Practice Spotlight: Family Law
Neal Hersh will be the first to tell you that he got into family law not by design but by circumstance. That turned out to be a great thing.
“Family law is a very unique breed,” he explained. “It’s not an acquired taste. You either love it or deplore it. You have to be a people person. It’s stressful. You also have to like the courtroom. Courtroom skills can be learned, but you have to have the aptitude for getting up and speaking in front of people.”
Hersh also asserts that family law is one of the most interesting areas in which a lawyer can practice because it covers so many areas, from social class to business. Family law also evolves at a very high rate as new decisions are rendered from appellate courts. Family law attorneys are constantly called upon to deal with new issues.
“Intellectually, it’s a fantastic area, and after nearly 40 years of doing this, I think I’ve heard it all, and then something new happens. You’re always learning and evolving,” he said.
A Certified Specialist in Family Law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, Hersh is a founding partner at Hersh, Mannis & Bogen, LLP. He is also AV® Preeminent™ rated by Martindale-Hubbell, which is a distinction that he has held for over 20 years. Hersh has also been rated by Los Angeles Magazine’s Top 100 list as a Southern California “Super Lawyer” each year since 2003. In addition, he has been recognized as one of the “Best Lawyers” by Los Angeles Times Magazine each year since 2005.
Many of Hersh’s clients are high profile Hollywood celebrities. “They’re no different than you or me. They are no more or less important than you or me,” he said. “If you or I have a custody case, no one knows. If celebrities do, the whole world is looking at their lives. I tell people to assume that if a celebrity is getting divorced, no matter what they’re doing, someone is going to photograph them.”
When Hersh speaks about this to various bar associations, he notes: “While lawyers may represent famous people, we are just lawyers. Period. We’re not celebrities. The clients are celebrities. Our work is the same no matter who we’re working for.”
Hersh adds: “But celebrities come with a whole litany of people, including agents, lawyers, business and personal managers. These people all have a stake in the famous person’s career. “We have to make sure as lawyers that there’s a career left at the end of the day,” Hersh said. Hersh explained that his firm will work with publicists and try to anticipate the things that may happen in court and how to address the media when they leave court.
“It seems the older I get the more time I spend in the courtroom,” he said. “Between requests for orders, evidentiary hearings—there’s a lot of those before trials—motions, conferences, and trials, I spend about a third of my time in the courtroom.”
Hersh also said working as a trial attorney is like constantly doing homework, research and analysis. This is where the legal training he got at Southwestern played a critical role in his success.
“Southwestern was instrumental in teaching me critical thinking, giving me the work ethic I needed, the perseverance, and the research skills necessary to be successful,” Hersh said. “The school taught me the organization and research skills that are essential to running a successful litigation practice.”