Solo lawyers may struggle with work-life balance, but sometimes an uplifting perspective from other solos in the trenches is just what they need to carry on. In this episode of New Solo, Adriana Linares hosts solo lawyers and married couple Renee and Phil Stackhouse. They discuss their individual careers and delve into how they manage their personal lives as a couple and as parents. They go on to discuss how they manage their practices from a business perspective, from office space to legal technology to financial matters. In their final segment, Renee and Phil talk about their work in military law, describing the types of matters they deal with and highlighting interesting cases.
Renee Stackhouse is the Founder and trial lawyer at Stackhouse, APC. She focuses on plaintiff’s personal injury, military & criminal defense in San Diego, California.
Phil Stackhouse is a trial lawyer at Military Defender, where he focuses on military criminal defense, security clearance defense, and the correction of military records and discharges.
Special thanks to our sponsors, Clio, Answer1, Lawclerk and Courtfiling.net.
Work and Life: How Two Solo Lawyers Balance Busy Careers, Marriage, and Parenting
Intro: So you are an attorney and you have decided to go out on your own, now what? You need a plan and you are not alone. Join expert host Adriana Linares and her distinguished guests on New Solo. Tune into the lively conversation as they share insights and information about how to successfully run your law firm, here on Legal Talk Network.
Adriana Linares: Well, it’s time for another episode of New Solo on Legal Talk Network. I am Adriana Linares, a legal technology trainer and consultant. I love helping lawyers and law firms use technology better. Before we get started, I want to make sure and thank our sponsors.
Answer 1 is a leading virtual receptionist and answering service provider for lawyers. You can find out more by giving them a call at 800-Answer-1 or online at www.answer1.com. And that’s www.answer1.com.
Thanks to our sponsor Clio. Clio’s cloud-based practice management software makes it easy to manage your law firm from intake to invoice. Try it for free at clio.com. And that’s clio.com.
LAWCLERK is where attorneys hire freelance lawyers. There are no sign up or monthly fees, only pay the flat fee price you set, increase your profits and not your overhead. Learn more at www.lawclerk.legal and make sure you use the rebate they sent us for $300 after your first project. Use the code New Solo 300.
I want to make sure and also thank CourtFiling.net, e-file court documents with ease in California, Illinois, Indiana and Texas. If you file in Los Angeles Superior Court, you know that e-filing has recently become mandatory and CourtFiling.net is there to help.
All right, let’s get started. I am so excited about the guests I have today. They are a unique twist on the type of guest that we usually have, which are always great lawyers, solo practitioners, or product and services built for lawyers that we like. Today I have got a powerhouse team.
So on to our guests, which I am very excited to be talking to today. I will let you all introduce yourselves.
Renee Stackhouse: Hi. I am Renee Stackhouse. I am a solo practitioner here in San Diego with Stackhouse, APC and I practice personal injury, military and criminal defense.
Phil Stackhouse: And I am Phil Stackhouse and I am a sole proprietor, solo practitioner and I practice military law in San Diego.
Adriana Linares: Wow, isn’t it a coincidence that you guys have the same last name?
Renee Stackhouse: It’s wild.
Adriana Linares: It’s so crazy.
Renee Stackhouse: I know.
Adriana Linares: Because it’s not like a Smith and a Smith, it’s a Stackhouse and a Stackhouse.
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah.
Phil Stackhouse: It totally is.
Adriana Linares: It would be really weird considering the way you two are looking at each other if it was totally coincidental, so let’s let the cat out of the bag.
Renee Stackhouse: We are married. I stole his last name.
Adriana Linares: That’s awesome.
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah.
Adriana Linares: Okay. So you are married. You are both lawyers. Do you live together?
Renee Stackhouse: Sometimes.
Phil Stackhouse: Most of the time.
Renee Stackhouse: He travels a lot for work, but most of the time yes, we do, we live together and we practice in the same space as well.
Adriana Linares: Good, we are going to get to that, because I think that’s a very cool and interesting part of the two of you.
So to give our guests a little bit of background, I work part-time at the San Diego County Bar and I get to come out here one week out of every month, and I have become close friends with Renee Stackhouse, who has been doing podcasts with me On The Road.
You are a member of the board here at the SDCBA, very, very active, not only on the board, but in the legal community. And through our work together I met your very handsome and adorable husband and I was like, what, you guys are married and you practice. And so I hadn’t had anyone on the show before, a couple, so I really thought it would be fun to talk to you about how you manage work, life, a brand-new baby, well, he is not that new, a baby.
Renee Stackhouse: He is two.
Adriana Linares: He is two. I mean in the world of humans, he is a new human, but he is not like the newest of humans. So yeah, so I just wanted to sort of talk to you two about how you do that and how you manage that.
So let’s get a little background.
Renee Stackhouse: Okay.
Adriana Linares: How long have you been married, trick question?
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah, I know. So the problem is that we got married on the 18th and our son was born on the 20th, not of the same month, but because they are two days apart, we are always going which one is which.
Adriana Linares: Sure.
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah. So it was July 18, 2017.
Phil Stackhouse: 2017, right.
Adriana Linares: And your baby was born two days before that?
Renee Stackhouse: No.
Phil Stackhouse: The baby was born January 20, 2017.
Adriana Linares: Well, a little late to the shocking thing guys.
Phil Stackhouse: Yeah.
Adriana Linares: Okay, so what did you say, 2017?
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah.
Adriana Linares: Two years, your anniversary is coming up.
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah, coming up.
Adriana Linares: Oh, awesome.
Renee Stackhouse: It’s basically forever.
Adriana Linares: In marriage years in 2019, that’s —
Phil Stackhouse: That’s a lot.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, it’s kind of a lot.
Renee Stackhouse: In Hollywood years we have made it.
Adriana Linares: So true, in Hollywood years you have totally made it. So how did you meet and how did you — were you two separate lawyers at two separate firms, give us the background?
Renee Stackhouse: Okay. You want to go first?
Phil Stackhouse: Sure. So we met in 2012, I think, at the Spence Trial Lawyers College, where Renee was going through the course and I was one of the instructors.
Adriana Linares: Oh, law nerds?
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah, but we didn’t really — total law nerds, trial law nerds.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, big time.
