She Will Help You Navigate The Challenges You Face & Protect What Matters to You. Her Law Firm is Dedicated To Providing Quality & Affordable Family Law Services With Compassion. A Conversation With Family Law Attorney Tera Reese-Beisbier
Q: When did you know you would pursue a career as an Attorney?
TRB: I knew I was going to be an attorney at age 12. My father and I were discussing something (I believe I was arguing with him) and he stopped me and told me that if I did not become a lawyer, he would be shocked. He told me that I always stick up for the underdog, and I always argue my way out of punishments at home. I did not know any attorneys at the time, but thought he was right. So, that was the path I pursued from that day forward.
Q: Can you share with our audience, the types of law you specialize in?
TRB: Reese-Beisbier & Associates is what is considered a boutique firm, in that we specialize in one subject matter. For us, it is all things family law. At this stage is my career, I tend to specialize in higher end divorce matters. Due to our location, our clients or their spouses tend to own businesses and our firm is well versed in cases where a closely held business is involved. However, there are four attorneys here and with us having different years of experience, our firm can also handle any divorce, custody or family law matter and still make it affordable.
Q: What aspects of the daily job of being a lawyer interest you the most?
TRB: Helping people navigate the world of divorce, custody or any other family law matter is a daily function here at Reese-Beisbier & Associates. The scariest thing for someone going through a family law matter is the unknown. What will the client have to pay in alimony or child support? What will the client receive in alimony or child support? Will the client see his/her children enough? At Reese-Beisbier & Associates we like being able to take the scary “unknowns” and make them “knowns.”
Our clients will never walk into a mediation to try to settle their case without knowing all the possible outcomes since our firm gathered the right information for them to make sound decisions for themselves and their family. If a client cannot settle at mediation for whatever reason and is having to go to trial and seek relief from a Judge or jury, it will be the same. Our attorneys will present the trier of fact with all of the information it needs to make the right decision for the parties and their future. No matter if our client is CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a stay-at-home parent, the client needs to feel that he/she will get through this emotional process with all the information he/she needs to move on after litigation is over.
Q: What types of cases do you handle?
TRB: At Reese-Beisbier & Associates we handle all family law litigation. This includes uncontested divorces, contested divorces, custody actions, modifications of custody and support, family violence actions (protective orders), post judgment contempt issues, such as nonpayment of child support or alimony, legitimation and paternity of children born out of wedlock, and adoptions. Reese-Beisbier & Associates also handles and encourages pre-nuptial agreements and post-nuptial agreements.
Q: What is your approach or philosophy to winning or representing a case?
TRB: At Reese-Beisbier & Associates we are clear with all clients that family law issues are very personal and emotional. Many people can run companies or represent the interests of others, but when they are getting divorced or arguing over custody, advocating for themselves can be difficult and sometimes overwhelming. It is often hard for people to stay calm and rational since this is such a personal, intimate matter. Our approach here at Reese-Beisbier & Associates is to help our clients stay calm and be true to themselves. We ask our clients to let us be their sounding board for all matters so that good decisions can be made. We ensure our clients are provided all the information they need to make sound decisions for themselves and their families. Our moto is we want our clients to get the best results possible in the fastest and least expensive way possible.
Q: Can you share with our audience the type of pro-bono work you do?
TRB: Reese-Beisbier & Associates works with the Georgia Legal Services Program (GLSP) in taking pro bono cases to assist domestic violence victims with their Family Violence Protective Order cases and Divorce cases. I started my career at GLSP in 1998. It is a wonderful organization that exists to assist low-income Georgians with their civil matters. We are proud to continue to support GLSP both financially by donating to the program and by taking cases for them so more Georgians can be assisted. I encourage all attorneys to sign up with GLSP and take pro bono cases.
Q: If we interviewed all your past clients … what is “one” common word that comes up when they describe working with your law firm?
