How has your practice evolved in the last few years?
My practice has become much more electronic – from the way that information is exchanged and stored to the way client meetings are conducted, and I anticipate that will become even more the norm in the years ahead. Last week, I conducted an estate planning meeting with an Illinois resident who is an expatriate in Doha, Qatar and we will put his plan in place almost entirely via Skype. Ten years ago that would have been cutting-edge. Now, not so much. Champaign-Urbana is a great micro-urban community fueled by the University of Illinois and two large hospitals which lends itself to having a lot of very smart and interesting people working on incredible projects worldwide, but calling C-U their home.
If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?
To find a wing and crawl under it. There is just so little that law school teaches about actually performing the day to day work of being a lawyer. If you can find someone to learn from and model your practice after, you can soak all of that up for 2-3 years and then mold yourself from there. I had a true mentor who offered to teach me and it was the single most valuable thing to my practice, but if a young lawyer does not have someone making the offer, my next best advice would be to go seek it out. The value is immeasurable and it puts you very far ahead on the learning curve.
What is the one technological device you could not function without daily?
My iPhone. Everything is in that thing – my contacts, my email, my reminders, and my calendar. My kids’ activities are coded one color on the calendar, my phone conferences are another color, my grocery list is on there and I set reminders for everything from taking out the trash on Wednesday nights to leaving in enough time to get my daughter to her tumbling class. Today, my 6 a.m. reminder was to have my son take a vegetable peeler to school. If not for that little chime, I admit that I would have forgotten.
How has civility made a difference in your practice of law?
When people think of estates, they envision some scene out of a movie where there is a reading of the will and the heirs all immediately collapse into a furious battle of entitlements. Mostly, it isn’t like that, but, unfortunately, sometimes that movie scene is not so far off track. Every once in a while, a disgruntled beneficiary will indicate that s/he is retaining a lawyer from whom I will be hearing. Usually, that statement is intended to intimidate, but, for the most part, I have found my fellow estate attorneys to be competent, reasonable and fair and frequently that lends itself to reaching an amicable solution for the clients far more quickly than if the beneficiary had not retained counsel. I am a firm believer in the saying “there are three sides to every story” and in most of my dealings with other attorneys we together find that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
What do you do for fun?
Spend time with my husband – we like good wine, live music, road trips and sitting on our porch in the country listening to nothing at all; spend time with my kids, a son age 10 and a daughter age 7 – they stay involved in a lot of rec sports and other activities and I absolutely love to watch them play and perform – I’m currently coaching my daughter’s basketball team of 5 -7 year olds. Those crazy girls are so much fun. And then, just for me, I run. I’m currently training for my 5th half marathon.
Brooke Didier Starks is a University of Illinois College of Law graduate and an attorney with Meyer Capel in Champaign. Ms. Didier Starks is an active member of multiple bar associations. Additionally, she is involved with the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, where she serves on the Board of Trustees as the Vice-Chair.