Tell us your story. What kind of law do you practice? How did you get to where you are today?
I’m a family law attorney and mediator, and the founder of Porchlight. You may notice that Porchlight doesn’t sound like any other law firm name you’ve heard of. That’s because we’re not like any other law firm. I thrive on legal innovation and have created a client-centered, modern law firm. Our name represents not only our uniqueness in the field, but the sense of warmth and security we create for our clients. We believe family law should be a positive, productive, and peaceful process for change. Our job is to light the way forward for our clients to a better future.
I grew up in the Washington, DC area as the oldest of five siblings. Both my parents and one of my brothers are lawyers, so you might say the law is in my blood. I attended the University of Maryland, where I majored in English, and then The George Washington University for Law School. I briefly lived in San Francisco after law school before relocating to Georgia. I am licensed in California and Georgia. I worked for a well-known family law firm in Atlanta before deciding to start my own practice.
I am both idealistic and grounded, both serious and light-hearted, both warm and direct. I see the big picture and the small details, the forest AND the trees. By taking a holistic and balanced approach to the world, I am best able to serve my clients. My favorite part of my job is when a client leaves laughing and smiling but also feeling reassured because they know everything has been taken care of. I am also able to see the field of law for what it is—a system desperately in need of improvement—while still effectively serving my clients who are facing problems in the system as it exists now. I strive to make a positive impact on the world, both one client at a time and by influencing change in the legal system.
Why did you want to become a lawyer?
Being a lawyer is the ultimate nerd profession. You get to argue over minutia in drafting all day and deep dive into research to support your points. Who wouldn’t want to do that? When I went to law school, I knew I would love the academic side of things, but I wasn’t sure how I would put my skills into practice. I only knew that I wanted to help individuals instead of large businesses. I tried out a few practice areas in law school but ultimately found that family law was the best fit for me.
Family law touches the most intimate part of clients’ lives. Each client brings their unique perspectives and values to the process of creating or restructuring their family. I love learning about what is important to them and helping them make it a reality. My firm focuses on Family Law for the Modern Family®. We believe divorce is not a failure but an opportunity for growth. We believe marriage should be on the terms you and your partner decide, not what works for everyone else. Modern families come in all shapes and sizes. I love crafting creative solutions that are specifically tailored to my individual clients.
The legal process can be overwhelming for clients. My job is not only to get someone the result they want, but to make the process easier and less stressful on them. I am not only their advocate but their team member in moving forward to the next stage of their life. I work to help them do that in a positive way that keeps the process amicable. The traditional approach to the law focuses on the case—legal strategies and tactics. While these tools are important, there is an actual human being at the center of the process whose needs are usually not best served by legal gamesmanship. I focus on the client first. Every case decision is made with the client’s best interests as the primary consideration.
Was it a smooth road becoming a lawyer and getting to where you are now? If not, what are some of the struggles you encountered?
I started my legal career at a traditional family law firm. While I gained some great legal experience there, I also saw many of the drawbacks of a traditional law practice. Traditional approaches to family law often increase stress and conflict for clients instead of reducing it. Traditional approaches also drain clients’ wallets and drag the court case out. Attorneys are stuck practicing law the traditional way and clients are stuck following their attorney’s lead.
I started my own practice with the goals of creating a better client experience and resolving cases as amicably as possible. I knew clients deserved better. But idealistic goals don’t actually translate into any real business knowledge. I had no clue what I was doing running a business. Law school doesn’t provide any business training despite the large numbers of lawyers who go on to become law firm partners. So while I was doing excellent legal work for clients, I struggled to run my business efficiently and effectively. I knew I needed outside expertise, so I invested in business coaching. While it was a slow and expensive process, I was eventually able to create a business that ran the way I wanted it to. The best part about my practice running smoothly is that it gives me even more time and energy to focus on my clients’ wellbeing.
The other main challenge I faced in starting my practice was that there are few examples of non-traditional law firms. Across the country, there are only a handful of people who practice innovative family law. Figuring out how to break out of the mold was a struggle. Without much guidance, I was left to discover on my own what would and wouldn’t work. It was hard to see projects I had put so much work into end up having little impact. But through trial and error, I was able to create a modern law firm that is client centered. I am proud of my practice that helps the majority of clients find a lower-conflict path and offers flat fees instead of hourly models for all services.
What are you most proud of as a lawyer? What sets your practice apart from others? What do you love the most about what you do?