Renee Stackhouse: But we didn’t really talk.
Phil Stackhouse: Just kind of crossed paths.
Renee Stackhouse: He was very grumpy back then.
Phil Stackhouse: Yeah, I was grumpy back then.
Adriana Linares: I can see that. Yeah, a lot of lawyers are grumpy, Phil.
Phil Stackhouse: And then crossed paths again like four years later.
Adriana Linares: Okay.
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah. We united because he actually reached out, he had a former client who had gone through the legal process in the military and wanted to now go to law school and become a lawyer. And I was very active on the board, alumni board for my law school and so he got in touch with me to ask if I could show her around the law school and we reconnected.
Adriana Linares: Wow, took him that long to figure out the right excuse to call you up?
Renee Stackhouse: Yes, a really long time.
Adriana Linares: Gosh Phil, slow mover.
Phil Stackhouse: And then reconnected again at Trial Lawyers College.
Renee Stackhouse: Right, when I got on staff, he was my mentor.
Adriana Linares: Oh, so cool, great. So you already had a lot of same interests, same passions and then thankfully love blossomed.
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah.
Phil Stackhouse: Right.
Adriana Linares: That’s great, I love that. Are you both from San Diego? Give us a little bit of your back background.
Phil Stackhouse: So I am originally from — like a lifetime ago from Indiana.
Adriana Linares: Oh, wow, way out there.
Phil Stackhouse: I enlisted in the Marines when I was 18 and I traveled around to different states and different countries for 22 years and I retired.
Adriana Linares: Wow.
Renee Stackhouse: He is Barred in like five or six different states, but not California yet, but we are going to work on California next.
Adriana Linares: He likes to collect Bar licenses as I say?
Phil Stackhouse: Right, right.
Renee Stackhouse: He likes to spend his money on Bar dues.
Adriana Linares: Yeah.
Phil Stackhouse: Right. And so then I retired in North Carolina, then I moved to Virginia, then I moved to Colorado, then I moved to California.
Adriana Linares: Your professional background is fascinating from the military side, so how did you go to law school?
Phil Stackhouse: So I was an enlisted guy for nine years and the Marine Corps sent me to school to finish my bachelor’s degree. And I was an Infantry Officer after that and I applied for a program and the Marine Corps allowed me to go to law school. And so after I finished law school I spent about four years as a lawyer, and then they sent me to get my Master of Laws in Military Law, with a Criminal Law specialty. And then I finished up my last two years and retired.
Renee Stackhouse: Well, he is forgetting to mention he was also sworn in as a judge, right?
Phil Stackhouse: Right. And I went to — I got sworn in and certified as a judge at one point.
Adriana Linares: In the military?
Phil Stackhouse: In the military.
Adriana Linares: I have so many questions. I want to go back one. Did you want to be a lawyer or did you say well, they are going to pay for this and this seems like a good profession and I could do cool things because I have got this military background, or what were you thinking when the opportunity presented itself?
Phil Stackhouse: So my stepdad was a lawyer when I was in high school and I always thought it was an amazing profession and I watched him from afar and saw the service that he gave to his clients, and it was very I guess interesting, for lack of a better term, and while I was in the Marine Corps I thought that I might like to do that. And after I got commissioned I thought well, when I retire I am going to go to law school.
And so as I was moving along through my career I had the opportunity to apply to go to law school while I was on active duty, so I did that, and I thought well, if I can get in, I will get in and then I won’t have to go to law school when I get out.
Adriana Linares: Awesome.
Phil Stackhouse: And so that’s how it turned out.
Adriana Linares: So let me back up and ask you, you mentioned you went to law school and military law was a focus and then criminal law, why is that a focus in the military; it seems to me like that’s not where crimes happen?
Phil Stackhouse: They do happen often and it’s —
Adriana Linares: We are going to get to that, but that’s not where I would imagine crimes to happen; that should be like the crime free zone.
Phil Stackhouse: As we say as civilian lawyers, we say it’s bad for morale, but good for business. So after I had been a lawyer for about four years I went to Charlottesville, Virginia to the Army Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School and they have an ABA certified LLM program there. And while you are there you can specialize in different areas, and so I had a criminal law specialty, others had procurement specialties, international law or operational law specialties and everybody kind of niches and so I niched in criminal law because that’s where my experience was.
Adriana Linares: I can tell Renee is not happy with either something you are leaving out or not saying, so I am going to let her step in.
Renee Stackhouse: Well, so here is the thing I am not happy about. You are so funny that you are picking up on this, because when I had insomnia last night, I was like oh, you know what I should do, I should get an LLM in military law, that would be great, I can totally do that in my spare time.
Adriana Linares: Sure, you have nothing better to do.
Renee Stackhouse: Except they don’t offer it for civilians. You are literally — unless you work for the DoJ as a civilian, you are literally not allowed to go get this LLM and so I just feel slighted.
Adriana Linares: And that was a brilliant move on his part.
Renee Stackhouse: Right, because he has this amazing specialism, so it’s incredible.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, that’s really neat.
Renee Stackhouse: Very, very smart man.
Adriana Linares: Now that we have bragged on Phil enough, Renee, why did you go to law school?
Renee Stackhouse: Oh, well, so the long and short of it is I coin flipped.
Adriana Linares: Law school or braiding here on the beaches in Mexico?
Renee Stackhouse: Close, close, it was an MBA or law school. My grandparents raised me and when my grandfather passed away, he had been the sole breadwinner for the family and for my grandmother for life and I needed a better job. I had worked on Camp Pendleton my whole life.
Adriana Linares: Because you are a San Diegan?
Renee Stackhouse: I am. I am a San Diego girl and I had been born and raised in the military, in different branches. So I had worked on Pendleton since I graduated high school and I knew I needed to step it up a little bit, so I flipped a coin and heads was law school, tails was an MBA; it landed heads, I took the LSAT.
Adriana Linares: Excellent, amazing. And you are very active in the community, so the way you support people is far beyond what you do with legal and I want you to talk about that just a little bit. I mean not far beyond legal, but I mean you do things outside of just being a lawyer; you are an advocate, you are a safe place.
