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Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: March 2023 | Transition

Member Spotlight: Seth Kramer

Seth D Kramer

Member Spotlight: Seth Kramer

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I practiced Family Law in Los Angeles County as a sole practitioner. I was certified as a Specialist in Family Law by the State Bar of California (CFLS). I handled divorces, paternity, child custody, property division, child and spousal support, post-judgment modifications, domestic violence restraining orders, and pre- and postnuptial agreements. I primarily represented middle to upper middle-income individuals.

As soon as I passed the Bar, I started a law partnership with a friend of mine from high school who was also a new admittee to the Bar. We did a lot of court appearances for other attorneys—such as status conferences, default motions, prove-ups, etc. This was a great way to learn how to conduct oneself in Court and how to appropriately deal with Court staff.

Our practice specialized in “door law”—i.e., whatever came through the door. My friend/partner started doing a lot of unlawful detainers. I gravitated toward Family Law. Our partnership dissolved; the rest is history.

What has been the highlight of your career?

Having leadership roles in Family Law/Bar organizations was a true highlight.

I was president of the Association of Certified Family Law Specialists. This is a statewide organization of approximately 700 members, all of whom are CFLS. In addition to monitoring legislation and reviewing/commenting on appellate decisions, the group is known for putting on high-quality Family Law CLE programs.

Another highlight was being chair of the Family Law Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. LACBA is one of the largest voluntary bar associations in the country. The Family Law section is one of LACBA’s largest sections, with about 1200 members. LACBA is a major player/stakeholder in Family Law in Los Angeles County. It has been said that more Family Law matters are filed in LA County than in any other place in the United States. The Court and LACBA often co-sponsor very well attended Family Law CLE programs.

If you could go back to the beginning of your legal career, would you have done anything differently?

I would have networked more. Developing a network, whether you go into the private sector, government, or academia, is critical. The focus of networking should never be limited to just job seeking, but rather should be on developing a career.

It is such an important part of lawyering that I wish it had been formally taught in law school.

As I found in my career, people like to do business with people they like. And the best way to get people to like you is to get to know them. You have to develop relationships. And that is done by being “present”—either physically or virtually. As Woody Allen famously said, "80 percent of success in life is just showing up.” You have to be engaged in the process. The benefits and opportunities that present themselves from networking—throughout your career—are enormous.

Networking for new bar admittees can be very intimidating. You often feel like the fifth person at a bridge foursome. This feeling of anxiety is very common. What always helped me out was the thought that almost no one likes to network, so everyone you meet is probably feeling the same level of discomfort. I found this thought very comforting and reassuring.

Back in the early 1980s—when I was a new attorney—there were numerous events where you could go and meet and mingle with other, more senior attorneys. And the cost to attend these events were often reduced for new attorneys.

Often these events would have a CLE component. These CLE events are ideal for networking and meeting other attorneys who are prominent in the field—the people you want to meet.

What advice would you give to someone considering law school today?

Be able to write simple declarative sentences. Law school is about writing, writing, and more writing. Being able to communicate effectively and efficiently in written form is a must.

Also develop the habit to read carefully, critically, and thoughtfully. Try to separate the signal from the noise. You have to be able to appreciate the nuances and be able to parse the case or statute. This may require reading slower than you’re used to, but this is an invaluable skill that will serve you—and your clients—well throughout your career. You do not want to be one of those attorneys who gives just a cursory reading. There is a word for that behavior. It is called malpractice.

Finally, I would stress to all future law students that they should develop their emotional intelligence—what is now called their “soft skills.”

So much of the practice of law deals with interactions with other people—clients, adversaries, judges, clerks, jurors, etc. Learning how to handle these types of situations is as important as being able to write a brief or research precedent.

What were the biggest changes you saw in the legal profession over the course of your career?

Obviously, the ever-changing world of technology has had a profound impact on the overall legal profession. But, from a Family Law perspective, the biggest change has been the acceptance and use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Mediation and Collaborative Law are just two examples of ADR that have been used extensively in Family Law. ADR methods have given parties more options and control of their Family Law matter.

When did you first become a member of the ABA and why did you decide to join?

I was an ABA member in the early 1980s, but my membership lapsed. Following my retirement in 2018, I was having the common post-retirement identity problems when I came across the ABA book from the Senior Lawyers Division (SLD), Second Acts for Solo and Small Firm Lawyers. I began an e-mail correspondence with the book’s editor, Jennifer Rose. She encouraged me to become a member of the ABA’s SLD.

Are there any member benefits that SLD or the ABA provided to you that helped you decide to become a member of the ABA and/or SLD?

Yes—I attended the 2022 SLD Fall Meeting on elder law issues you may encounter when dealing with aging clients or colleagues  in Boston at the end of October 2022. Not only were the panels and presenters first rate, but the topics were all of interest to senior attorneys. In addition, it was great meeting like-minded people from different parts of the country.

What has been the highlight of your work with the ABA?

I am currently on the editorial boards of Experience magazine and the monthly Voice of Experience newsletter. I have enjoyed participating in the meetings and contributing articles to the publications. I hope to continue to do so in the future.

If you had not become a lawyer, what do you think you would have done?

If I had the talent, I would have liked to have been a columnist for a large metropolitan newspaper.

And if I had the talent and a lot of good luck, I would have liked to have been an independent film producer of quality, high-grossing films that are regularly nominated for the Oscars.