Some people realize they want to be a lawyer at a very young age, while others discover much later in life that practicing law is their destiny. Jacqueline McNutt is one of the latter. She didn’t start thinking about becoming a lawyer until after she became a foster parent.
For her, that was the turning point: “It didn’t take me long to realize that system was broken and that a lot of kids get left behind in the foster care system. That’s what got me started on this path. I ended up working for an attorney (who now works in my firm) as her paralegal. Over time, she encouraged me to become a lawyer, so I went to law school much later than most. For me, it really was – and is – all about the kids.”
The path to a small firm practice
After graduating from law school, Jacqueline started working for a larger firm. Although she learned a lot from handling many different types of legal matters, she ultimately realized that working to help children was her true passion. That’s why she decided to devote her efforts to family law by opening up her own firm.
“When I decided I wanted to move from a general practice firm to family law, some of former co-workers at my prior firm decided to join me,” she explains. “We opened our firm on March 1st. I have one other lawyer in my office – she’s the one who encouraged me to go to law school – along with 2 paralegals, a receptionist, and a bookkeeper.”
Thinking outside the box
For Jacqueline, her clients come first. Each decision she makes for her firm is done with her clients’ needs in mind, with the end goal being to provide the best legal representation possible. But her dedication doesn’t stop with their clients. Instead, her end goal is to do everything she can to help children and families in need.
One way that her firm does this is by providing free legal workshops designed to educate people about family law and matrimonial issues. The fact that doing so also helps generate exposure for the firm is a bonus, but is secondary to their primary goal of helping those in need. “We really believe that it’s important to represent clients no matter what their income level. That’s why we provide flexible payment options and work with them on payment plans,” she says. “Also, the other attorney in my office runs a free legal workshop a few times each month in surrounding counties, which are open to anyone who has questions about divorce and child support. At the workshops we provide packets of information so they can handle the matters themselves or will know what questions to ask when they do hire an attorney.”
Another way they provide exceptional client service is by ensuring that everyone in the office always has access to important client information no matter where they are: “There are times when we have to work from home on weekends or after hours. So it’s important for us to be able to access case files from anywhere and everywhere. That’s one reason we use MyCase.”
MyCase makes a difference
Jacqueline first discovered MyCase when her prior firm switched to new law practice management software. Because she found the interface to be so user-friendly, she decided to use MyCase when she started her own firm. “When we started using MyCase, we put all 120 clients in it and 95% of them used the client portal right away because it’s so straightforward and simple. It didn’t take us long to transfer all of our cases into MyCase – we did it ourselves and didn’t have to pay someone else. It was so effortless and we didn’t have to deal with any of the other headaches that often occur with practice management software.”
According to Jacqueline, MyCase practically pays for itself because it makes it so easy for the firm to get paid. “Collections is usually an issue in a law firm but not when you use MyCase. With MyCase you can send share the invoices and send simple payment reminders instead of wasting time and money by printing invoices, mailing them, then waiting for client to get the invoice, write a check, and mail it.” She continues, “I’ve seen a lot of my clients pay invoices the same day. MyCase saves time and gets accounts receivable paid quickly. It’s every lawyer’s dream.”
Because MyCase works so well for her practice, Jacqueline wholeheartedly recommends it for other family law attorneys. “MyCase is great for family lawyers since family law clients need a lot of communication and contact throughout their case,” she says. “With MyCase, my clients can send a message and know that I’ll get it. It gives them peace of mind as opposed to playing phone tag. And you never get complaints about lack of communication since MyCase makes it easy and gives clients multiple ways to communicate.”
Parting advice for other small firm lawyers
Jacqueline loves her work, but it’s not always easy to be a successful family lawyer in a small firm practice. As she explains, it requires lots of hard work and persistence. “Because I was a paralegal for many years before finishing law school, I thought I had a good grip on what it took to succeed. The only advice I think I would have liked to have had was how difficult it can be to get all the moving parts of a law office moving in sync with each other. This includes staff, software, marketing, etc. I didn’t sleep but a few hours a night for the first three weeks when I opened my office. It was like having a newborn. But as is the case with a newborn, all the hard work is definitely worth it in the end.”