Renee Stackhouse: Oh, I love that. I didn’t think you saw that, that’s very cool. So, I didn’t know lawyers growing up and I didn’t know if I would like being a lawyer and I was really, really fortunate that I loved law school. I am one of those weirdos.
Adriana Linares: Law nerd.
Renee Stackhouse: Total law nerd. I loved law school, I loved being a lawyer, but one of the things that I see all the time in my experience has been that it’s not a very diverse profession and it’s not a very innovative profession most of the time. And so I think it’s really important to make sure that we as current lawyers help the next generation of lawyers be more accessible, be more comfortable, and just have a pipeline for being a lawyer. So I love that.
I am a strong women’s advocate, a strong LGBT advocate. I want to see the lawyers and the judges look like the community, and they don’t right now, but we are working on it.
Adriana Linares: We will get there. So when you two met and started dating and decided to go to the next level, you had separate practices in separate offices?
Renee Stackhouse: We have always had separate practices.
Adriana Linares: And still do?
Renee Stackhouse: And still do.
Adriana Linares: Okay.
Renee Stackhouse: And still do. And I don’t know if you want to talk about it now, but it’s a money thing, like he does what he does with his money, I do what I do with my money.
Adriana Linares: No, I think that’s important for people to hear that.
Renee Stackhouse: And we have a happy marriage.
Adriana Linares: Okay, good, when you have got two lawyers, like how do two lawyers survive a two lawyer marriage?
Phil Stackhouse: It’s hard sometimes, and when I moved to California I didn’t have an office space, but in Renee’s —
Renee Stackhouse: He was homeless.
Phil Stackhouse: Yeah, I was homeless, but Renee had an open office and her suite of offices.
Adriana Linares: Excellent, sure.
Phil Stackhouse: And they had an open office and the building that she owns, so I —
Renee Stackhouse: Wormed his way in.
Adriana Linares: Became a sub-tenant
Renee Stackhouse: He started bringing stuff.
Phil Stackhouse: Sort of. I just started bringing stuff and started storing stuff and then just put an office chair in and the next thing you know there was —
Adriana Linares: You were like hey, you ready for lunch honey, oh, by the way, do you mind if I just move this comfy office chair in oh, this empty office?
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah.
Adriana Linares: Great. And then next day he was like oh, this pencil holder ended up on that empty desk where my chair is.
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah.
Phil Stackhouse: Then I am putting the website back up and I like need an address and I am like, can I use this address for my — and then the next thing you know we are in the same suite of offices.
Renee Stackhouse: Decided to roll with it because it was working.
Phil Stackhouse: Yeah.
Adriana Linares: Because it works.
Renee Stackhouse: It does.
Phil Stackhouse: Right.
Adriana Linares: And you have a son?
Renee Stackhouse: We do, Gabriel Lewis Jonathan Stackhouse.
Adriana Linares: The most adorable little nugget.
Renee Stackhouse: I think so.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. So you have an office space downtown and I know you have got Gabriel in a daycare center nearby, in a very cool place. So tell us a little bit about just commuting to work with a child in the car, dropping the child off, the whole — that whole side of your life is also an important part of your lives.
Renee Stackhouse: So I will just tell you that it is way more work than I ever could have possibly believed, because women don’t talk about how difficult it is to be pregnant and have a baby, take care of a child while you are practicing law and/or being a trial lawyer, it’s insane, and women don’t talk about that.
Adriana Linares: And yet they do it all day, every day, without complaining, they just get it done.
Renee Stackhouse: It is gnarly, and I have so much respect for the women who have pulled it off before me, because I was blown away by how tough it is, but you get the kid up, which is a struggle all in itself.
Adriana Linares: And are we talking about Phil or Gabriel here?
Renee Stackhouse: Sometimes both.
Phil Stackhouse: Sometimes it’s both. But I just want to say, so Renee is talking about how hard it is and women don’t talk about it, so I will talk about it for a second and then we will come back and hit just sort of how the day-to-day is.
But Gabriel was born at the end of January 2017 and in sort of the middle of April of 2017, so not even three months from when he was born, Renee started a two week jury trial in Los Angeles, a 100 miles from where we lived, and was in court from 8 in the morning till 5 at night and then we would eat lunch during the day together outside the courthouse and then we would take an hour after we got back to the hotel and then she would work and breastfeed at the same time until midnight and then sleep for a little while, get up early, breastfeed, work some more, and then go to court the next morning, and she did that for two weeks straight. So the —
Adriana Linares: Crazy.
Phil Stackhouse: I mean it’s hard work, but she is amazing.
Adriana Linares: She is really.
Phil Stackhouse: Yeah.
Renee Stackhouse: Good brownie points there.
Phil Stackhouse: Yeah. So I mean just with that as a —
Adriana Linares: Were you watching this just going there is nothing I saw in the military as amazing as what this woman is doing?
Phil Stackhouse: No, there is nothing, and what she does now, even later, teaching judges about the trials and tribulations of being a woman in court so that they can open their eyes up to what it’s like is a whole another story, you can probably do a whole another podcast on.
But yeah, our life is pretty awesome. I get up really early usually and then we get Gabriel together and he goes and has breakfast with his great-grandma and we get ready for work and we pile into the car and commute for an hour to an hour-and-a-half.
Adriana Linares: Southern California, you guys work two miles away from here, right?
Phil Stackhouse: Yeah, right.
Renee Stackhouse: So that’s how long it takes, an hour.
Phil Stackhouse: And then he goes to daycare and we work and then —
Renee Stackhouse: And we are really lucky, he is in daycare in the federal building, in the federal court building, and so it’s a super secure, amazing place where he goes, and he loves school.
Adriana Linares: What a luxury.
Renee Stackhouse: It is a complete luxury, and so we are really lucky to have that, and they have him all day long and we try to lawyer really, really hard while they have him and then we try to be done as soon as we pick him up, so that we can be present and around for all the amazing things he does every single day.
Phil Stackhouse: And so we try to do that.
Renee Stackhouse: We don’t always succeed, I am just going to throw that out there. We are not perfect.
Adriana Linares: Just yesterday we were all on our way for a quick drink before you had to pick up Gabriel when you witnessed a line biker getting struck by a car, and that totally — I mean just when we are trying to get drinks, there the two of you are with your superhero capes on.
