BUSINESS OF THE MONTH:
DREW MALEY, FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY
Kat and Drew met for a morning coffee in the Fernald Conference room which boasts local history of the founder of the firm dating back to 1852. The long existing firm, which has been serving Santa Barbara for 166 years, brought Drew on as their Family Law Division Attorney 6 years ago. This is their interview:
How long have you been practicing law?
I have been practicing since 2013, so I am in my 6th year of practice.
How long have you been at Price, Postel & Parma?
I lived in Santa Barbara before I became a lawyer and about 3 and half years ago I had the opportunity to come back to Santa Barbara and start a family law practice at Price, Postel & Parma. I have been developing the practice from scratch since then.
What is the story behind Price, Postel & Parma?
This firm is well established in the community dating back to 1852; the longest lasting law firm west of the Mississippi. We’re doing this interview in the Fernald Conference Room which is named after Charles Fernald, who was the founder of the firm back in 1852. He was also the first judge in the County. The firm is what you would call full service, we have a lot of different practice areas ranging from estate planning, to real estate, to litigation, and so on. But for the 6 years prior to my joining the firm in 2015, PPP did not have a family law practice. They were keen on re-growing the practice, as they kept receiving inquiries from their clients asking for referrals. However, they were unsure whether they wanted to grow the practice in-house from scratch or hire somebody local to bring in their book of business. With the latter option, you run the risk of not having the new practice gel with the culture of the firm and so the firm had been reluctant to pull the trigger. Ultimately, the firm decided that they wanted somebody who was experienced and entrepreneurial enough to take on the challenge of growing a family law practice from scratch, while still being fresh enough to become a natural part of the firm culture. All of this just happened to be around the time that I was wanting to come back to Santa Barbara and, once I was introduced to the firm, it was clear that it was serendipity and I was the guy to grow the family law practice for PPP. It also checked all of my boxes; an entrepreneurial opportunity but with the support and backing of a well-established firm. It’s been a great fit so far.
What made you want to get into practicing law?
I had worked here in town for a tech company for several years between college and law school and I was fortunate to work with a lot of really great people, but I ultimately found myself feeling unsatisfied with the work I was doing. After some soul-searching, I realized I want to have a career where I am continually challenged, and where I can work with people I can learn from. I also wanted to feel like I was applying my time in a worthwhile way. I was in my mid-20s and so I spent some time traveling the world and trying to decide where to go next with my career that would satisfy all of those things. After a jaunt in New Zealand and some backpacking through Eastern Europe—during which time I was strictly pondering the direction of my life, of course, and not having any fun whatsoever, I settled on law school. Law school had always been in the back of mind, and so I made the decision to attend Northwestern and I haven’t looked back since.
What do you love most about your job?
What I find the most rewarding about my job is being able to help people through a difficult time. While I am practiced at and enjoy negotiating premarital and other agreements, a large part of my practice is centered on litigation matters. Essentially, marital dissolutions or contested child custody cases, and so on. What my clients are going through is probably one of the most difficult and consequential times of their lives. Let’s face it—nobody gets married expecting a divorce; in almost all cases it is unexpected. Maybe someone sees it coming, but this was never part of the plan, and, in every case, it is a major life-disrupting event. So, what I do is very important personally to my clients, which is a lot of responsibility and pressure. However, if I can apply my skills in a way that makes those difficult experiences easier for my clients, then I feel like I’ve contributed in a worthwhile way and that I am, frankly, doing something good with my legal degree. Divorce lawyers get a bad rap, and don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of bad ones out there who enjoy the fight (and running up your bill with it), but there’s also a tremendous amount of good you can do in my field. Your work, as a family law attorney, will impact your clients’ lives in profound ways and if you can help them navigate their matters in a way that minimizes their suffering and gets them to a resolution they can live with , you are truly doing good.
I also enjoy the opportunity that practicing law, and family law, in particular, gives me to dive deep and gain some mastery at the craft. I recently passed the Certified Family Law Specialists Exam and now I am working on the long and arduous requirements to become a CFLS. Yet another way I can bring to bear the best for my clients.
For layman out there, what exactly ‘family law’ encompass? Is it all divorce and custody, or is there more?
Family law is actually a fairly broad area of the law. The bulk of the practice tends to be what you would think of; cases for marital dissolution (divorce), child support, spousal support, or child custody matters. But it could include adoptions, paternity or parentage actions, and a wide range of contractual work, like pre- and post-nuptial agreements. I have had clients consult with me pre-filing (e.g., before filing for divorce) to ask my help in determining if they want to get divorced in the first place. I’ve taken clients through the dissolution process all the way from start to end. But, it’s also very common for me to get calls from people who are somewhere in the middle of the process; they have been battling for years and want new counsel, or they have already been through most of the process, received their judgements and just need help closing it out. I have experience working on any and all of those types of matters. The other interesting thing about family law is that it touches on so many other areas of the law and so I have to be conversational in a lot of them: bankruptcy, tax law, real estate transactions, estate planning, trusts… Oftentimes, it’s my job to work with other experts and counsel as well to ensure that the client is protected—so that a dissolution or premarital agreement doesn’t conflict with a will or trust document, or create some unfortunate tax consequences, for example. So, my day-to-day work often extends to much a broader prospective than just family law.
Can you share any interesting stories with us?
I have been involved in a handful of cases, maybe half a dozen, where, by the time I got involved, the case had already been pending for seven or eight years. In a lot of these cases nothing has even been accomplished during that time except fighting and spending a lot of money on lawyers. That is something that tends to surprise a lot of people. That proceedings can go on that long. How can it really take years to get divorced? But it can; though it certainly doesn’t have to. Oftentimes, the parties are highly emotional and a bit irrational, and certainly unwilling to compromise. But, the reality is, the lawyers are almost always, at least partially at fault, when a case to goes on that long. You can always help your client see that a given path might lead to a more contentious, expensive, and drawn out process, and provide them with alternatives. I think the longest dissolution proceeding I’ve ever seen was almost ten years. I got involved and resolved it as quickly as I could for my poor client. Of course, with attorney-client privilege, that’s about as much detail as I can divulge with the stories.
What do you say is the quality you pride yourself most on?
One thing that distinguishes me is the level of focus that I give to each of my clients. Personally, I think it is required to successfully navigate these often very complex family law matters. To apply the law correctly, you need to know your client and you need to know the facts. I am able to apply a professional and rational lens to the facts for clients, even when they can’t see it that way for themselves. I have been down this road many times before and I know what twists and turns might be out there. I am able to help my clients stay on the path to get to where they want to be. Usually where they want to be is done with their legal matter and feeling as though they have been treated fairly by the judicial system. That is not necessarily the case with a lot of attorneys. I hear a lot of stories about people being unhappy with their experience because of the quality of their attorney, or because they simply haven’t heard from their attorney for several days or weeks. I pride myself in being responsive and responsible to my clients; assuring them I am on track and keeping them on track with what we have to do in order to accomplish their goals.