TRB: I am proud to be called a bulldog in the courtroom and that is what we hear when our clients refer people to our office. “I wanted a bulldog and was told to see you and your firm.” At Reese-Beisbier & Associates, we believe all cases should settle out of court, if possible. We prepare cases thoroughly for mediation for that purpose. However, we cannot control the opposing party or attorney and sometimes cases must go to trial. Our firm is not afraid of the courtroom. We settle about 80% of our cases, but when the other 20% go to trial, we are ready. Over the years, we are proud to tell people that Judges have told us that when our firm appears for trial, they know they will get all the information they need to make a good decision. We are prepared, thorough, and skilled.
Q: What was the most challenging part of law school for you?
TRB: This dates me as I haven’t been in law school since May of 1998. I recall trying to adjust to a new city and to a rigorous class schedule and study schedule while also trying to maintain a part time job. I had to put myself through law school as my family worked hard but were proudly blue-collar workers. I was born and raised in and around Madison, WI, so when I drove (by myself) to New Orleans to attend Loyola Law School I had no idea what I was stepping into. However, I truly enjoyed it and would not change a thing.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue a career as an Attorney?
TRB: Growing up, I did not know any attorneys. I would suggest reaching out to attorneys in their area to learn about their career and what they like and do not like about it. I would attempt to get internships as early as high school so the concepts of litigation, contracts, property closings, criminal cases (whatever they are interested in) are not new when they enter law school.
Q: Were there moments in your career that were pivotal to getting where you are today?
TRB: The saying, “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute” is so true. I remember being told by a Judge, “I know I will get all the information I need to make a sound decision when you enter my courtroom, and I know that you will not be repetitive in your presentation and that makes a perfect litigator.” That was in about 2001. I still hold on to that comment in all my cases that are going to trial. I look at my cases and ask myself: “Does this give the Judge or jury everything they need to decide the case?” and “Do I really need this witness or this document if another witness or document is being used for the same information?” I want to maintain that good reputation. I want to be a zealous advocate without over litigating.
Q: What expectations did you have after graduating and receiving your law degree?
TRB: I started with Georgia Legal Services Program (GLSP) in 1998 to help others and to pursue a career in civil rights. Little did I know the funding for civil rights work was cut in the 1980’s. During my time at GLSP, GLSP was receiving funding to assist domestic violence victims and the elderly. Thus, most of my clients needed family violence protective orders (restraining orders) and divorces or life planning documents, such as Wills and Healthcare Powers of Attorney. With family violence actions and divorces, I was able to enter a courtroom and assist clients in litigation as early as August 1998, only months after graduating law school. I was able to quickly learn that I loved the courtroom, especially cross examination and closing argument. I never expected to pursue family law as a career, but in 2003 I opened my own family law firm and never looked back.
Q: What are the best practices you have employed to build a successful career?
TRB: At Reese-Beisbier & Associates we are a team, and no team member is more important than another. Our four amazing attorneys (Tera Reese-Beisbier, Jeanne Sacks, Kem Eyo and Alicia Adamson) may be the ones going to court, taking the depositions, or signing the pleadings, but we are only as prepared as our team provides and our paralegals (Heather Keith and Meredith Dornan) and our legal assistants (Angela DuBois and Janet Kane) keep us organized and on top of our cases. Then we have a wonder office manager (Sharon Petersen) and Front Desk guru (Jeanette Platt) who do so much for the team it is hard to list it all. Respect and know your teammates. Their skills and knowledge are priceless for a well running law firm and that is the secret to our success. Keep every link in the chain strong; we do that here and it works.
Q: What has been the most interesting legal issue you’ve dealt with in your legal career?
TRB: Family law brings with it many interesting legal issues as well as factual issues. I stopped being surprised by what humans can do to each other and themselves early on. Family law sadly can make rational, kind people, irrational and mean. At Reese-Beisbier & Associates we have good client control and try not to let our client’s anger or bitterness control their decisions. It is not helpful to allow that for so many reasons, but especially for the children who will need to be in the middle of their parents’ arguments longer than necessary and for our client’s litigation costs which will certainly increase.
Q: What is it about your job that most excites you?
TRB: I have stayed in family law and grown Reese-Beisbier & Associates to four attorneys to help more people get through a hard time in their life. It excites me to see that someone can come into our office needing family law services with little self-esteem and feeling powerless. Then, they walk out at the conclusion of their matter and our representation empowered and ready to move on with his/her life. That keeps us coming back to the office energized and ready every day.