Renee Stackhouse: Being lawyers.
Adriana Linares: Being lawyers.
Renee Stackhouse: All right, somebody document this. Okay, tell the cops everything that happened. Okay, put your foot up, it’s swelling. No, don’t move. No, you don’t need to apologize, it’s not your fault. It’s crazy.
Adriana Linares: Well, listen, before we move on to our next segment and talk a little bit about how you share office space and manage that part of your lives, we will take a quick break and listen to a message from some sponsors.
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Adriana Linares: All right, we are back with Phil Stackhouse and Renee Stackhouse, the Stackhouses, and we were talking about your personal lives and I appreciate you sharing all that. I know that other lawyers really appreciate hearing how lawyers live their lives and manage everything and it’s often inspiring and helpful for them, so I really appreciate you sharing that.
What about the office life? So I think when Phil was sneaking into an office space, it’s not the office space that you are in now, right, so you moved?
Renee Stackhouse: So I had a long-term lease in a downtown office and we have moved quite a bit, more than I like. I am not a mover. I find a place, I put down roots.
Adriana Linares: You are a hoarder.
Renee Stackhouse: I am, I don’t move, unlike my amazing partner who is used to moving every three seconds.
Adriana Linares: Oh right, military life, sure.
Renee Stackhouse: But we finally found a home now that we are in and now I get to work on making it the forever home downtown, which I really love. It’s in an old building and so we get that old building feel, and it’s definitely not loft for me and like being loft for me.
Adriana Linares: No. Well, you are not loft for me. And do you have staff? Do you have other office space? So you kept your practices technically separated, but you are physically sharing space, so tell us a little bit about how you do that. How do you pay the bills, how do you split the bills? Do you have one receptionist? Do you have no receptionist? Are you each other’s receptionists?
Renee Stackhouse: Well, sometimes.
Phil Stackhouse: Sometimes.
Renee Stackhouse: You start.
Phil Stackhouse: So my office is growing a little bit; I have an associate now who helps do really all of the legal work that we do in the office, but a lot of the stuff we do is service based. So we have an answering service that picks up the calls that come in through the website.
And we have a cloud-based and desk-based VoIP phone, so RingCentral is what I use for my phone service. And it also rolls to my answering service if it’s not picked up within three rings or five rings, depending on what’s going on.
Adriana Linares: And you have that also set up on your phone, right, so RingCentral has a soft phone, so you have your phone with you all the time and you also have backup; I imagine you click on the RingCentral App and send it to voicemail and then it goes to your answering service?
Phil Stackhouse: It goes to the answering service, and I also have it on my computer. So if I am sitting on my desk, I can have a headphone on.
Adriana Linares: Wherever you are.
Phil Stackhouse: Right, and I can take notes in the Note section of my Clio, client management. And same thing, we have potential new client calls come in, we enter it straight into Lexicata; it’s not like I am —
Adriana Linares: Wow. Whoa, whoa Phil, I had no idea this was going on.
Phil Stackhouse: Yeah, like I am selling products, but we use Lexicata to control our potential new clients through the pipeline, everything gets put into Lexicata. I don’t know, 90% or 95% of our paperwork is all cloud-based, so we us Dropbox for Business, ScanSnap for scanning, or we have Canon Copiers that also scan as well.
Adriana Linares: And as you are saying we, are you meaning Phil Stackhouse Law Firm?
Phil Stackhouse: Phil Stackhouse Law Firm, yeah.
Adriana Linares: Okay, got it, just making sure I am with you.
Phil Stackhouse: And then we are trying hopefully to grow a little bit more, because business is picking up and picking up and picking up.
Adriana Linares: It’s the military; it’s just crime after crime.
Renee Stackhouse: Little bit.
Phil Stackhouse: A little bit.
Renee Stackhouse: And my goal is to, since he is more adaptable to change, is I make him try everything first and then if it works and he likes it, I am like okay, cool, now I know and he can show me, which is fun and exciting, unless I bring him the tips from working with you and then I am like hey, I learned this, check this out.
Phil Stackhouse: So that’s totally true, like she comes back and says hey, what about this, and I am like oh, that’s really cool, I am going to check that out.
Adriana Linares: I love that. Do you have, Renee, staff, receptionist, or are you a true solo?
Renee Stackhouse: I am a true solo. We have talked about, I think maybe the next step will be us splitting an admin, so a paralegal/receptionist, because that’s a great way to do it, it makes it really affordable. But I have, I think like many lawyers, delegation issues. I have a hard, hard time delegating. I want to do everything. And the problem is you just can’t do it.
Adriana Linares: Well, I was going to say and yet you do, do everything, which is why you find it hard to delegate, because somehow you manage to get it all done. So you just keep saying to yourself, I don’t need help, I keep getting it all done. Stop doing that.
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah, I know.
Adriana Linares: Tell me about simple practical things, like who has the lease, who pays the rent, how do you — do you split that, is it —
Renee Stackhouse: So what we have right now, because there are two offices, so I am part of an LLC that owns the building that we are in, in North County, and so since I own that, that’s kind of my domain, it’s my style, it’s my monkey basically, I cover those costs. And then the office downtown, Phil’s got covered and he handles that. So each of us kind of pay for and maintain and are in control of the style and design of each office.
Adriana Linares: Got it. That’s great. That’s very cool.
Renee Stackhouse: And it’s really fun that way. He is I think a little bit more giving and letting me bring my design style to his office than I am.
Adriana Linares: Right, like his is like a man cave and yours looks like the Dylan’s Candy Bar.
Renee Stackhouse: Mine’s all Dia De Las Mulitas, I am like old school, very cool, homey feeling, and his is very rustic, red walls, manly.
Adriana Linares: It’s like the 00:23:30 came in and designed it.
Renee Stackhouse: Yes.
Phil Stackhouse: Exactly.
Renee Stackhouse: Yes.
Adriana Linares: No, I love that. And Renee, what do you use for you technology?
Renee Stackhouse: Well, so I am exploring and expanding, but Clio’s been amazing, so I use Clio for the law practice. I am on the fence, and you are really swaying me with all the things you have been saying about having like a Ruby Receptionist type, I need one of those, I need one of those. The spam calling has gotten insane on cellphones.
