the law firm expanded the practice into bankruptcy and debt settlement. making a difference One of Biddle’s reasons for becoming a lawyer was because he felt the profession would give him more schedule flexibility and “freedom to be a parent” while also helping families through a very difficult time. He has four children ranging in age from 7 to 17. He focused on the area of family law for a very personal reason. “I wanted to practice in an area of law that dealt with people, that had face-to-face interaction,” he says. “I didn’t want to do anything corporate. In family law, the issues you deal with are issues everyone is familiar with.” “Also, I came from a divorced family and I wanted to make a difference on a small scale,” Biddle continues. “When my parents got divorced I didn’t have a voice at all and I never saw my father. I went into this because I wanted to counsel people that when mom and dad have issues, it’s between mom and dad, but the kids still need to have two parents. I wanted to focus my practice on helping these families split up, but not implode. I try to get them through the divorce process with the least damage possible.” When Biddle went through his own divorce a few years after starting his practice, the experience significantly affected the way he practiced law. “I now have firsthand knowledge of what my clients go through,” he says. “I kind of had this abstract realization of what they were going through beforehand, but then when I went through it myself, I felt for myself how emotional it was. My staff saw it as well. They saw that it really, really impacted me emotionally.” For Biddle, his own divorce was a turning point that made him and his staff even more determined to reduce the fear and stress that divorcing clients experience. “When my clients leave my office I want them to be in a better place than when they got here,” he says. “Some of my clients look like they have been in a bar fight—they are beaten up, despondent and just hopeless. They are scared. When the process is over we have helped them get back from a really, really dark place.” “I had a client the other day who is just at the beginning of the divorce process,” Biddle says. “I had to advise him that he had to stop reading his wife’s emails. ‘You don’t want to know what she is doing. You have to put her in the rear-view mirror. Don’t worry about her. I will worry about her,’ I told him.” Striving to settle divorce and other cases outside of the courtroom is important to reducing client stress. Biddle estimates that 90 percent of the firm’s cases are settled and 10 percent are litigated. “I’ve been a mediator and a counselor and I have done some divorces where I work with both sides,” Biddle says. “I can’t represent both sides but I will help them to negotiate. If they have a lightly contested divorce I can help them work through it. I am not going to make anyone go to court if they don’t have to.” “If I am in court, the judge knows that I have done everything in my power to try and settle the issues outside of court,” he continues. “I don’t like dragging families through the mud—you always get dirty as well.” Additional Practice Areas Biddle handles the family law and the bankruptcy and debt settlement areas of the practice. Taylor House, a new associate attorney who started with the firm in April, practices exclusively in family law. Three paralegals assist the two attorneys. Logan Heilman, who has been with the firm as a paralegal since 2011, oversees the other paralegals and assists Biddle primarily with bankruptcy matters and office management issues. Chase Parrish has been with the firm for more than a year, and Carrie Brewington, who joined the team in April, assists the attorneys with family law matters. They also bring their backgrounds helping others in prior jobs to help the firm’s clients through dark times in their lives. They [the paralegal team] bring a lot of understanding to the firm,” Biddle says. “Some of the staff are rather young, so they bring a fresh perspective; they aren’t jaded by the process.” Chase and Logan bring, each in their own way, their own experiences with divorce, he notes, and can relate to clients because of their experiences growing up in a world that is more like the one children are living in today. Carrie Brewington, a divorced mother of three, began a career as a paralegal after her divorce. The combined experience that the staff has in family law and their diverse life experiences helps allow everyone in the firm to relate with the experiences of their clients. One year after the firm opened, in 2008, Biddle expanded the practice to handle bankruptcies. The work was a natural off shoot of the family law practice. “People going through divorce are often having financial problems as well,” he says. They go from having one household and maybe one income to two households with one income. Sometimes it can make the divorce easier if there is no debt to divide.” “Chapter 7’s are quick, easy and often painless; there is not a lot to them,” he says. “With Chapter 13’s we can help people save their cars, their houses, get rid of tax and child support debt and maybe even strip off a second mortgage. I counsel people about which type of bankruptcy will provide them better relief and give them options. While Chapter 13 involves a lot more work, for some people they get a lot better result.” A smaller portion of the firm’s cases involves debt settlement. Biddle seeks to help clients avoid bankruptcy and reduce collection calls. He works with creditors and collection agencies to arrange lump sum settlement for debts such as credit cards, unsecured lines of credit, utility bills, rent defaults, personal loans and more. “We negotiate settlements on all the debts, send cease and desist letters to creditors and collection agencies,” he says. “Once a month we give the client a summary and discuss which debts to settle and which we will continue to work on.” committed to Traditional Service The firm’s compassion for clients and the difficult situations they are experiencing extends to offering convenient financing terms. “Another thing that is unique about our firm is that we offer payment plans,” Biddle says. “Most people don’t have 20, 30 or 40 thousand set aside to get divorced. We let them run a balance and pay their accounts over time rather than having this enormous payment. I have one client with a $30,000 balance. We want clients to be able to have representation through this difficult time in their lives and be able to afford to pay for it over time. We want our clients to know that we are here for them and want to help them get to a better place. Financially, we will work with you. We ask that clients just keep us in the loop and not fall off the map. It has actually helped us as a firm to help weather the bumps in the economy. During my divorce, I literally took a month off and still had income coming in from those past cases,” Biddle continues. Quality over quantity is another important aspect of the way Biddle Law Firm does business. By not taking on a heavy caseload, the attorneys can focus more closely on the ones that they do take on, providing more personal, hands-on service to clients. “I try to keep it so each attorney doesn’t have more than about 25 cases active at a time in family law,” Biddle says. “I think I probably have 10-15 currently, in addition to the bankruptcy part of the practice.” In addition to not taking on too many cases because he wants to keep the focus on personal service, Biddle is not afraid to say no to potential clients if a case just doesn’t feel right for him to handle. “I recently turned away a potential client,” he says. “He had been this kid’s father for seven or eight years. The kid only knew this guy as her father. He now wanted a paternity test to determine if he actually was the father. I told him, ‘I understand where you are coming from, but you have to consider what it will do to this child. To this child you are her father and if you have a test after all these years and walk out of her life it will destroy her. I can’t be a party to that.’ I lost a client, but I kept my conscience.” A type of case Biddle and the rest of the staff enjoy working on but don’t see a lot of are adoptions, which he calls “happy law” cases. “We haven’t done a lot because there are not a lot out there,” he says. “We enjoy them because we are creating a family instead of breaking it up.” About his chosen law practice areas, Biddle says, “I try really, really hard to do no harm. That is kind of my mindset when it comes to approaching family law. I understand more what my clients are going through now that I have been divorced. I understand the mending process. Sometimes a person going through a divorce just wants someone to scream at. I would rather they pick up the phone and scream at me than at their ex.” While many people view divorce and bankruptcy as areas of law that are highly contested and emotionally charged, Biddle sees these types of cases as opportunities to help people make positive changes in their lives. Navigating through a divorce without destroying a family or helping people to piece back together their financial lives are the true payoffs in practicing in these areas, Biddle believes. He also enjoys giving opportunities to others through employment at the firm. While many firms place a huge emphasis on having experience as a paralegal, Biddle tries to identify the potential in applicants and gives opportunities to those who show a great deal of promise. All of the staff at the firm work extremely hard to prove that Biddle was correct in identifying their potential, and past employees have started their own law firms and enrolled and graduated from law school. Biddle even has his teenage children learn responsibility by filing for spending money. Biddle Law Firm is a family of people that work together to help other families get to a better place.
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