Season 1, Episode 019
In this episode of Legally Blissed Conversations, we are joined by Lynda Hinkle, a bar certified attorney in the State of New Jersey. She holds a J. D. from Rutgers School of Law Camden, a Masters in English from Rutgers University, and a Masters in Teaching from Rowan University. Lynda has worked as a teacher, an adjunct professor, and an entrepreneur. She founded Working to Halt Online Abuse and served as its first president, acted as a district representative for New Jersey Congressman Rob Andrews, and was Editor-In-Chief of MP Journal, an international, peer-reviewed feminist academic journal. She has done a significant amount of freelance, professional and academic writing in her career.And she has also written a book, Breaking Up: Finding and Working with a New Jersey Divorce Attorney.
DISCLAIMER: The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases, it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
Suzi: Welcome, everyone, to Lili bliss conversations. I would like to welcome Miss Linda Hinkle. She’s a bar certified attorney in the state of New Jersey. She holds a JD from Rutgers School of Law Camden, a master’s in English from Rutgers University and a master’s in teaching from Brown University. She works as a teacher, an adjunct professor and an entrepreneur. She founded working to halt online abuse and served as its first president acted as a district representative for New Jersey Congress went Congressman Rob Andrews, and was editor in chief of Mt. NP journal and international peer reviewed feminist academic journal. She’s also written a book breaking up finding and working with a New Jersey divorce attorney, Linda has served on multiple boards and participated in many volunteer and pro bono activities, including a significant amount of lobbying for domestic violence and human trafficking causes and often consult with legislators about pending litigation in family law, domestic violence matters. So welcome again. And thank you so much for hanging out with me today.
Lynda: Thank you so much for having me.
Suzi: So tell me when to Why did you decide to go to law school.
Lynda: So it was a complete accident, it was not my intention whatsoever. I actually went to law school later in life. I was interested in in a career in academics, was completing my master’s in English. And I was looking to go for a Ph. D program in English. But I was recruited by Rutgers law. And I felt like that was a sign and it did turn out to be sort of the direction that my life was supposed to go. And I’m so glad that I listened to that inner voice.
Suzi: That’s amazing. Do you often listen to your inner voice?
Lynda: Always, always. It’s sometimes it leads me down weird paths. But it’s always interesting.
Suzi: Right? That’s actually a really good perspective that, you know, maybe our inner voice isn’t necessarily wrong. But maybe it just leads us down into interesting paths.
Lynda: And I think it’s trying to entertain itself.
Suzi: That’s it. Yeah. Love that. Where else do you use your inner voice? Like with respect to practicing law, and as you go through life?
Lynda: I think I use it all the time. I mean, the kind of law I do is so human oriented, you know, I’m dealing with humans and their emotions and their problems and their feelings more than dollars and cents and facts and figures, like most lawyers do. So I’m always sort of plugging into that intuition about what does the person really need or want in the situation? And how to do those sorts of things within the context of the law.
Suzi: So you’re a divorce attorney, let’s talk about that. What What made you say, this would be a great area of law to go into where you again, listening to that inner voice?
Lynda: Absolutely. I mean, I, I took all the different classes in law school, but it was always the family stuff that drew me in. It was always that human element. And certainly my history, the different things I’ve done in my life before law school led me there teaching. The work I did for Congressman Andrews was all sort of human oriented. So I think I was just connected to that idea of solving problems on a personal individual level. Hmm.
Suzi: So when you graduated from law school, did you first work in a law firm, you’d go right out and hang up a shingle.
Lynda: I did everything wrong. And I immediately went and started my law practice. And that was not my original intention. My original intention was to find a job and go the normal route. But I came out at one of the worst times in the legal profession and there just weren’t jobs. So I made my own job.
Suzi: So is that 2008 era doesn’t nine Yep, it doesn’t. Okay. That was it. That was a tough year. For me. People coming straight straight out of law school to actually find jobs. So you hung up, hung out a shingle. And you said that you did it the wrong way. But I don’t know. I mean, it looks like you’re, you’re doing very well. So are you happy with that decision now that you did that way?