Q: What's your advice for women in male-dominated fields?
TRB: In 2021 it is wonderful to see so many women enter the field of law. In 1998, I remember walking into courtrooms all over North Georgia and being one of the only female attorneys. I had to set boundaries quickly and show that I am not intimidated. I teach my young female attorneys that they have worth. They need to advocate not only for their clients but for themselves. When negotiating their terms of employment, they need to be prepared to ask for more. Women, in general, are bad at advocating for themselves but great at doing it for others. As hard as it may seem, women must speak up for themselves and demand respect and compensation to match their contributions to the firm.
Q: What's the greatest fear you've had to overcome to get where you are today?
TRB: It may sound odd, but I never feared failure. I knew since I was 12 years old that I would be an attorney. I knew in college that I would get into law school. I knew in law school that I would find employment. I knew when I opened my own firm that I would be able to maintain clients and earn money for my family. However, when I had my first child, I feared I would not have enough time to be a good mother and a good attorney, a struggle a lot of women face. I remember trying to get home earlier once we started a family, but that it was not always possible. I was not sure I was succeeding at motherhood. Then, when my oldest was about eight years old, she was exploring being a marine biologist. She was in Montessori school and was able to research issues extensively. After about a month or so, she came to me and said that she did not think she could be a marine biologist because she would have to be away from her home and family a lot. She then stated, “I think I should be an attorney like you. You seem to really like your job and you have lots of time to spend with your family.” Of course, this made me cry (for joy). It is all perspective and my children’s perspective mattered most; they felt I was around and spending time with them. I truly feel that after this comment, I was able to relax and enjoy my career, while knowing my children felt loved and cared for.
Q: Can you tell our audience one of your most memorable moments your career?
TRB: At Reese-Beisbier & Associates we have had the honor of representing so many amazing and deserving men and women. However, recently I had the pleasure of meeting with a woman whose husband filed for divorce and was trying to get her to sign an agreement that was not fair and would not take care of needs. Her husband controlled all of the money. They had substantial assets (four houses, land, a business, many vehicles) so I had to decide if my firm could afford to represent her without monthly payments from her and waiting to get the fees either from the Husband (if the Court ordered it) or from the sale of one of the properties. The woman had a sixth grade education and during her 28 year marriage her husband did not allow her to get her GED. He made her work with him in his business but did not pay into social security for her (he did not pay her at all). He was also physically and emotionally abusive and was being very aggressive about her signing the agreement he wanted her to sign.
To add insult to injury, the man was also with another woman who was about the age of the parties’ oldest child (25 years), and she gave birth to the Husband’s baby while the case was pending and awaiting trial. And now this woman was facing divorce with very little ability to earn. So, I decided that I had to take this case. I had to help her. After several settlement attempts, we went to a final trial. In my 23-year career, this was the first case I have ever asked for lifetime alimony from a court. After a day and a half of trial and closing arguments, the Court issued an order. My client was granted lifetime alimony ($3500 a month until she reached age 67 years and then $1500 thereafter), two homes, a substantial cash payment for other assets, and attorney fees. Justice prevailed and I will remember this case and this client forever.
Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
TRB: A great lesson for young litigators is to not take your client’s case personal. Also, fact check your own clients by having them back up their allegations with evidence such as texts, emails, photos, etc. Attorneys often call my office telling me what my client has done as if they were present during the incident. Stay calm and try to get perspective on family law. In addressing issues, approach them as “this was reported to me, can you please let me know what your client’s perspective is?” Also, we as a firm “trust by verify”. This is true with our client and the opposing side.
Being successful and respected in your field can lead others to be resentful. Sadly, as I became more successful in trial litigation, the more I was accused of being successful for non-legal reasons. I have been accused of sleeping with Judges, flipping my hair to get my way, flirting, etc. How come men who are successful get recognized for their skills while women who are successful are accused of using sex for advancement? This was hard for me, but eventually I just focused on my cases and my litigation skills, and the accusations subsided (or I do not listen to them anymore).
