There is no formula to success- It’s not about money or a good business plan. You will be successful in whatever you do with your life when it’s something that drives you, something that you love and are passionate about.
As a part of my series about “5 things I wish someone told me when I first became an attorney” I had the pleasure of interviewing Tiffany Hughes.
The founding partner of The Law Office of Tiffany M. Hughes, Tiffany Hughes is recognized as an experienced and passionate advocate on behalf of her client’s in the area of Family law. As such, Tiffany concentrates primarily in family and matrimonial law, whereby she represents individuals in all aspects of family and matrimonial law proceedings, including litigation, mediation, allocation of parental responsibility (formerly known as custody), parentage, divorce and other child-related matters. With representing a wide range of client’s in family law, Tiffany handles matters from beginning to end, including litigation when needed and settlement when available. Courtroom ready and effective, Tiffany keeps her client’s goals as her primary concern.
Tiffany has successfully litigated matters in high estate divorce cases, trials under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act, trials regarding allocation of parental responsibility (formerly known as custody), visitation, child support, maintenance, complex tax issues, post decree matters and more. Tiffany’s passion is protecting children and ensuring that her clients achieve the desired results.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law?
I have always had a desire to help people from a very young age. When I was a little girl, I wanted to become a doctor so that I could help people that were sick. One of my first jobs in high school was at a hospital, as I wanted to gain experience and knowledge to assist me with my career path in medicine. After I graduated high school, I went to college at UIC to pursue medicine. I obtained scholarships and grants which 100% paid for my college education. During my first year at UIC I started working with families that were victims of domestic violence. As I continued my work in domestic violence, I soon realized that a path in law might actually be the answer to my desire to help people. Family Law was an area of law that I knew I could truly make a difference. Therefore, I changed my major to criminal justice and psychology and graded top in my class. I then continued to law school where my advocacy skills grew and my trial skills were recognized. I competed nationally in trial competitions through JMLS and was even awarded the “best score award” for my trial work at the ABA competition. This award is only given to one competitor in the competition for being the best at the competition and my plaque for such remains hanging at JMLS’ awards center.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your law career?
I had a very contested divorce case involving a large estate and a lot of assets. I had a law clerk working with me on the case and this was her first experience with handling a case of this size. With the laws in Illinois, assets are divided equitably and that can mean that another spouse can get 50% or more of the assets. The marriage was pretty short (4 years) but during this time the other spouse accumulated a lot of wealth while the other spouse didn’t work. After settling the case, my law clerk said to me, “Why would anyone ever get married, I’m definitely not!”
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
In addition to working full-time managing my firm and taking on new cases, I’m also focusing on bringing awareness to the challenges that COVID-19 has on family law cases. A lot of my clients have questions on what effects COVID-19 has on parenting time, their changes in employment, modifications of child support and maintenance. Considering this, I could only imagine the thousands of other people that have concerns and don’t know where to reach out to.
What are some of the most interesting cases you have been involved in? Without sharing anything confidential can you share any stories?
Oh where do I start! I feel like I could write a book about the cases that I’ve handled and the issues that were argued. One of the cases that comes to mind is a case that I had where the father was alienated by the mother from his daughter for many many years. He came to me wanting to have parenting time and explaining the series of events that had occurred over the years and the actions of the mother.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
As a chicago born native, I would have to say that the iconic Martin Luther King, Jr. was an inspiration to me in making change and helping people. He had such a profound impact on the American race and proved that hard work and dedication to your dreams is not easy, but that it’s worth it.
Abraham Lincoln is another iconic figure that comes to mind. He was an American hero who created a new era on human civilization based on freedom from the government and equality. He stood alone on many of his views but that didn’t deter him from fighting for what he believed in.
Stephen Hawking is another person that comes to mind. He proved that determination and positive thinking can triumph even the most severe limitations.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in law?
My grandfather always told me, “life is no rehearsal.” You only have one shot at this thing we call life, and if you are passionate about law, don’t let people discourage you. Find the area of law that drives you. If you work hard and dedicate yourself to what you do, you will succeed.
If you had the ability to make three reforms in our judicial/legal system, which three would you start with? Why?
1. I would like to change the stereotypical roles of women being the home makers — Nowadays, men are staying home and caring for children and the wife is the breadwinner. However, judges consider this to be ridiculous or just an example of man not wanting to work. However, the same role for a woman is ok.
2. Confidentiality in divorce cases involving minor children and counseling — Section 750 ILCS 607.6. states that counseling is confidential but then how are the experts appointed by the Court able to confer with them so that they can help the parties and the children involved. Counseling is such a critical piece of being able to determine alienation and abuse. If there are waivers and releases completed (depending of course on the facts of the case), then Judge’s should be able to allow the counselors to talk with a guardian ad litem, a custody evaluator, a parenting coordinator and a co-parenting therapist.
3. Maintenance statute — Although Illinois now has a mathematical rule for calculating maintenance, I find that Judge’s don’t consider all of the factors and the history of the parties. A lot of times, divorces are started because one spouse has refused to work and contribute to the household. Of times, that non working spouse is awarded maintenance from the working spouse for their refusal to do so which just then enables the non working spouse to continue to not work which overall is not good for the parties or their children.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
The more clients that I work with, the more that I feel I’m making a difference in their lives but also the greater good for their children’s future. In the last 4 years I’ve focused on becoming a Guardian Ad Litem and was even chosen to be a court appointed attorney for children in divorce cases. I can now use my experience and expertise to protect children and ensure what is truly in their best interests.
I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?
One of my favorite quotes is, “no one said it would be easy, they just said that it would be worth it.” I knew that my job was going to be taxing emotionally and mentally and that my work/life balance was going to be slim to none. However, unlike other family law firms, my firm does not run like a business. People are not just a case or a number. Knowing that I created a unique Firm where it’s a safe place for individuals with family law issues to come to where they know that they can trust me and my team, is just a reminder of the reason why I continue to work as hard as I do. I feel empowered by the high level of service I provide my clients coupled with the rare personal service they receive while working with me. Overall, it’s hard work, but I’m able to provide them a way out of a bad relationship and/or a marriage which enables them to start a new chapter of their life filled with happiness. It’s this light at the end of the tunnel that they feel working with me that drives me every day.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
1. There is no formula to success- It’s not about money or a good business plan. You will be successful in whatever you do with your life when it’s something that drives you, something that you love and are passionate about.
2. Expect to not sleep, work endlessly and never feel like you’re doing enough- Rome can’t be built in a day. However, with dedication and passion you can make a difference in people’s lives. Don’t lose focus on your goals and keep pushing through because what you are doing is truly helping people
3. You are a counselor at law but you will also be a counselor in a psychology sense to your clients- Family law cases being emotional for clients is an understatement. Client’s need you in more ways than just legal advice. Reassure them the best you can and guide them when needed to other individuals including psychologists or mental health providers when you see that they need additional support. Being a support system for them is great, but sometimes they need guidance from other professionals as well.
4. Even if you achieve the best possible legal outcome for your client, your client might not be happy- Sometimes clients believe that they should be receiving 100% of everything, not paying maintenance, not paying child support or just don’t want to give their spouse anything. It’s important to set their expectations straight from the beginning and explain what the law states and outcomes for their case overall.
5. Trust your intuition- Sometimes client’s don’t tell you the truth or specifically leave out details that are very important. If something doesn’t sound right or feel right, investigate it. It could be something that could not only affect your client but also the parties children.
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