Adriana Linares: I am a Ruby customer and I have to say from a customer experience it’s really good and worth it, but the main thing, like the number one reason that I love them is when a solicitor calls, they will say oh, please take us off the calling list, you don’t need to call here again.
Renee Stackhouse: So that’s a selling point.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, aside from actually just answering the calls very professionally. So I love having virtual or outsourced receptionists; Ruby is great, Answer 1 is a sponsor for the podcast and I know a lot of law firms are starting to use them too, so that’s great.
Phil Stackhouse: So can I say something about that?
Adriana Linares: Oh, please, by all means.
Phil Stackhouse: So one of the things that I was looking for that I found that I thought was really important and as a solo especially is I loved Ruby Receptionist when I was looking for a different call service to go around. The reason that it didn’t work for me was because they only had certain times that they answered the phone. So it wasn’t a 24-hour service.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, important.
Phil Stackhouse: And we have clients, for my practice anyway, around the world, so you know —
Adriana Linares: They need to call at midnight.
Phil Stackhouse: They need to call at midnight, it’s better for us to have somebody that answers the phone from a business perspective.
Adriana Linares: Yes.
Phil Stackhouse: Because they at least develop a little bit of relationship with the answering service who does — not really doing sales but they take some information and they say —
Adriana Linares: You train them on what questions to ask?
Phil Stackhouse: A little bit. There’s some on boarding that goes on and then it keeps them from going to the next person on Google.
Adriana Linares: Next person — of course.
Phil Stackhouse: Because they have got some buy-in already, and so that was a super-important thing and I think also from one of the practical reasons people say, well why, but it’s $400 a month, that’s a lot of money and I love the clients, but when they call and ask you what the weather is like. A little bit of a wait that they have to do to go through the answering service it keeps those calls away and so they really only call you and go through the extra step of talking to the answering service to get to you.
Renee Stackhouse: When it’s a legal question.
Phil Stackhouse: When it’s a legal question —
Adriana Linares: So it’s almost a qualified lead by the time it gets there?
Phil Stackhouse: Not only a qualified lead but for current clients as well, like they don’t want to go through the trouble of going through the answering service if unless it’s an important phone call, so they won’t just call to ask you about the weather and they do.
Adriana Linares: And do you want to tell us who you use, who you found that you —
Phil Stackhouse: I use AnswerConnect.
Adriana Linares: Oh AnswerConnect.
Phil Stackhouse: And they also do a Zap tying through Lexicata and it all ties it together.
Adriana Linares: Excellent. Oh. Phil, you’re very techie.
Renee Stackhouse: He’s super-techie.
Adriana Linares: I had no idea I was getting a techie on the podcast too. I love that. That’s awesome.
Renee Stackhouse: And then we follow up, we have been using Zoom a lot lately for the in-person kind of feel to the meetings for clients that are so far away.
Adriana Linares: I had an attorney come into see me on Wednesday who is a mediator and she wanted to use Zoom for mediations plus the breakout rooms which I had heard of and no one had — so it was very easy to figure out but I showed her, she was there while I learned how they work it was just as a click inside your Zoom settings and then you can take whoever is on the call and break them out into a separate video or phone conference.
So, yeah, Zoom is really the leader right now in conferencing and video conferencing and HD connection, it’s great, it’s $15 a month right now for the lowest service which for most attorneys it’s more than enough.
Renee Stackhouse: It’s so easy too and you don’t need to be techie to use it and the one click like it has a thing where you just click on the link and you join the meeting, you don’t have to worry about putting all the numbers.
Adriana Linares: Oh, that’s my favorite thing.
Renee Stackhouse: That’s the best.
Adriana Linares: That’s great.
Phil Stackhouse: We have a case right now where there is six co-counsel in the case and on Fridays we do a Zoom conference, and it is markedly different doing video with six people on the screen than it is you are trying to talk over each other in a conference call, so it is great, I love it.
Adriana Linares: Any other tech tips you want to make sure we mention before we move on to out next segment because it’s going to be my most exciting segment.
Renee Stackhouse: Oh, your most exciting segment.
Adriana Linares: Oh yeah, no, I have been waiting for three days to get to segment three of this podcast.
Renee Stackhouse: Let’s get there then, why would we hold off any longer?
Adriana Linares: Okay let’s — just hold off for a couple more minutes while we hear some sponsor messages.
Renee Stackhouse: That’s a good reason to hold off.
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Adriana Linares: Those are exciting but not as exciting as a segment three is going to be about, pum… pum… paa military law.
Phil Stackhouse: Oh, military law.
Adriana Linares: So you two have a really fascinating area of practice, and I think San Diego is such a neat community; so remember, I don’t live here, I just come into — I flow into town one week out of the month and then I go back to the southeast and we’ve got a whole world of interesting law practices, but I think San Diego is amazing because you have got the border right here, literally I can see it.
I mean forget about Alaska on your backyard, I am literally looking at Mexico from here and I am also looking at military ships out the windows so this community is freely interesting from an immigration perspective and all that the military community brings into the city. So the two of you have separate law firms, but share cases sometimes.
Renee Stackhouse: We do.
Adriana Linares: And tell me about what types of cases do you share? Are they the military cases or any kind or specific kinds where your experiences crossover well?
Renee Stackhouse: So — well, so a whole out of great questions. For the most part we’ve shared military cases. When he did not live here he pro-hopped in on a federal court case that we did together, which was fun, but now that he lives here that’s not an option anymore.
Adriana Linares: Right, yeah.
Renee Stackhouse: So that’s okay, but now we do military cases together and they range from anything from a drug pop.
Adriana Linares: What does that mean?
Renee Stackhouse: Means military guys even in California where it’s legal to smoke marijuana can still not smoke marijuana.
Adriana Linares: Oh, okay.
Renee Stackhouse: And if they are giving a random drug test and it comes up positive so it pops, then — yeah, they get in trouble. So it can be from anything like that to the war crimes cases that we’re currently working on that Phil’s cases that he’s invited me to participate in.
Adriana Linares: Now, Phil, you are kind of famous in the military law world. Renee, brag on him a minute.
