Beth Wiberg Barbosa is a partner with Michales and Barbosa in Eden Prairie practicing family law. With over 15 years of family law experience, she is known as a strong but compassionate advocate with both litigation and negotiating skills. Barbosa is an active member of the MSBA serving on several committees.
How would you describe your practice?
My practice is part of a boutique family law practice concentrating on high marital asset divorces and representing business owners or their spouses.
What led you to choose a small firm practice?
When I graduated from law school in 1998, I opened a solo practice in Connecticut and learned skills on both the business side and the client side. After two years, my energy began to dissipate and the luster of solo practice began to wear off. I missed having the wisdom of other attorneys and staff members to discuss issues. I wanted to practice law, but not be confined to doing legal research without any end.
I returned to Minnesota and joined a small family law practice. Their faith and support helped me learn and grow into being an effective attorney. I eventually left the small firm and went into solo practice again, but I brought my trusted legal assistant to help me with the business and office management aspects.
After five rewarding years of watching my solo practice grow, I had a life event that caused me to close my solo practice. In evaluating my options, I knew that I thrived in a small firm practice with the daily interaction of other attorneys and staff members. I was very intentional in choosing a small firm.
What do you value in your practice?
I value the expertise, knowledge and problem-solving skills of our paralegals. We are truly a team working together on complex marital divorce cases. The questions the paralegals raise during discussions allow me to be a stronger and more effective attorney. Their ability to draft documents and confidence in knowing our clients’ cases enables me to focus on practicing law. After 15 years of practice, I have learned that having a strong legal staff is the most valuable part.
What aspects of your practice are particularly challenging?
I love the actual practice of law. The most challenging thing for me is finding a balance between practicing and other things that enable me to be known as an expert in my area of practice: networking, marketing, writing articles, and making presentations. Networking has become a natural part of my practice because I thrive on being a part of a team but I have found that developing other parts of the practice of law takes time.
When you face a challenge, what resources are helpful to you?
Working in a small firm with other attorneys allows me to discuss legal or ethical questions and hear different solutions. I have also created a network of colleagues who I view as my wingmen, those who I can call upon when faced with a challenge. This network includes experts whom I use as resources as well as a attorneys in other areas of practice such as criminal, bankruptcy, business and tax as these areas of law may relate to my client’s case.
What activities do you enjoy away from work?
One of the things I really enjoy about my small practice is our teambuilding running trips each year. We have a point system that we created as a firm for our running trips. We encourage staff members to run races together by granting an extra point if three or more colleagues register for the same race. The wonderful things about the teambuilding running trips are the memories created and fun we have together on and off the course. It truly makes working together rewarding.
Where do you see the practice of law heading in the future, particularly for the small firm practitioner?
Clients today expect more from their attorneys without paying high hourly rates. Some would like to customize their legal representation similar to bundled services from cable companies. We may have to find a way to meet their wish for “bundled” representation without compromising our professional standards.
While the internet is a great resource, it has been a detriment to small firms in some ways because it provides so much information (whether true or false) that some clients believe they can represent themselves in a legal matter or they want only partial representation. They may not understand the complex legal and procedural issues; that understanding comes with years of practice, knowledge and education. Ultimately, small firms need to become innovative in balancing legal representation and service with the best monetary value.