Video Transcript: Transcript of Wendy Tse Full Interview
Dan Couvrette: Wendy Tse is a family lawyer in Long Beach, California, and today I’m going to talk with her about her practice, the type of clients that she works with, the type of cases that she works on, and what makes her tick.
Let’s start at the beginning and get the basics. How long have you been practicing family law?
Wendy Tse: I’ve been practicing family law since 1998.
Was there any particular reason why you chose family law over other types of law?
I actually chose family law because I knew I would never get bored with it. There’s always something going on, something else always pops up to blow your mind.
Was there anybody who influenced you to look into family law when you were in law school?
My family law professor was a character. He made family law so interesting that I knew that that was what I wanted to go into as soon as I took that class.
Was it the emotional side of family law that was of interest to you or was it the variety of facts and issues? What grabbed your attention back then?
It was really the complexity of family law. The property issues, children issues, and more. There’s just so much that goes into family law.
Is there anything in particular about your personality or your character or that has made you a great family lawyer?
Children are my priority, to make sure that they are taken care of. I make sure people aren’t playing games in the divorce. That everybody gets their fair time with the children, that the fair amount of child support is being paid.
What happens if the other side isn’t playing fair? How do you mitigate that situation and help your client?
Well, first, I try to negotiate to try to reason with them to reach an amicable resolution. Explain to them what the courts would be ordering before spending the money to go to court. If that doesn’t work, then we do have to go to court sometimes.
Do you think that your experience in the 23-plus years that you’ve been doing this has a major effect or an influence to help your clients better understand that situation and what has to be done?
Yes. I am a big picture type of person. I can give an example of one of the cases I just had where my client started off with no overnights. It was a post-judgment modification and the other side had totally taken advantage in the divorce. But now I’ve been able to negotiate and after going to court, we were finally able to settle out of court and my client now has 50/50 custody.
And how did you feel out of that? I imagine your client was excited. How did you feel as an attorney making that happen?
I feel great. It’s what should have been happening in the beginning since the divorce, and I’m glad that my client has finally been able to rectify the situation and get the custody that she was entitled to from the beginning.
How do you think you are and what do you stand for with your clients? What can they count on you for?
I am very good at analyzing cases and analyzing the details. Analyzing not just what’s best for my client, but also what the other side might be arguing to be able to mitigate those arguments going forward. Like I said, I’m a big picture person. I look to see what the end goal is and look to see what actions can affect that end goal. If my client is not doing something that would be in their best interest, I will be truthful with them. I’m not a yes person. I’m a reality person.
Given that you have so much experience, does knowing the judges and knowing the lawyers who are on the other side of the case help your clients?
Having familiarity with the courts and with the colleagues always helps out in trying to work out settlements and being able to negotiate. It’s always better to try to settle a case outside of court than going to court. To have long term relationships with all these people is very helpful in trying to work out the settlement first before having to go to court.
You’ve touched on what I’m going to ask you about already to some extent. As you know, divorces can be very emotional for people and the decisions that they want to make are not always the best decisions. How do you guide them when their thinking is a little off, their emotions have taken control, and they want to get back at the other person? Do you help them yourself? Do you recommend outside people to help them understand it? What do you do in that situation where their emotions are taking control of the situation?
It really depends on what the client wants to do. Initially, I will just guide them as to what the courts would do, what the courts would favor, and what the courts would disfavor in terms of the actions that they want to take. If they actually have emotional issues or if they’re dealing with depression or dealing with things like that, yes, we would recommend that they see a therapist. If there are co-parent counseling issues, we’d recommend co-parent counseling therapy or therapy for the child. We do include other people in the whole gamut of the family law case.
You mentioned we. I know you work at a firm with four or five other family lawyers. Just take a moment to tell me what it’s like to work with these other family lawyers and what they can bring as a backup for you if you need help with a family law case.
That’s the beauty of working with the firm. There is always somebody there to respond to the client quickly. It’s not like a solo practitioner where oh, they’ve been in court all day. They don’t have time to respond. I actually work hand in hand with John Gilligan and I’m pretty much his senior associate. Even if John’s not available, I’m available to respond. We have two paralegals that are on the cases as well. We all work as a team which helps provide quick service to all our clients.
John’s been practicing for 40 plus years, so he’s got a lot of experience under his belt as well. What do you bring to your client and what can they expect if they hire you? What would you say to somebody who’s considering hiring a family lawyer and considering hiring you?
I look at the big picture. I’m also very good at writing, which is very important when you are presenting your case to the court and also when you’re trying to persuade the other side to see a reason to settle. Writing settlement letters and showing the compromises that we’re willing to make to show that it’s a reasonable settlement, that’s all very important for a client and I excel at writing.
Is there anything else that you think that I’ve missed that hasn’t given us the true picture of who Wendy is as a family lawyer?
I truly care about my clients and even if it doesn’t make the firm any money, I’m looking out for what’s best for the client even if the client doesn’t know it. Sometimes the clients will come in, they’ll come talk to us and my question to them is, are you really ready to file a divorce? Do you even want to go through this divorce? Because it sounds like you’re still in love with the other person, and maybe you should try to work on the relationship first before coming back to see us. The most important thing is what the client really needs.
That’s a pretty powerful statement and a pretty great way to be if you’re a family lawyer – that you’re truly looking out for their best interest, not looking out to just make money. It’s about taking care of your clients really, right?