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VOL. 124 | NO. 118 | Thursday, June 18, 2009

Apperson Crump’s Kosciolek Discusses Elder, Family Law

By Rebekah Hearn

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Jeannie M. Kosciolek
Position: Attorney
Firm: Apperson Crump & Maxwell PLC
Basics: Kosciolek concentrates her practice in divorce and family law as well as general civil litigation and elder law.
“I think the most important lesson (the late Judge Rita Stotts) taught me … is the need for balance between your personal and professional life. This job can take over your life if you are not careful.”
– Jeannie M. Kosciolek

Jeannie M. Kosciolek is an attorney at Apperson Crump & Maxwell PLC, where she practices in divorce and family law as well as general civil litigation and elder law.

Kosciolek was admitted to practice law in 2001 after receiving her juris doctorate from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. She received her bachelor’s degree in English literature with minors in political science and Spanish from the University of Memphis, graduating with honors.

Kosciolek interned at the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Western District of Tennessee and clerked for the late Judge Rita Stotts of the Shelby County Circuit Court from 2000 to 2001.

She is a member of the Memphis and American bar associations.

Q: What attracted you to family and divorce law?

A: Trial and error, really. When I first started practicing law, I worked for a law firm that concentrated in insurance defense litigation. It was a wonderful training ground, and I was exposed to a variety of areas of law while being able to hone my litigation skills, but my clients were companies and not individuals. I wanted to help individuals and to make a personal difference in my clients’ lives. After I left that firm, I practiced elder law, where my practice consisted of helping elderly clients plan for their futures through estate planning. The majority of my practice was transactional, and I found myself missing litigation. Family and divorce law is the best of both worlds.

Q: Explain elder law. How much of your practice is dedicated to that area?

A: Elder law is a term used to encompass an area of the law that focuses on the needs of elderly clients and their families. Elder law attorneys help their clients deal with issues people face as they get older, such as wills, trusts, estate planning, conservatorships, Medicaid planning, powers of attorney, durable health care powers of attorney and elder abuse. The majority of my practice is family and divorce litigation; however, there are times when elder law issues overlap into my cases. I am very fortunate to work at a firm that has a wonderful wills and estates department. William King Self Jr. is a partner at my firm, and he is a certified elder law attorney. It is one of the many ways Apperson Crump & Maxwell is able to provide a broad spectrum of legal services for our clients.

Q: What lessons did you carry with you from your clerkship with Judge Rita Stotts to your practice today?

A: I miss Judge Stotts a great deal. She was a wonderful mentor to me and I learned a great many things from her. However, I think the most important lesson she taught me, and that she would want me to share, is the need for balance between your personal and professional life. This job can take over your life if you are not careful. I will never forget early in my career overhearing a partner tell an associate that lawyers do not work bankers’ hours. I agree. There are times when it seems as though there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to be accomplished. Clients always have needs, and with clients going through a divorce, those needs occur at all hours of the day or night and inevitably during a holiday. Judge Stotts stressed that in order to be a good lawyer, I needed to be a well-rounded person. She stressed to me the importance of taking time out to make sure I was able to recharge spiritually by maintaining relationships with friends and family as well as finding time for extracurricular activities outside of the law. It has been some of the best advice I ever received.

Q: Would you say the number of divorce cases you’ve handled recently has been altered because of the recession?

A: Yes. I have seen a definite decline in divorce cases being filed since last fall. A lot of clients who come in to meet with me will tell me that they just cannot afford to get divorced right now. I am also seeing a trend in new divorce cases where the parties remain living together during the pendency of the divorce litigation instead of one party moving out of the marital home.

Q: Do you ever handle child support cases? If so, have you seen any effect on child support payments and clients’ abilities to make them in this recession?

A: I do handle child support cases. I am seeing an increase in clients requesting modifications in child support to lower their child support payments due to a loss of a job or decrease in income. Of course, the converse is true as well; there has been an increase in clients seeking contempt actions for failure to pay child support.

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