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The Mastery of Family Law

January 14 2014

Why you must attend the 2014 Marital & Family Law Certification Review

As a financial professional and expert in the financial aspects of Florida Family Law, I use the certification review to sharpen my skills, learn about the latest cases and understand the new and proposed legislation in Florida.

I have a number of young family lawyer friends who have told me that they do not have the resources or the time to attend these events. I find this to be a rather sad response- find the money and find the time or you will never have either. As a financial advisor, some of my clients are the top family lawyers in Florida. In any profession, the top 5% makes many multiples of the average income. These top professionals were not born at the top; they used discipline, hard work and dedication. This mastery of their skills has made them sought after by wealthy people who need great family law counsel.

In his excellent book, Start, Jon Acuff outlines the progression we go through in our professional careers. He identifies five stages:

Start By Jon Acuff

1.Learning

2.Editing

3.Mastering

4.Harvesting

5.Guiding

 

If you cannot find time for the learning and editing phases, you will never get to mastering and harvesting. The most successful family lawyers have discovered that they are prized for their knowledge and interpersonal skills. I must reiterate that they were not born with a knowledge of family law or superior advocacy skills. They worked on it tirelessly and relentlessly until they arrived at a position where their craft had been mastered. When they felt they were masters, they did not stop the learning and editing phase. They kept going and took positions of responsibility within their professional organizations, the Bar Association and the community.

 

Why does it matter if you attend events such as the Marital & Family Law Certification Review? For me it is as much about the opportunity to watch other masters at work as it is about the technical aspects of family law. I will concede that if you are so inclined, you probably could stay at home, read the outlines of the presentations, study the new cases and be able to absorb a good portion of the factual aspects of the program. Realistically, you would never do that at home because we are all too distracted by our daily lives and running our practices.

 

In addition to Certification Review, I usually attend the annual conference of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners, the Sudden Money Institute, and Commonwealth Financial Network . This year I also attended the conference for First Financial Resources, one of the most cutting edge life insurance producer groups in the country. Although it seems like this may be an excessive number of events, I can assure you that I learn at least one new idea at each conference that allows me to sharpen my skills, learn a new way to help a client and create new sales opportunities. I view these events as invaluable learning opportunities.

 

By not attending, what you would miss is the ability to interact with other professionals who have ideas that could change your life. I have been fortunate enough to have a few of these interactions and they all came because I was either at a conference or working with a study group. In 2004 I met another financial advisor at a broker/dealer conference and explained to him that my wife and I wanted to move to Florida from Chicago. This presented a few challenges because my staff and my clients were mostly in Chicago. He told about a coaching program he was attending called the Strategic Coach, run by Dan Sullivan. I investigated it, learned it was incredibly expensive and immediately signed up (at the time it was a very large check for me). In my year with the program, I formulated a plan that would allow me to keep a business in Chicago and move my family to Florida. I was able to keep my old business and develop a completely new practice with ONLY my ideal clients. In the successive seven years, my business has flourished and I have developed an entirely new practice area.

 

When I made the move to Florida in 2006 I had no knowledge of family law. I chose to work with divorcing women because I attended a conference run by an advertising agency that helped financial advisors develop niche practices. I have always believed in niche marketing, but in Florida, it was not clear to me what markets might suit my skills. At the advertising conference, we went through some visualization exercises and I determined that I could add tremendous value to women facing divorce and widowhood. After this event, I immediately scheduled lunch with one of my family lawyer clients to pick his brain about how I could get in front of wealthy divorcees. What I was proposing, a financial advisor working with the client during the divorce process, was new and revolutionary in Florida family law. I could tell by my client’s nervous reaction that I would have an uphill battle but I also knew that if it were easy, the payoff would be small and everybody would be trying to do it. This was a huge mountain to climb but the view from the top would be well worth it.

 

Over the next few years, I immersed myself in anything that had to do with Florida Family Law. I attended the Certification Review and the Academy meetings. I went to every bar association event I could find, I read books about family law and I had lunch with family lawyers every week. When I was finally able to get someone to hire me on a case, I learned on the job. If I had a question, I had developed a network of other family lawyers and financial advisors who were now my friends and I would call them for their advice and input so I did not appear ignorant to the attorney and client who hired me. I had to go through the “learning and editing” phase for some time because this was totally new to me. Although I would now consider myself a “master” after only five years of working on family cases, it is only for two reasons; 1. I developed a completely new role for the financial advisor in Florida family law and 2.I chose the immersion method to get up to speed very quickly. The immersion method meant that I had to find a way to run the rest of my practice and make a living so I could spend time honing my new skill. To find the solution, I returned to some of the techniques I had learned in the Strategic Coach program and I sold a portion of my practice to two of my associates in Chicago. This gave me an income source for a few years from the sale and allowed me to spend time learning my new profession.

 

To complete my immersion, I not only read every book I could find and attend every Florida Family Law event, I sought out other advisors around the country who were also on the cutting edge of financial planning in divorce cases. I earned the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ designation, and I used these other experienced advisors as my mentors. I was in the “learning and editing” phases and I am very grateful that they were willing to share their wisdom and had entered the “guiding” phase. I am also fortunate that I can still talk to them when I have a tough case. It is always a compliment when they call me to ask how to handle one of their tricky issues!

 

The long road to harvesting has been very challenging. The Family Law Section of the bar is like a club in many ways and a as former fraternity president, I knew I was the pledge who would need to take some abuse and earn his way into the club. Although I have yet to crack the “inner circle” I have made enough connections that my plate and my practice are full and I have had to begin hiring new advisors to help me with family law matters. In Jon Acuff’s analogy, my “mastering” has led me to the “guiding” stage as I train the skills and knowledge I have developed.

 

How does all of this relate back to attending the Marital & Family Law Certification Review? In my view, this is one of the most important conferences for anyone in the “learning and editing” phases because the breadth of information presented will make you a better lawyer, help you understand the nuances in the law and create better outcomes for your clients. If you can create those better outcomes and add value to the lives of others, you will find yourself squarely in the harvesting phase and you reputation and income will accelerate. If you are already a master, then the time spent with other masters will give you the study group you need to make your skills even sharper. Additionally, this is the time for the master to give back and enter the guiding phase of their career.

 

Resist the temptation to put it off until next year when you have “more time and money.” The time will never be right and if you do not sharpen your skills, the money will probably never come. Pay the price, do the work, reap the rewards.

 Click on the link below to register for the Upcoming 2014 Marital & Family Law Review Course

The 2014 Marital and Family Law Review Course

January 31 – February 1, 2014

Cary B. Stamp, CFP®, CDFA™ is an independent financial planner and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst based in Tequesta, Florida. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and the DePaul University Financial Planning program. He has worked with individuals and families since 1990 and has offices in Chicago and Palm Beach County. After working with a Boca Raton based family lawyer on his own financial plan, he recognized the need for an advisor to work with wealthy women going through the divorce process. His firm, Cary Stamp & Co., offers a concierge level service to women clients, entrepreneurs, real estate developers and family lawyers. Cary Stamp & Co. is licensed for securities or insurance services in over 20 states.

         For more information you may visit

www.mypalmbeachdivorce.com

or

www.palmbeachfinancialplanner.com