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
TRB: I am inspired by so many women. Wendy Glasbrenner is not famous, but she inspires me. Wendy was my supervisor at GLSP. She showed me how someone can truly devote her life to helping others. She has been at GLSP since about 1973. She was never the best paid or dressed attorney in the room (seeing as she was an attorney for the poor of Georgia), but she was the best prepared and the most respected. She has started nonprofits, like Rape Response in Gainesville, among so many other things for her community. To know Wendy is to love Wendy, and she inspires me to be a better person.
Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
TRB: Women are faced with so many challenges today. We are expected to be best in our career. We are expected to be the best at parenting. We are expected to participate in school events and extracurricular activities. And we are expected to run the household while doing all of this. Or are we?
Often, we put this on ourselves because we believe this is what is expected of us. Women need to know that “it takes a village” and that it is true. Your spouse/partner can parent too. You can delegate better at the office. You can delegate household duties too or ask your partner for help. You don’t have a partner at home to help you? No problem; hire a nanny, a housekeeper, an organizer, etc. This frees you up to parent and work—the two most important things. Most importantly take care of you and your mental health. Get a life coach or a therapist/counselor. Women have so much stress and it can literally kill you. If you are healthy, your career, children, and others around you will be too.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue a career as an Attorney?
TRB: If you want to be an attorney, do it! Get a good mentoring team behind you. Get involved in your community. Work hard but find balance.
Q: Can you tell us how you manage your work life balance?
TRB: At Reese-Beisbier & Associates, we have billable hour requirements for our legal team just like all other law firms. However, ours are put into place knowing that people need and want a life outside of the office. Work/Life balance is important. We want our team to feel accomplished in the office and in their personal lives. If you are great at one thing, chances are you are awful at another. For example, I know people who are the best and greatest at their job. They go above and beyond what is required and put in 65-80 hours a week. But those same people are not the best parents, spouses, or friends. I suggest striving to be good at all things in life. With that, you will find balance. Being “the best” may leave you unhappy and alone someday.
Q: What would be the title of your autobiography?
A: I am as successful as my team allows: A story of one woman who made her career and family work.
22 Things About Tera Reese-Beisbier
1. If you could share a meal with any 4 individuals, living or dead, who would they be?
Lewis Latimer, Maya Angelou, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sally Ride.
2. What's your favorite family tradition?
I think the children would agree it is our Christmas morning routine; it is the same every year, but if I try to deviate from it, they get upset.
3. What celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee?
4. What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?
During Covid 2020 we bought a boat. We try to use it as often as possible.
5. Who is the most fascinating person you’ve ever met?
Author, Cornel West
6. What was the last book you really got into?
This summer, my beach book was “The Tattooist of Auschwitz”. It was a quick read and hard to put down.
7. What’s the most amazing adventure you’ve ever been on?
I love traveling and coming up with family trips. About five years ago, I planned a three week road trip to the Grand Canyon and back. It started with my three children and me. My husband met us in Albuquerque on a Friday (end of the first week) and my mother and stepfather flew in Monday. Then we traveled to the Grand Canyon, staying in the area for a few nights. My husband and middle child flew back to Georgia from Phoenix (she had mandatory dance camp) and the rest of us drove, checking out Texas and Louisiana on our way home.
8. Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever been?
9. What’s your favorite international food?
This is so hard: I love international food but choosing one I would say Indian food.
10. What’s your favorite app on your phone?
“White Noise” but I use the brown noise setting
11. What TV shows did you watch when you were a kid?
My favorites were “Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island”
12. If you unexpectedly won $10,000, what would you spend it on?
I would give it to SAFFT. I am the Chairperson of the Board and I they need new roof.
13. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
14. Favorite Dessert?
Key lime Pie
15. Favorite City?
16. Do you read reviews, or just go with your gut?
I read reviews
17. What is your favorite game or sport to watch and play?
Packers Football to watch and tennis to play.
18. Which of the five senses would you say is your strongest?
Before having Covid-19 it was my sense of smell.
19. If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be?
I would have put in place a plan for success for freed slaves upon being freed, such as assisting them immediately with education, career planning, housing, medical needs, etc.
20. What were you like in high school?
I was voted most likely to be President of the US- so that should tell you.
21. What was your favorite subject in school?
Algebra and Chemistry
22 Cake or pie?