Lynda: Absolutely. And I, you know, at the time it was survival. So I was I was married to somebody different than I’m married to you now. And he said, Well, what if this doesn’t work? And I said, I can’t afford for it not to work. So we’re going to make it work, it will work. There’s no other option, right? Yeah. So this is what’s gonna happen. And I did, and I never had a bad year and the 12 years I’ve been doing this, and I’ve been so lucky and blessed. It’s just been a you know, it was it was exactly the right thing to do. I didn’t know it for sure at the time, but I had this confidence that I was going to do what I had to do to get through it. And then it turned into something that was more than that.
Suzi: So what does that look like you said it turned into something that was more than that.
Lynda: So what it has become really is an opportunity for me to live my life in a way that is very different than what my historical roots would have indicated. So I, I’m the first person in my family to go to law school, I’m the first person in my family to go to college. And my parents were the first in their line to get through high school. So you know, I wasn’t it wasn’t expected that the little girl that I was would be what I am, it gave me an opportunity to sort of grow past what the expectations were for me growing up.
Suzi: So you have grown your practice, like significantly, and you mentioned that you’re in your bio, that you are an entrepreneur. I love that. So where are we seeing that entrepreneurial spirit that you have in your current law practice.
Lynda: So as much as I love being a lawyer, I also love being a business owner. And I think that I’m pretty good at it. Because part of running a business is always innovating and always trying to find new ways to solve problems, and to produce whatever it is the product or service that you’re that you’re providing in a way that is more palatable to consumers. So for us, that has meant I’ve always tried to be on the edge of some sort of sort of the technological skills that many lawyers don’t have in our area. And so when the pandemic happened, we were ready to go, it took us a week to go home. Because we were already set up with all the tech, we needed to do that. And now we’re staying here, most of my staff is really happy being home, they’re productive, they’re doing well. So we have one staff person in the office at all times. And the rest of us work from home. And it’s been great. And I think our clients are happy with that too.
Suzi: Do you all have periodic meetings, to kind of reconnect? So we don’t,
Lynda: we don’t really don’t really do a lot of meetings, because my staff is full of no BS ladies who do not want to waste any time. So we do we communicate constantly, constantly through, we use Yammer, we use teams, we use email. So we’re constantly in communication. I think that we communicate almost as much as when we were in the office together. But we don’t like to waste time so that we do have personal relationships with each other. Many of us have worked together for many years. But we also, you know, we know how to get down to business and to say things in a quick way that gets it done and gets the work done.
Suzi: So would you give any advice? Or could you give any advice for that young lawyer that’s coming straight out of law school, who wants to hang out her own shingle?
Lynda: I would say that the first thing is you need mentors, I certainly had some good mentors that enabled me to make that transition. Because in law school, they don’t teach you the nuts and bolts, you need somebody who’s going to say, well, this, this is that form. And, you know, this is who the person is to call and you’re in your vicinage. And without that you’re kind of sunk. So I would say do that, I would say start off doing things that you’re relatively comfortable with, don’t expand, don’t become a general practitioner out of the gate, you know, focus on a couple of key areas that are things that you know, you can develop and be good at until you get good at them. And then you could add some other practice areas.
Suzi: So did you have a mentor straight out of law school?
Lynda: I had a few. In fact, I started off working in a small office with another lawyer who had been out for a few years, and we shared the space physically. We weren’t the same law firm, but we shared information and we shared the space and she was a great help to me and my initial practice.
Suzi: Yeah, that’s awesome. So when you think back, like to Your career? What has been your biggest obstacle? Was it maybe coming out and being solo?
Lynda: No, I, you know, that really, that was an obstacle for sure. And I think at first, you know, every time the phone rang, there was this fear of like, okay, what’s on the other end of that? And am I gonna be able to handle it? But I think the biggest obstacle honestly has been learning how to deal with difficult people, which is something I still work on regularly. Because in my field difficult people are aplenty, both clients, adversaries and other lawyers can be very difficult to deal with at times, and you have to learn how to set appropriate boundaries and manage conflict. And that’s I think, the hardest thing in my in my particular field.
