A Look Ahead: Trusts and Estate Litigation in 2013 With John F. Lang

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Attorney John F Lang shares his views on what 2013 may hold for trust and estate litigation and the entire legal profession.

What do you see as the biggest challenges faced by your profession in the coming year ahead?

The legal profession, like other service industries, needs to adapt to the changing times and an increasingly competitive marketplace. In a word, the profession needs to become more “user-friendly.” This means greater use of computer technology and social media, fee arrangements that are more flexible and suitable for the matter and the client, and a level of service that is highly attentive without being wasteful.

What do you see as some of the biggest opportunities in the coming year ahead?

Two of the biggest opportunities for the coming year, for both attorneys and clients, are the ascendancy of the Internet and the downsizing of law firms. The Internet is a great equalizer. Formerly, prospective law firm clients relied on things like referrals from friends, prestige law firm addresses, impressive law firm décor, and perhaps a diploma from an ivy college on the wall. With the Internet, prospective clients can search the Internet and read about what an attorney has accomplished, how he or she has been rated by peers, whether disciplinary complaints have been filed against the attorney, and whether the attorney’s primary practice area matches the prospective client’s needs. Also there is a trend for the size of law firm to be of less importance to those individual clients who do not need to use or pay for the armies of lawyers those large international corporate clients may require. The growth in the number of small, high quality boutique law firms also creates an opportunity for lawyers to have the satisfaction that flows from being able to offer their clients the kind of personalized service that is difficult to provide in the factory atmosphere of the mega-firm. At the same time, clients may find that they benefit from the heightened level of service is being provided to them by the smaller firm at much lower fees than the mega-firm would have charged. Bigger is not always better.

What new Laws have passed in 2012, which will have the greatest impact in your area of practice for 2013?

My area of practice, which is trusts and estates litigation, is being greatly impacted by recent budget-tightening in the state court system, especially as to the Surrogate’s Courts. While this is not a new law, it is an important development. One result is that there is a greater emphasis today on settling estate litigation through mediation, which means having a third party assist the parties negotiate a settlement to their case. Often the court will recommend mediation by a court official or a third party. Sometimes the judge will act as an informal mediator. Mediation also benefits the parties, since an earlier end to the case means less legal expense and often results in the same outcome as would have occurred if there had been a trial after protracted legal proceedings.

What is it about how you conduct your practice that sets you apart from the rest of the field?

Our law firm is dedicated to the Haute Lawyer concept, which is why we joined the Haute Lawyer Network. To us, this means concierge-level service for every client. We customize our legal representation to each client’s needs. We understand that estate litigation clients may be both bereaved and betrayed. Family trust and inheritance disputes can be traumatizing for the strongest men and women. While such clients need a tough gladiator to vindicate their rights, they often also need caring support to get them through periods of personal and family crisis. We conduct our practice to show maximum strength and determination to our

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adversaries, while providing maximum attentiveness and responsiveness to our clients. This is what being Haute Lawyers means to us.

What are the most important questions a client should ask themselves before selecting an Attorney?

Selecting an attorney is both business and personal. The business aspect requires that the attorney not only be capable, but be capable in the particular area of practice in which the attorney is being retained. One does not go to an infectious disease specialist for brain surgery. It is perfectly acceptable to ask whether your matter falls within the attorney’s primary area of practice and to invite discussion of some of the major matters that the attorney has handled in this practice area. The personal aspect requires trust, availability, and caring. Do you trust this person? Will he or she personally be handling your case? Whom do you call if you have a question? Do you sense empathy as well as intelligence? Lastly, ask what the attorney expects of you. Good relationships are two-way streets.

To Learn More: Visit John F. Lang’s Haute Lawyer Profile