I am proud of my innovation in the field of law that has allowed me to create a client-centered practice. One of the best elements of my practice is our case package offerings. In traditional litigation, the attorney handles case strategy and informs the client as the case proceeds what techniques the attorney will be using at that time. Clients are left in the dark as to the big picture. With our case packages, we talk about strategy and the entire picture of the case with our clients before they even retain us. Clients fully understand what their options are and are in control of what their case is going to look like. The most important impact of this approach is that it helps clients pursue lower conflict options from the start.
One of my firm’s primary goals is to reduce conflict in family law. We focus on taking low to medium conflict cases. While this might seem restrictive, a huge percentage of family law clients can be shifted into a lower conflict option with the right guidance. In traditional family law, if a client comes in without already reaching an agreement with the other party, the lawyer immediately starts by filing a contested case. However, with a little bit of education, clients who might seem to have a contested case at first are actually able to proceed with an uncontested case. Uncontested cases are almost always better for clients, and I am pleased that my firm is able to help so many people achieve them.
Two other important aspects of our client-centered approach are our flat fees and incorporation of technology. The legal field is slow to implement technological solutions. We’ve incorporated a range of technologies to help improve the client experience and better connect clients with their lawyer and their case. We also rely on technology to increase our own efficiency, which allows us to offer flat fees and gives us more time to focus on our clients. Flat fees are crucial to a client-centered practice because one of the significant sources of stress for clients is how unpredictable attorneys’ fees are. By shifting from hourly billing to flat fees, we give clients the predictability they need to budget for their case.
If you could change, improve or disrupt one thing about the practice of law, what would it be?
There are so many things I would like to improve about the practice of law, but if I had to choose just one, it would be eliminating the billable hour. A lawyer’s value to their clients is the quality of work they do and the results they get—not the time they spent on a case. Relying on the billable hour as a means of charging clients leads to inefficiency, which is not good for clients, and overworked, stressed out lawyers, which is not good for lawyers. With advances in technology, there are many options these days to streamline your practice while providing even better service to your clients.
The billable hour is the standard billing model for many areas of law. But the billable hour creates uncertainty for everyone. Clients don’t know how much they will have to pay, and firms don’t know how much they will make. Often in fields like family law, clients get behind on their bills because they couldn’t budget for an unpredictable expense. This leads to lawyers withdrawing from representing the client, so the client is stuck without a lawyer and the lawyer is stuck with an unpaid bill. Furthermore, the billable hour puts clients’ and attorneys’ interests at odds. The more an attorney works on a case, the more money they make. Clients want to keep the bills down, and this can deter them from communicating with their attorney and relaying important information. Overall, no one wins with the billable hour. But lawyers have been using it for so long, that they don’t know how to do anything else. Ask most family law attorneys about using flat fees instead and they will tell you it is impossible to predict how much a case will cost. But it is possible, and there are a few forward-thinking firms who have made the transition. Flat fees are the future. They better serve both clients and lawyers. The only question is how long it will take us to get there.
What are you doing when you're not lawyering?
When I’m not in the office, you can often find me taking on a physical challenge. I have always loved swimming, and I compete on an adult swim team. When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, I decided to participate in Swim Across America (SAA), an organization that raises money for cancer research and treatment. With SAA, I have completed mile and half mile open water swims. Fortunately, my dad recovered from cancer, but I continue to swim in his honor. In addition to swimming, I’ve tackled several mud-run obstacle courses. Nothing feels as good as crossing a finish line covered in mud after scaling walls, crawling through trenches, and slogging through mud pits—except maybe going home to shower afterwards.
I love travelling and experiencing new places and cultures. I’ve taken two solo cross-country road trips, which were some of my favorite vacations because you learn a lot about yourself when travelling solo. I also enjoy travelling with family and friends. My partner, Kevin, and I have a goal to visit all 50 states by the time we’re 50. So far, I am just barely beating him with 37 states compared to his 36. Internationally, one of my favorite trips was to Germany and Austria over the winter holidays. The festive energy of the outdoor holiday markets was contagious, despite there being snow on the ground, and celebrating the new year in a foreign country was an awesome way to start off the year.
In quieter moments, I love reading and baking. I participate in two book clubs and experiment with unique cupcake flavors. My partner and I live in Decatur with our two cats, Lorna and Freyja. They are both Maine Coons who act more like dogs than cats. We are dedicated Atlanta United fans and try to travel for at least one away game each season in addition to attending all the home games.