Renee Stackhouse: He is just — he’s turning red.
Adriana Linares: He is.
Renee Stackhouse: He cannot even handle this.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, he has the same color as his shirt right now.
Renee Stackhouse: So, I am really proud of him. He represents men and women who are charged with some horrific crimes and he has probably four or five of the biggest ongoing military cases in the country right now. He’s handled some very high-profile cases. He does an amazing job protecting people’s rights, and making sure that they get after hearing due process and he’s gotten some incredible results with what he does. He handles tough cases and it’s not just the war crimes which are obviously very divisive in the community but things — child pornography, which are tough-tough cases, assault cases which are tough-tough cases, all of them are very emotionally charged.
Adriana Linares: Tell me what a war crime is? Phil, war crime specialist.
Phil Stackhouse: So it can vary but I will tell you predominantly what you see in the military, what they characterize as war crimes is the illegal killing of usually a combatant and so it has much more to do with why the person was killed, and how the person was killed? There’s certainly some other cases that cross the sort of threshold of what they would call war crimes when there’s emulation of bodies and things like that, that happens sometimes as well.
Adriana Linares: Wow. That is emotional and tough and I can imagine as a civilian I have so much respect for anyone in the military that when they get in trouble now you’re really there’s must be all kinds of emotions that you have to deal with.
Phil Stackhouse: Well, there is, and especially in what we’re calling war crimes cases the United States puts these men and women in the most difficult situations that you could ever imagine and asks them to do the most difficult things that you could ever imagine. And so sometimes not always but sometimes people have a difficult time doing that, doing what’s asked to them and —
Adriana Linares: May be they want a rebel, may be they don’t want to do it, does that happen?
Phil Stackhouse: Well, we the military spend an extraordinary amount of time dehumanizing our enemies which allows us to engage the enemy in a very violent way. There’s not —
Adriana Linares: Like you kill them.
Phil Stackhouse: To kill them, I mean, it is a situation where you cannot stop and think, well, this is a human being, I’m getting ready to shoot, that I am getting ready to kill. Whether it’d be, I mean, you hear this all the time that we’re shooting down aircraft or you’re killing the pilots in the other aircraft.
Adriana Linares: Right, we forget.
Phil Stackhouse: And so we — and we forget about that.
Adriana Linares: Right or just it’s so normal now to hear things like that, that part falls.
Phil Stackhouse: That’s right. We kill tanks, while there’s five people in the tank that are being killed too.
Adriana Linares: And they are probably parents or obviously the children —
Phil Stackhouse: Parents, brothers, sisters.
Adriana Linares: Right.
Phil Stackhouse: And so — and we do the same thing, I mean, that’s why you hear so many derogatory terms for the enemy combatants on the battlefield because it dehumanizes them and sometimes when people hit a certain point mentally, physically for whatever reason they may do things that are beyond what is allowed.
Renee Stackhouse: Or alternatively there is somebody in the United States who is second-guessing the conduct when they weren’t there, they don’t know the situation, they weren’t involved, they haven’t lost their friends.
Adriana Linares: Or watch their friends.
Renee Stackhouse: Right, exactly, and they are just second-guessing what a decision someone had to make in a split second.
Adriana Linares: I mean, you think about the things that we do just on a day-to-day without all that pressure, and all that world just weighing down on you and then, I mean — you know what I mean?
Renee Stackhouse: It is unbelievable and the thing that gets me, like with Eddie’s case, I mean, how many times was he deployed?
Phil Stackhouse: Eight.
Renee Stackhouse: Eight times, you go you get sent over, okay, congratulations, you lived through it, you weren’t maimed, okay great, now go back, and do that eight times and imagine what that does to you.
Adriana Linares: I can’t.
Phil Stackhouse: And then there’s also the other thing that happens is when you’re in that kind of super-kinetic combat environment if somebody wants to allege something against you because they don’t like you, it’s very difficult to defend against.
Adriana Linares: Sure.
Phil Stackhouse: Somebody can very easily say he killed somebody that he shouldn’t have killed last week, last month, last year, how do you prove that you didn’t do it.
Renee Stackhouse: And the amazing thing is the government doesn’t say, well, there’s nobody, so we can’t go forward with it. They just say, well, you still killed them, prove you didn’t, that type of thing. It’s crazy to me like there are cases where there’s murder allegations but no body.
Adriana Linares: That’s amazing.
Renee Stackhouse: You don’t even know there’s no autopsy, there’s —
Adriana Linares: How do they find you? Are you — how does someone who is in trouble in the military get help? Do they even know that there are lawyers willing to help them that can help them because I’m sure it’s not like, oh, here we are going to sue you and here’s a list of lawyers that will help you.
Phil Stackhouse: Yeah, so there every military member that gets in trouble, they gets charged with the crime, gets assigned to military lawyer to assist them and they have the ability to ask for an additional lawyer to be assigned to them as well, sort of like a public defender, and then you can hire a civilian counsel at your own expense to represent you as well.
Adriana Linares: And is that you, are you civilian counsel, both of you?
Phil Stackhouse: That’s right, so we would be civilian counsel and what you get sometimes in that regard as you get somebody that’s more experienced. So, unfortunately, a lot of the military attorneys and some of them are absolutely brilliant rock-stars, where you run into some problems is they don’t have the opportunity to spend an extraordinary amount of time in the defense of other service members.
You become very experienced sort of you get the moniker and experienced military defense attorney if you do maybe four to six years doing this and have 10 trials or 15 trials under your belt, you are very experienced military attorney. Now you compare that to someone who has practiced Federal Criminal Defense in the U.S District courthouses around the country for 40 years and have 250 trials under their belt, there’s a huge difference.
Adriana Linares: Yeah.
Phil Stackhouse: And I am talking about like a federal public defender. So a lot of times they will if they’re charged with serious offenses and sometimes even offenses that are not so serious but they need to be successful in their case to protect their career they will go outside their military counsel and retain a civilian counsel to help represent them.
Renee Stackhouse: One of the other things we see too which is frustrating is that in the military you transition between being a defense counsel, and being a prosecutor. You go back and forth, so you will wear both hats during your career.
Adriana Linares: Is this in military court?
Renee Stackhouse: Yes.
