A Philosophy of Cooperation and Respect
Michael Zatopa and Ellen Stephens have been providing legal services to
families of special needs children, adoptive parents, and the private
organizations and individuals who serve them for over 40 years combined.
While no legal professional can guarantee that the problem a family or
business is facing will be solved, our firm has, in 80-85% of our accepted
cases, obtained much or all of the desired result. For our family clients,
we have been able to obtain much of the services, or a significant portion
of the reimbursement for services, sought by our clients. For our corporate
clients, we are usually able to provide legal counseling that will prevent
adverse legal consequences to our clients.
Our firm has developed over the years, a clear philosophy regarding legal
services to our clients. We recognize that most seeking our help have
concerns about legal costs and do not want to engage in legal warfare,
but to obtain a particular result for the child as quickly and economically
as possible. Our firm recognizes that because the "opposition"
in almost all of our cases is government, there are several realities
that must be recognized in obtaining the results our clients' seek. By
recognizing the following realities we have been able to more efficiently
and effectively meet the needs of our clients:
- The financial ability of government agencies to
engage in legal action is vastly superior to that of our clients, creating
a large imbalance in bargaining position.
- Because of strong political disagreements in our
society about the role of government in paying for social services,
there is a radical gap between legal mandates placed on public agencies
and the tax dollars allocated by politicians to fund legal mandates
- Our firm does not see the government or its representatives
as the enemy. We try to work with public employees to enforce legal
rights and services to which our clients are entitled and work forcefully
and cooperatively if a dispute arises.
- Our firm leaves the "blame game" to others.
It serves no purpose and more importantly deflects our focus away from
what is most important to you: the results you seek.
- While we are staunch advocates for our clients, we
recognize that the tone and manner of that advocacy can be as important
as the substance of what we seek. Emotions and personality can stand
in the way of settling a legal conflict. We have a track record of resolving
disputes through settlement, not litigation. By focusing on the legal
issues of the case, we are able to defuse the emotional and personality
factors that harm rather than help our clients.
- We do recognize that there are times when litigation
or the credible threat of litigation is the only way to enforce our
clients’ legal rights. While we will litigate if necessary, our
job is to obtain the result with as little of your resources as possible.