Suzi: I love the concept of setting boundaries. And I feel like setting boundaries has helped some of my mental sanity. What is it? Can you talk about a couple boundaries that you would recommend young lawyers consider setting?
Lynda: You have to find your own? You know, I think everybody has a different tolerance level. So I have an associate who can handle some people that I can’t. So sometimes we’ll switch clients like, Oh, you’re not getting along with that one. And I’m not getting along with this one. So let’s switch them. And then everybody’s happy, right? Because sometimes just some personalities don’t they don’t work together? Well, there’s a couple of lawyers in my area I just won’t work with I just won’t if if they’re on the other side of the case, I’m going to tell that person, I can’t, I can’t help you. Because I know that they’re going to spend a ridiculous amount of money dealing with this person. And it’s frustrating to me to see law used in such a awful way. And there’s clients who, you know, I used to tolerate some Never would I tolerate a client being rude to my staff members. But I used to tolerate them being rude to me more. And now it’s the first time and it’s no, we’re done. Like you’re not my client anymore. Like whatever it takes to get out of this representation. I’m going to do it. I’ll tolerate complaining and whining and all of that, because that’s part of family law. But the moment that you turn it personal, we’re finished.
Suzi: So are you pretty good at listening to your gut in terms of vetting potential problem clients at the outset?
Lynda: Generally speaking, I mean, there are certain clients, you know, from the beginning, when you first talked to them, Okay, this one is going to be very difficult. And then there’s some that surprise you like, somewhere in the midst of the litigation, something happens in the relationship with their spouse, particularly, they have to live together still, where they just go off. And you know, it’s they’re a different person than they were when you first met them. And that can sometimes be a bit of a surprise.
Suzi: Yeah, I mean, you’re dealing with clients, you’re often in very stressful situations, right? And sometimes very awful, highly volatile situations, and who has inspired you the most over your career.
Lynda: So I always say that I’ve done a lot of work with domestic violence victims, and some of the people who have risen out of those situations, despite amazing obstacles, physical threats, financial loss, and yet they’ve taken responsibility for what they can and made the best of their situation and gotten out of really awful spots, whatever the sacrifice for themselves and sometimes for their children. And they inspire me, because that’s, that’s a level of strength that most people don’t even know they have until they’re forced to have it.
Suzi: Yeah, I’m sure you see that quite often. Absolutely, originally. So I want to ask you about your book, breaking up finding and working with a New Jersey divorce attorney. So what prompted this?
Lynda: So really, I my original idea in doing that was that there’s certain questions that everybody has, when they come into your office, and you know, I’ll give them a free 30 minute consultation, but that’s not enough time to answer all of their questions. So it addresses the process, it addresses some things to look for. It addresses some of the mistakes that people make in hiring an attorney such as hiring some of those build churning attorneys I talked about earlier. So you know, it just I thought it would provide both potential clients for myself and also just the general public with an opportunity to really think through what they’re doing when they decide to hire an attorney.
Suzi: Are there any future books in the works by you?
Lynda: I always think about doing it I’ve thought a lot about doing one about domestic violence, but I I feel like I I feel like I have to give that some more time to turn in my Brain and that I would need some other people sign onto it because I would want it to come from also like a psychiatric perspective too. So maybe a psychologist or someone like that who could provide a different perspective, in addition to the legal one,
Suzi: I have a feeling that when it’s time to write that book, you’re gonna have a sign, you’re and you’re going to be, you’re going to be hyper aware of that you’re going to know when it’s time to write it.
Lynda: Sounds about right. Yeah.
Suzi: So when you think about success and your career, what does that look like to you? How would you define it?
Lynda: So it’s funny because my father used to say, that success man, that if your refrigerator breaks, you can go out and buy another one and not have to worry about it.
