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What's a Girl Like You Doing in a Court Like This?

It may be surprising to know that I entered law school intending to become a criminal defense attorney, specializing in juvenile work. Starting when I was a freshman in high school, I was all-in on the idea of representing juvenile offenders in criminal courts. That was, until one day a mentor asked me if I was only interested in delinquency or if I had thought about dependency work.

For those who aren't familiar with the terms, "delinquency" is the traditional criminal arena applied to children while "dependency" works with children in foster homes, or are otherwise "dependent" on the State for their well-being.

Luckily, I was able to reflect on my experiences and truly think about what I liked and did not like about my practice. My Criminal Law practice frequently made me angry, and I was regularly bringing home that anger and letting it impact me in other areas of my life. Every day I felt I saw injustices, and was powerless to do anything about them.

After a few months of self-reflection, I learned that I was focusing on advocating for children in the criminal courts - but that much of the work and attention necessary to help these children takes place long before they appear in court as a suspect in a crime.. (Now, before I get too far, there are always exceptions to the rule, and sometimes children can have the perfect balance of nature and nurture and still find themselves in criminal situations.) I realized that many of the children I was representing needed something and due to their age, income, or abilities were unable to provide that something for themselves.

Many clients found they needed something like direction, or medical treatment, or discipline or simply attention, and once those needs were met their "criminality" or threat of recidivism dropped drastically. And to provide that help, it often involved getting more involved in the home life of the child, whether it was working with the parents, the school, or even a coach. I loved it! I loved that it was possible to advocate for my client in situations outside of the courtroom.

I am a true believer in holistic representation and in searching for the best way to provide that assistance to my clients, I found Family Law.

In Family Law, I found the ability to be more involved in the social dynamic behind the scenes for children and adults. It is no secret that children who have poor relationships with one (or both) parents are far more likely to be caught up in "criminal endeavors", but it may not be as well-known that divorce does not have to cause this relationship shake-down and break down. I have learned that in helping families work together to find what works best for them, they are able to maintain a better relationship after the divorce and far better able to provide for their children.

In all practices where the courtroom "comes home", so to speak, the overall family dynamic is of vital importance, and when the subject matter is the most personal is when it is most important to have an attorney who understands what all that means and how all that works. It is important to have an attorney who is willing to stand by your side and who truly cares about your feelings, emotions and long term interests.

Stepping out of the criminal arena was a big decision for me, but I am excited to have found Family Law, and put my personality and passion in my practice. I believe that work put into the case outside of the eyes of the Court can go much further than only work prepared for a judge or jury to review, and that is especially true when working within the family law arena. I strive to ensure my clients do not just walk out of the courtroom happy, but are also satisfied once they get home and the bright lights of pending litigation are no longer shining.

And that is how a girl like me, fell in love with a practice like this.

Savannah Steele

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