Foust Law Office futures family law attorney Angie Cavallini of Bozeman, Montana

Lucas:               Hi, this is Lucas Foust with Foust Law Office and I'm happy to bring to you this month's lawyer of the month, Angie Cavallini. Angie, how are you today?

Angie:               I'm well, thanks, Lucas.

Lucas:               Well, good. Hey Angie, thanks for joining us today. I really do appreciate it. Angie specializes in family law. She works in other areas of law as well. We'll talk about that in just a second, but Angie, I'm going to ask you the same question I ask all jurors, and as a regular question I ask for people I just meet and other focus group members that I work with. As important as they are, Angie, tell us a little bit about yourself, set your faith and your family aside. Setting those aside, they're important. Tell us what's the passion in your life, Angie, tell us about that?

Angie:               Setting those two things aside, I would say that my passion is my work. I think that I'm very blessed, in that I get to spend 40 hours a week plus or minus, doing what I think is really important in life.

Lucas:               What's your favorite thing about the career path you've chosen? What's your favorite thing about practicing family law?

Angie:               From a personal level, I love that it's challenging. No two days are the same. I get to stimulate my brain, and the other side of that is feeling like I get to make a difference. I walk through really hard transitions with families. I believe that families are going to change over time, and kids are involved. And if we can help those families do it better, we are serving not only those families, but those kids and those futures.

Lucas:               Well, let's talk a little bit about... I mean, what is your least favorite thing about your favorite thing to do? What's the least favorite thing that you have to do in your entire practice, what do you like the least?

Angie:               My least favorite task is answering discovery. I do a lot of collaborative divorce, and one of the rules in that is that we're going to freely disclose information and be transparent in litigation. It's a different side of that coin where it can be like pulling teeth to get information. And so that's like a personal struggle of mine, when I see a clear answer, I see some easy ways to solutions and taking the hard way to get there, it's hard on me.

Lucas:               Well, Angie, tell us a little bit more about yourself. You mentioned your family, how many children do you have?

Angie:               I have three girls, ages three to nine.

Lucas:               And so you have three girls, ages three to nine. And you're married, is that right?

Angie:               I am. I have my husband, who's a contractor here in Bozeman.

Lucas:               Great. And what's the name of his business?

Angie:               Cavallini Construction. We're not very original.

Lucas:               Well, no. It lets you know whose it is, that's for sure. That's great. Well, tell us a little bit more about yourself. Where'd you grow up, Angie? How'd you come to be here in Bozeman, tell us about that?

Angie:               So I was born in Idaho, lived in Wyoming for a year, but from the age of second grade on, I was in Libby, Montana through high school. Libby's known for its asbestos and super fun sites, but was actually a gorgeous place to grow up. Came to Montana State University in 2002, left for law school, went to Spokane, Washington, Gonzaga Law, and came back as soon as we graduated.

Lucas:               So Angie, you went to high school, you were a Libby Logger, is that right?

Angie:               That's correct.

Lucas:               Okay. They were [inaudible] conference. I'm from Columbia Falls, that was one of our rivals. So we would make the jaunt over to Libby. Where were you born in Idaho?

Angie:               Coeur d'Alene.

Lucas:               Okay, great. I was born in Moscow. My family's from Bonners Ferry. So we're all in the same area there. Well, good enough.

Angie:               My parents now live in Troy, which is as close to Bonners Ferry as it is to Libby.

Lucas:               Oh, it's true. It's almost right on the border. So you're almost to Canada, almost to Idaho. That's great. Well, good. So what do you like most about living in Bozeman?

Angie:               I love the outdoors. My girls and I, and my husband are very active. In the summer, we love to hike. We just finished ski season where my girls were able to tackle Bridger and get down even the parts that said "experts only beyond this point," they were pretty proud of that. And so we just love the outdoors that it has to offer here. On top of that, I'm the youngest of five kids, and four of us live here in Bozeman, one in Helena. And so I love being able to be close to family.

Lucas:               No kidding. So everybody ended up over here. Is that all of the Cavallini kids, is that right?

Angie:               Yeah, Cavallini is my married name, but my siblings, yeah.

Lucas:               What was your married name?

Angie:               My married name is Cavallini, my maiden name was Markin.

Lucas:               I'm sorry, Markin. All the Markin kids ended up here. Got it, so great. Good enough. So how'd you decide to practice law, how'd you come about with making that decision?

Angie:               So there were a couple things along the way. I liked the analytical side of things from a young age. I joked with people that... We lived on a cattle ranch for the year we were in Wyoming. And I joked with people that I should've known then, because when it would rain, we had one calf that his mama died, and we were bottle feeding. And when it would rain, I convinced my parents to let him stay in the bathroom. As a mom, I would never let that happen, so that pretty good negotiation skills started early on.

                        I did some missions trip overseas when I was in college, where our interpreter... I kept stepping on manhole covers, it was a weird experience. And our interpreter finally took me by the shoulders, and was like, "There are no lawyers here. There is nothing keeping you safe. There's no one to hold the government accountable, no one to hold the makers accountable. This isn't safe, you need to be more careful." And it was like a light bulb moment, like "Oh, in these countries without the legal system that we have, they equate lawyers to safety," which I thought was cool.

Lucas:               Oh great. Well, that's fantastic. What countries were you in?

Angie:               I was in Kazakhstan at that time.

Lucas:               Oh, no kidding. Okay. How long were you in Kazakhstan?

Angie:               Just a couple of weeks. Yeah.

Lucas:               Okay. And you've been in other countries as well, where else?

Angie:               I haven't traveled a ton. I've been to Canada. I've been to Mexico, and I did that trip to Kazakhstan, and otherwise, I've traveled a lot in the US.