Adriana Linares: Because there is a whole another world of courts that the average person forgets or doesn’t even know about actually, I didn’t know obviously.
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah, most of them basically have their own courts. And so — but they wear the same hats. They go back and forth so you can get a defense attorney who just finished being a prosecutor and their brain is in prosecutor mode, and so they will tell you all the reasons why you should take a deal such a great deal instead of fight the deal.
Adriana Linares: Let’s fight.
Renee Stackhouse: Right, fight the charges don’t be — don’t fall to the charges, so it’s tough and they’re great lawyers but sometimes it helps when people bring us and we can say, look, we are not wearing a rank and we’re not wearing a uniform and we have a little bit more pushback we can give.
Adriana Linares: Can you tell us about a cool case that you’ve had, the fun case?
Renee Stackhouse: There are so many cool cases.
Adriana Linares: Is there like a weird cool case? What’s a weird military law?
Renee Stackhouse: Romanian rock-star.
Adriana Linares: Oh yeah, Romanian rock-star, what was the other one you mentioned the other day?
Renee Stackhouse: It was the Osprey investigation, Phil led the Osprey investigation.
Adriana Linares: Oh tell us, tell us, and tell us everything.
Phil Stackhouse: Yeah, so they — in April of 2000 there was an Osprey that crashed in Arizona.
Adriana Linares: And you don’t mean the bird, the second largest bird in Florida, Osprey, okay.
Phil Stackhouse: No, it’s a MV-22 tiltrotor aircraft, it flies like a helicopter, it can fly like a propelled airplane that crashed and when those kind of huge mishaps happen where many people die and tens of millions of dollars with an aircraft burn they complete two investigations one is call the safety investigation which is purely looking for reasons why pilot reasons why a crash may have happened, so there is a privilege between all the interviews and all the interviewers.
And then there is a command investigation that happens as well, so I was detailed as an investigator and legal adviser to the command investigation, so we ran a concurrent investigation that lasted — gosh — I think it lasted for about four-and-a-half months, had 25,000 pages of evidence that was attached to it that we distilled down to about 140-page report to present to the Marine Corps leadership about why we believe this aircraft crashed and what opinions that we had and recommendations that we had to try to avoid mishaps like that in the future.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, and what was the bottom-line? They are not safe.
Phil Stackhouse: Well, yeah — I mean, yeah. So, yeah, I mean, opinions vary, I mean they have hundreds of them flying right now I wouldn’t fly in one.
Renee Stackhouse: So we took 25,000 pages worth down to two words “Not Safe”.
Phil Stackhouse: And so we were very firm in our conviction and our opinions about some things that needed to be changed in aircraft and there were some pushback in the reporting that we did.
Adriana Linares: Sounds familiar these days.
Phil Stackhouse: But — yeah, and we stood our ground and we really felt like if another plane crashed and we had changed our report that would be very hard to live with ourselves. And so we didn’t change anything our report, other people changed it, but our original report stood and probably six months later another one crashed.
Adriana Linares: Wow.
Phil Stackhouse: And that created a huge stand down and they went a little bit — for lack of a better term they went back to the drawing board on a lot of the safety parameters that they were going to instill for the pilots that were going to be flying these aircrafts and clearly they continue to fly today and they are a huge part of the military airframes inventory, but I wouldn’t fly in one.
Renee Stackhouse: The happy ending on it was that for this particular crash that Phil investigated what six months ago, a year ago, the pilots were cleared of causing the crash.
Adriana Linares: Good.
Renee Stackhouse: Because they continued fighting that, and so, the Phil’s investigation was a big part of that, which was a super happy ending for the family.
Adriana Linares: Right, wow.
Phil Stackhouse: Yeah, and it was unfortunate, I mean, it was a very tough time. The Marine Corps laid off a lot of the blame on the pilots that were flying the aircraft.
Adriana Linares: Of course.
Phil Stackhouse: And when you do that —
Adriana Linares: Also sounds like a familiar story these days.
Phil Stackhouse: Oh yeah. And if the families of the pilots who also died in aircraft those families sort of live with that and Congressman Walter Jones, who passed away last year had championed getting their names cleared by the Department of Defense for over a decade, and before he passed, it’s probably been about two years now, there was some closure for the families where the Marine Corps came back and for lack of a better term cleared the pilots of any errors in the flying that took place.
Adriana Linares: Wow. Good job, Phil.
Phil Stackhouse: So, that’s a —
Renee Stackhouse: That’s a win.
Phil Stackhouse: It’s not a trial but it’s an interesting aspect of military law.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, that’s amazing. Tell me about the Romanian rock-star?
Phil Stackhouse: There are interesting cases, I mean, they distill down to things that could happen right here in San Diego. I mean, it was a car crash. We had a client who ran through a Stop sign and hit a car that killed a very popular Romanian musician.
Adriana Linares: In Romania?
Phil Stackhouse: In Romania and so I was still on Active Duty at the time but we hopped on airplanes — after we got assigned to the case we hopped on airplanes, we flew to Romania, we were in Bucharest for about a week doing site investigations and interviewing witnesses and kind of getting the lay of the land and what our client had experienced as he was driving this dimly lit road at 3 o’clock in the morning with a blinking yellow light over the intersection which to us means caution, blinking yellow light, and there was a Stop sign on the left-hand side of the road and he is driving on the right-hand side, there was also a Stop sign right-hand side of the road but it was obscured by a tree.
And he went through, he didn’t see the Stop sign on the left-hand side of the road and didn’t see the one on the right-hand side of the road because of the tree and in his mind he was thinking blinking yellow light that means caution and so he was not speeding but he went through the intersection and hit this small little taxicab and unfortunately killed the guy in the back of the car.
Adriana Linares: Oh rats.
Renee Stackhouse: So the tough thing about that case is the fact that Phil had to overcome this huge sentiment, the guy who was killed was a very beloved in the country and so you have to come in as a foreigner as the outsider and convince them that they should give that military service member a fair shot when they killed someone that the country loved.
Phil Stackhouse: So there was a lot of sort of international political pressure on it and when we went to court, I mean, it was purely — it was a sad case. I mean somebody died and we respected that and the way that we defended the case was, not every accident is a crime and it was truly an accident he wasn’t drinking and driving.
