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May 04, 2022 From the Chair

From the Chair Spring 2022: The New Normal

Candace B. Peeples

We have had an exciting few months continuing to reenergize the Family Law Section as we emerge from the challenges in navigating our country’s COVID-19 pandemic. While new variants will likely be part of our lives, we are all finding ways to continue our work both personally and within the Section. The Section and its Officers, Council Members, and other leaders have worked tirelessly to adapt and be as nimble as we have ever been to continue to be the preeminent voice of family law in the country. As I write this column it’s somewhat hard to believe that it won’t be that much longer before my term as Chair of the section will be complete. My goals for the year were lofty and numerous. But more than anything, it became clear to me that my biggest hope was to continue to find ways to bring members of our section back together in old and new ways to advance the goals of our membership.

With this issue dedicated to the issue of Evidence, it could not be more appropriate that we remind each of you about our upcoming 24th Annual Family Law Trial Advocacy Institute, which will resume this summer July 22–30, 2022. We could not be more thrilled to be having the institute “live and in-person” this year at the University of Missouri – Kansas City Law School. I would be completely remiss not to acknowledge the endless time and energy spent by Anita Ventrelli and Steve Peskind to ensure the continued success of this amazing program for you, our members. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the Institute, but for those of you who are not, the ABA Family Law Trial Advocacy Institute is the preeminent family law trial skills course in the nation. The course is taught by a diverse faculty, including some of the most distinguished lawyers, judges, academics, psychologists, and business valuation experts in the country. The format of the program includes attention to every part of trial practice, including opening statements, direct and cross-examination, and closing arguments. The faculty lectures on these topics and demonstrates best practices before participants practice them.

Working from a fictional family law fact pattern consisting of issues commonly seen in real family law cases (e.g., custody, maintenance, business valuation issues), students perform practice exercises in classrooms under the guidance of rotating faculty members. The classroom faculty informally critique the students’ performances and provide tips and suggestions to help the students improve. The exercises are recorded, and, as an added benefit, students then receive one-on-one coaching immediately after the performance by another faculty member. The week culminates in an actual trial, where students can put together all they have learned throughout the week. For more information on this year’s institute, or to make plans to attend in future years, please visit our Section website.

Without a doubt, as a law student and even a young lawyer, my love for trial work and its complexities is what initially inspired me to want to become a family lawyer. The work and skills we utilize in preparing our cases for the potential outcome of a contested trial is something that we can continue to elevate within our practices.

Again, I hope each of you will take some time to think about how you can utilize all of our programs and benefits to get more value out of your Section membership. I can promise you that you will not regret it. Do not hesitate to reach out to me personally at [email protected], and I will be happy to help guide you and get you involved in wherever your passion leads you.

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Candace B. Peeples is Chair of the ABA Family Law Section and partner with and owner of Peeples Law, a boutique-styled practice focused in family law in Birmingham, Alabama.