by Amie Rodgers
Heard any good lawyer jokes lately? Oh, come on. Don’t call up the politically correct task force just yet. I’m going somewhere with this. Alright, I’ll go first: “What do you call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea? Survey says: A good start.” Why are these jokes and others referencing the blood sucking nature of this profession so unapologetically funny and all too often easy to relate to? My money is on the fact that most of the time when the average person has to “lawyer up” things have gone miserably sideways in our lives. Law suits, divorces, custody battles, lengthy probate squabbles, criminal offenses… These are rarely our shining moments that Mom is most proud of.
To make matters worse, the highest paid attorneys are often the ones who are making the most from the most heinous offenses and/or death. Don’t get me wrong, there are good lawyers out there and inspired by such individuals I even spent a couple years exploring a law career myself, but this story is not about me and my bad jokes. It is about “one of the good ones,” and an afternoon hike I took with local attorney Lorenz Schuerch and his family that make up the heart of their law firm, Mountain Legal, PLLC.
It was nearly perfect White Mountain weather as we strolled at a family friendly rate down the sun dappled paths of the Rim Overlook Trail in Lakeside. Our mission: to wrangle the Schuerchs’ three lively sons into a family photo with nature’s splendor as a backdrop. Of course, we all envisioned the ideal shot to take place on the boulders of the overlook portion of the trail. Unfortunately, I hadn’t quite timed things right for the sun to cooperate and we had three boys who looked as if they were trying to stare at an eclipse without burning their poor little eyeballs. I’ll never forget their middle son Liam’s little mischievous face doing it’s best to smile through his squinting. Ray Charles would have had a better idea of where the camera was.
Needless to say, when you’re an amateur photographer like me, it gives you plenty of time to get to know your subjects as you struggle to find the elusive perfect lighting. For instance, these two crazy kids met as undergrads in Rexburg, Idaho. Pre-Law Lorenz fell madly in love with Graphic Arts Major Kari and church bells rang. They were a family with the arrival of their eldest Tristan before Lorenz started law school at the University of Wisconsin and their youngest Anthony showed up in time for graduation. “They were all law school babies,” laughs Kari, “Needless to say, it was challenging, but we soldiered through and really enjoy our kids. They are the motivation for everything we do. We want to make a good life for them.”
This “family first” prerogative is what ultimately led the family to the White Mountains rather than Washington D.C. “We thought we wanted to live in D.C. So I spent all my summers with big firms and corporations there. During our last summer, we just really felt that it wasn’t a good fit for our family. We didn’t have much family time and weren’t looking forward to raising the boys in a metropolitan environment,” says Lorenz, “So, we started looking around at different opportunities. At the time, I was working for a federal contractor as part of their in-house legal team, which allowed me to work from home. We began looking and were familiar with this area. We have some good friends and family up here and loved the idea of living in the mountains. It seemed like such a dream after living in the big city of D.C. So, we made our move out here and I started studying for the Bar while working for a solo practitioner in Pinetop. In January, we started our own firm. In addition to her own Graphic Arts business, Kari is our paralegal, receptionist and all around support staff and Tristan is our file clerk.”
“We focus a lot on estate planning because there are many White Mountain residents that don’t necessarily have an estate plan in place. They often think that they don’t have enough assets to warrant it, put it off or just don’t plan on dying any time soon, which is understandable,” Lorenz chuckles, “In order to be accessible, we do a lot of house calls and visits at the local senior centers. We also work in business law because that is my background. I’m thrilled to offer my corporate law experience to our local business owners. I am also a small business owner so I can relate to the challenges we face.” Mountain Legal, PLLC also offers criminal law and civil litigation services, but chose not to work with family law. “Whether you win or lose, it is just too hard seeing kids ripped away from their families so we don’t do it,” notes Lorenz.
In addition to family values, Lorenz and Kari are big on community involvement and education. “Something that makes us a little different than a lot of law firms is that we are dedicated to empowering the community and our clients with knowledge. We offer workshops and are getting involved in a lot of community events,” smiles Kari.
To which Lorenz adds, “We really want to be part of the community. I have seen so many lawyers that seem to just sit in their office and wait for people to come to them. We want to reach out and love sharing knowledge, which is key to being prepared for whatever comes. We offer free classes in estate planning and business education classes. We will also be hosting some criminal law seminars that address things like your rights when you get pulled over and other common scenarios. Our goal is to empower our clients. Some attorneys keep things so close to their breast because they don’t want to let go of potential income. My experience has been that if you empower people with knowledge, they will come to you in the long run because they know you’re not in it merely for the dollar. I like investing in people and I think money is a really poor motivator. We all need money to live, but beyond that, we need relationships. I think of our business as an entity building a relationship with the community and the people in it.”
This focus on relationships lends itself to a passion for protecting relationships, which is what estate planning is really about. “According to AARP, only 4 out of 10 Americans have an estate plan in place. A lot of people expect that since they have nice kids that they will naturally get along in the event of their passing. Even in families where the kids have done well for themselves, as soon as someone dies, all those feelings come into play and fights break out for Dad’s gun collection or Mom’s good China,” notes Lorenz, “We are here to help you plan so that doesn’t happen or even become an issue. When you pass away, there will be no problems with any arguments because it has already been planned. The judge just needs to sign off on your will and there is no probate process. As a matter of fact, we don’t do probate law because the whole point of our endeavor is to avoid probate in the first place.”
“We really believe in families and feel really strongly about this kind of work because it provides peace of mind and protects a family’s future,” says Kari, “We want to make ourselves as available as possible. If you come to a seminar, you automatically get a free consultation with us. If there are any readers who are interested in hosting a free workshop at their club house, church, neighborhood, etc., please give us a call to set up a convenient day and time. We generally do one a week. We are also offering Friday afternoon Estate Planning Classes through NPC.”
Classes are held at the Show Low Campus from 2 – 3:30 pm. Upcoming dates are August 31st, September 21st and October 19th. These classes will address how to protect your assets, avoid probate, and provide for your loved ones. There will be a brief lecture about what estate planning is, who needs these services and how to get them. Students will also receive explanations of all the documents available for an estate plan and access to a question/answer session. To register, please visit http://www.npc.edu/noncredit-classes.
So, if you’re part of the the majority of Americans without an estate plan in place, there has never been a better time to learn how you can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that there will be no loose ends for your loved ones to worry about. What can be a messy and mystifying aspect of law doesn’t have to be with the help of Mountain Legal, PLLC. For more information, please visit www.mountainlegalaz.com or call (928) 358-4572. Check out Facebook for upcoming seminar topics and dates.