Lucas:               Oh, great. Well, good. Good enough. Good enough. Okay, how did you pick family law out of the blue, or did it find you, how did that work?

Angie:               So an undergraduate, I was studying to be a social worker. I have my undergraduate degree in health and human development. I always really loved family systems and how they work. So I was going to be a social worker when someone encouraged me to go farther. I did some other areas of law after law school. And I just always came back to families. I think my heart is just in helping kiddos with tough transitions, helping families through that.

Lucas:               Oh great. I mean, that was your undergraduate degree, and you were at Montana or where'd you go to undergraduate school?

Angie:               In Montana State, here in Bozeman.

Lucas:               Montana State. Okay, great. Great. Okay, let's talk a little bit about this process, yours might be a little different... than you are. Unfortunately, family law attorneys get tagged with the, "Hey, they're a bulldog, we're going to fight like crazy." How is your approach different than what people might expect when they come to your office? How is it a little different?

Angie:               I talk a lot with clients when I first meet them about that stereotype. I have learned through my practice and through the years of doing this, that for me to be effective, I have to be true to who I am. And I wouldn't normally describe myself as like a bulldog or a shark. I'm not going to be that attorney who's banging my fist on a table, or throwing papers, or be doing a riot. I can be assertive and confident in positions and legal authority, without taking some of those tactics. So I explain that up front.

                        I actually find that for me personally, that can be a really effective tool, because I know that when I go in front of judges, they've seen me before. They know that I'm well prepared, they know that I know the law, they know that I know my facts. And so I take that approach. I'm just really thorough in my preparation. I also like to make sure that all of my clients know their options. So litigation is what people typically think of when they think of family law and sharks, that's absolutely an option.

                        My practice is partially litigation, but I also have a focus in collaborative and mediated divorce. And those are two different processes. I mediate divorces with couples who don't have attorneys. They sit down in my office with me, and we hash out everything. We talk about the hard stuff. And sometimes it takes a couple of times, but we're able to find solutions that really work for people. And so I would take an interest based approach in trying to ask the right questions to help find solutions that actually work for families.

Lucas:               How's that mediation process different than the collaborative process you described?

Angie:               Sure. So mediation can look one of three ways. One of my popular options is, I sit down with just the couple and no other attorneys. If I'm doing that and they have the resources, I can break it into small sessions. So we start with the introduction and getting the 30,000 foot view. And then we break out and talk about just parenting and focusing on that piece. I like to allow them some time to say, hey, maybe this parenting schedule will work or not, let's practice it while we're talking about some of these other things, and then come back to it.

                        A lot of times without that timeline, parents are stuck with a schedule that they've never actually tried, and so the practicalities of that can be hard. So we break it into small sessions where we just take one step at a time, so that we're guided through.

                        In the collaborative approach, we have a team, there's an attorney for each party. Both people get their own attorney. We bring in a financial neutral, and we bring in a mental health professional. The financial neutral does the work of creating spreadsheets and providing summaries of the finances, instead of the attorneys gathering that information. That person often does the work of the easy agreements. So maybe there's two cars in a divorce, and it's easy to say, he gets his truck, I get my car, let's move on to the tougher conversations. And so that person can narrow it down. Just like the mental health professional takes the family kind of offline and has private conversations about parenting. Then we talk about the hard stuff as a full group.

Lucas:               Well, that sounds like an awful lot. You have team members, that sounds like it's an expensive process. How does that compare with your usual litigation stuff that you see?

Angie:               It can feel like a bigger price take upfront, because all of them have retainers. However, what we like to talk about is, it's really an investment into your future. What we're seeing is, we're finding more sustainable agreements, and more long lasting agreements through this process, than we do in a quick and dirty mediation, or something that a judge gives you that you really didn't have control over.

                        Final trial litigation, absolutely collaborative is cheaper, because litigation is really expensive. But even if it's compared to mediation, I really think collaborative has those better results. What we're also hearing from clients is, they learn tools along the way. So not only are we resolving this conflict, but then as conflicts arise, as kids get older and get into teenagers, they have the tools to resolve those without having to go back to the court.

Lucas:               That's great. Having gone through the process, I can just tell you, what you're describing is fantastic. Angie, I wanted to thank you for being this month's lawyer of the month, and we really do appreciate your time. And Angie, when someone calls your office, how does the process work? What can they expect? They call your office... We talked a little bit about collaborative versus mediation and stuff like that. You'll talk more about that later with them, I would imagine. But who do they talk to first when they call your office?

Angie:               So when they first call, they'll probably get my assistant Shalee, she is the sweetest. She'll gather some just quick information. And then what we do is we schedule, it's called the 15-minute meet and greet. So you get 15 minutes with one of the lawyers in the office, Shalee tries to fit you with the lawyer that will be most appropriate.

                        But sometimes what we find is after that 15 minutes, it's clear, oh, you were placed with me, let me give you some info, and actually let me connect you with Melissa, who would be the more appropriate attorney. So we do that 15 minutes to make sure that you get the right fit. Make sure that you're placed with the right person. And then if you feel like you can talk to us and we feel like we can talk to you, then we'll schedule an hour consult or we'll make a game plan for how to get started.

Lucas:               Well, Angie, I wanted to thank you again for your time, and thank you for taking an approach for what... Folks who are going through a really difficult time in their lives, and having an approach that looks at the end game much more so than the immediate gratification of maybe a win or whatever, whatever you might want to call it in the process. But thank you so much, Angie, and we appreciate you being our lawyer of the month.

Angie:               Awesome. Thank you, Lucas.