He wasn’t speeding we had experts that testified about the reaction time from when he could have possibly seen the taxicab enter the intersection until his foot at the break that even if it would’ve been the very fastest that would be within the realm of an expert opinion he still would have been all the way through the intersection, so it was really one of those situations where —
Adriana Linares: It was just an accident.
Phil Stackhouse: It was just an accident.
Adriana Linares: Wow.
Phil Stackhouse: So he was acquitted of the negligent homicide charge and there were some other things that he was dealing with but that was certainly the most serious charge and the Romanian people were very upset about it and we can certainly understand why but our system, he was found not guilty.
Adriana Linares: And so wait, was he tried over there or over here?
Phil Stackhouse: He was tried here in the States, he was tried in Virginia so he was a Marine Embassy Guard. So he had the equivalent of diplomatic community and he was removed from the country very shortly after the accident but investigation ensued both by the Romanian authorities and by the U.S. authorities, and based upon that investigation they did charge him when that goes in homicide. And so he was facing the military equivalent of a felony court and that’s where we defended him.
Adriana Linares: And — oh he was acquitted, we said that, sorry.
Phil Stackhouse: Yeah, he was acquitted of the negligent homicide.
Adriana Linares: Wow. That is an amazing — well, Phil, you have such an interesting — really it’s such an interesting practice and Renee must be — I am not going to say it’s fun because obviously a lot of these things are not fun, but it just seems like —
Renee Stackhouse: Mentally and stimulating, engaging.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, right.
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah, it’s incredible, one, to be in a military court which is very, very different following the UCMJ and the rules that they have, I mean, it’s a whole different ball game. So it’s been really interesting to learn that and then to watch Phil in his craft and he really is.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, you are learning from the master.
Renee Stackhouse: He is a master, he really is, and it drives him, I mean, he cannot handle this right now, he is like — he cannot, he does not understand how truly, truly talented he is and so it’s amazingly able to watch and learn from him.
Adriana Linares: That’s probably one of the things that makes him such a great lawyer.
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah, I think so.
Adriana Linares: So, do you spend a lot of time at dinner, talking about cases and is it on the ride in on the ride out, how do you guys balance this interesting and passionate work life that you have with your personal life and a little baby nugget?
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah, balance is hit or miss. I am not going to lie. We try and we’re cognizant of it. We have scheduled a date night or a date day one day a month where we would drop the kid off at daycare and then we have a day together.
Adriana Linares: Awesome, that’s important.
Renee Stackhouse: And that’s been really interesting, that’s the neat thing we did this year, but we do, we talk, work the whole way down, the whole way home, dinner, or bed once you are getting ready to go to sleep, in the shower, I mean, whatever it is.
Adriana Linares: You are together 24/7.
Renee Stackhouse: We are.
Adriana Linares: And you like each other.
Renee Stackhouse: Well, the really cool thing is when you have one of those spots like you have an epiphany, it’s like, oh, what about this then the person is right there to be able to see it do, and that’s priceless sometimes because that has been some of the best brainstorming ever is what about this, what about that and back and forth. More other times it’s like, okay, this is the last question about the case and then we are done for the night, okay?
Phil Stackhouse: And we try to run away sometimes so we go to Vegas and things like that, it’s a little a bit easier to just connect when we’re sort of away.
Adriana Linares: Yeah.
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah.
Adriana Linares: I think you guys do it right. Last question for you, what do you think Gab will be?
Renee Stackhouse: So my plan —
Adriana Linares: I know she does have plan.
Renee Stackhouse: Not that I have a plan or I have expectations of my child.
Adriana Linares: We know that whatever you are about to say is going to start with he can do whatever he wants and we are going to support him.
Renee Stackhouse: Yeah, yes.
Adriana Linares: But, in my world of dreams —
Renee Stackhouse: Yes. The kid has a great arm. He really does. He can throw a ball like nobody else. We have a small Chihuahua and he likes to throw —
Adriana Linares: Throw the Chihuahua?
Renee Stackhouse: Sometimes, but mostly the ball for the Chihuahua.
Adriana Linares: Kidding — kidding, animal law listeners, kidding, you know how much I love dogs.
Renee Stackhouse: But in mummy’s world he is going at be an MLB pitcher, make $20 million by the time he is 22 go to college and then he can do whatever the heck he wants that makes them happy.
Adriana Linares: Perfect.
Renee Stackhouse: Yes, but hopefully not a lawyer.
Phil Stackhouse: I will support all that.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, you can give a hand in any of that. Good.
Renee Stackhouse: I was going to say it’s probably going to fly in my face. He loves animals. I bet he will be a zoo keeper and that’s cool too. Yeah, he is obsessed with animals.
Adriana Linares: I always wanted to be a veterinarian, I just couldn’t do with the sick animals like I would only have been able to be a veterinarian for healthy and happy animals, so I pled all the veterinarians that are able to do another tough job. I really appreciate the two of you coming in, it’s been really fun.
Renee Stackhouse: Thanks for having us.
Phil Stackhouse: Cool, yeah.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, I want you back. I want more cool military cases and stories because I just think that’s amazing.
Phil Stackhouse: We have a bunch.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, you do. Tell everybody how they can find, friend, or follow you.
Renee Stackhouse: So @RNGStackhouse is my Twitter handle. I am on Instagram also RNGStackhouse and Facebook @StackhouseAPC and Renee Stackhouse and it’s renee@, guess what, stackhouseapc.com; [email protected]
Phil Stackhouse: I think the easiest simplest way to find me is at militarydefender.com and [email protected].
Adriana Linares: Awesome. Well, I can’t thank you both enough for coming on and talking to us, it’s been really fun.
Renee Stackhouse: Thanks Adriana.
Phil Stackhouse: Thank you.
Adriana Linares: Thank you for listening to New Solo on Legal Talk Network. If you like what you heard today I’d really love for you to subscribe, share, rate and give us a good review on iTunes. So we will see you next time, and remember, you are not alone, you are New Solo.
Outro: Thanks for listening to New Solo with host Adriana Linares. Tune in again to learn more about how to successfully run your new practice, solo, here on Legal Talk Network.
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