Dial-A-Lawyer sparks smart practice partnership

Issue December 2006 By Kate O'Toole

The MBA's Dial-A-Lawyer program is a perfect way for attorneys to volunteer their time and share their legal knowledge with members of the public in search of advice. For Dan Szostkiewicz and Claudette-Jean Girard, though, Dial-A-Lawyer has also served as an invaluable networking tool. Szostkiewicz and Girard currently work together practicing family law at the Law Offices of Szostkiewicz & Thorn in Springfield, but met originally through the Western Mass. Dial-A-Lawyer program.

Girard explained, "Every year we ended up sitting next to each other, either by fate or by accident." Girard passed the bar in January of 2002 and began participating in Dial-A-Lawyer in May of the same year, which is when she met Szostkiewicz.

At the time, Girard was just starting her career in law and was primarily working out of her home as in-house counsel for local construction companies. "During Dial-A-Lawyer, I kept getting all the family law stuff and passing questions along to Dan," she laughed. "We always were jumping from seat to seat."

Szostkiewicz began participating in the Western Mass. Dial-A-Lawyer program in 2001, and has done so ever since. After meeting Girard in 2002, the pair developed a friendship. Szostkiewicz remarked, "Through our friendship and Dial-A-Lawyer, I could tell that Claudette had the personality, brains and drive to be one of the best family law attorneys in Western Massachusetts." This past year, Girard teamed up with Szostkiewicz and his wife, Jennifer Thorn, becoming the third attorney at Szostkiewicz's small Springfield firm.

She went on to explain how Dial-A-Lawyer also "cuts down on some of the riff raff coming into the courts" because many of the callers just need to hear from an attorney that they don't have a legal issue. "A lot of callers just don't know where to go. People call and just want to know what to do with the information they have."

Szostkiewicz agreed with Girard and described how the program gives him a "good pulse" on what members of the public are dealing with in Western Massachusetts, legally speaking. "Dial-A-Lawyer has consistently shown that the need for family law is incredibly high," he pointed out.

The statistics from October's Dial-A-Lawyer reflect Szostkiewicz's perception. Family law issues were callers' most common concern, followed closely by probate issues. Together, family and probate inquiries constituted 30 percent of the day's calls. "We have an obligation; we have to find a way to give back," said Szostkiewicz.

Dial-A-Lawyer has not only given Szostkiewicz and Girard a forum to dispense valuable advice about family law matters, but has also provided an unexpected twist in each of their careers. "Dial-A-Lawyer is a great program," said Girard. "Each time I do it, I come away with at least one good story."