Suzi: Man, like,
Lynda: I always think about that, you know, whenever I start to question Where am I in my life, if I had to go buy a refrigerator, could I do it, or goodbye to? I’m doing. So, for me, success is really just having what you need, on the financial end, having what you need on the emotional end and having something that you’re doing in your life that gives you purpose, and gives you a reason to get up in the morning, besides the fact that you need coffee.
Suzi: I have I’ve had those mornings where I’m like to get me the coffee. What would you love to see evolve or change in the practice of law? And you can answer that, in general, if you want to, or was specifically with respect to your practice area, I think that both answers and would be super enlightening from you.
Lynda: So there’s two things that I think about all the time. And the first is that I think we’re not kind to lawyers, as a society. And in my particular jurisdiction and practice area, Family Lawyers are on the hook, if there’s a trial scheduled, whether your client is missing, whether your client is attacking you emotionally, you’re not paying. And I think that a change in the law that allows us to get out of those situations is more than appropriate at this at this juncture in understanding how the world works. So that’s the first thing. And the second thing is the way that children are handled in the courts. Children’s desires and wishes are generally not considered in custody matters, until they’re over 16. And even then, very often not. And, you know, not every child wants to have an input into that. But I think most children would feel better about how things went. If they had an opportunity to say to a judge, oh, this is how I feel. Even if it doesn’t go their way they feel like pawns in the process. They feel like decisions are being made about their future, a 10 year old knows what’s going on. And, you know, they want to know, they want to be able to say hey, I love mommy and daddy, I want to be with both of them or whatever it is that they want to say. And often their voices are very silenced in this process.
Suzi: Yeah, it would be amazing to give them an opportunity to be able to express that in a safe space where they know that that is completely safe, where they know that they’re not going to upset mommy or they’re going to upset daddy. And I think that we as a society. They I think that people use children way too much as pawns. In these types of proceedings, I’ve seen this. I’ve seen this multiple times. But we tend to underestimate the intelligence of so many children. And they are so aware they’re so smart. Yes, they’re smart. They’re they know what is going on.
Lynda: Right. And especially in domestic violence cases. Yeah, sometimes, you know, we don’t, we don’t automatically sever of parenting rights, when there’s been violence in the home. And I think that we might need to do that when there’s proven violence in the home. A child might need to have some therapy before they deal with the person that they just heard or witnessed some sort of violence, and instead, we’re like, Okay, well, you can’t talk to her anymore. She can’t talk to him anymore. But the kids gonna go see him next weekend. And you drop this child in the middle of the situation with no preparation and no healing. It’s a pretty awful spot to put kids in.
Suzi: Yeah, I love that. You’re so I can feel like your empathy coming through for children in this situation.
Lynda: Yeah, terrible. It perpetuates the domestic violence because their children who have witnessed it or been in homes where there’s domestic violence are more likely to either be victims or perpetrators when they grow up.
Suzi: So it’s like trying to stop this cycle as soon as possible. Paul, have you done any type of advocacy work just for children, like in the court system or considered any type of work like that,
Lynda: other than some, some element of lobbying related to that, or we’re speaking with legislators about it not not so much directly in that way. But I have talked to professional organizations and things like that, about how to handle those, those sorts of situations, whether it be therapists or other lawyers, things of that nature.
Suzi: So if you could write a letter, or write a note to you, right, when you graduated from law school, you graduated in Oh, nine, right? Yep. And you could give yourself a piece of advice. What would you what would you say?
Lynda: Divorce him sooner?
Suzi: Well, okay, so you know, that that’s, like, that’s interesting, because this is, it’s such a, like, it’s kind of a personal issue going on here. Right? Not necessarily a professional piece of advice, but at the same time, like, it’s, it’s, it’s like, we have to become more in tune with our inner voice. Right. Like, I think that women we, we, like, especially lawyers, like we’re fighting that logic, like the think like the, you know, kind of that left side of our brain and then we have this other side where our gut is saying something’s not right here, right. And it’s okay to listen to that it is okay to lean into it right and in really utilize it to the to the extent that we can so and maybe that was a situation where you know, you’re thinking back, like maybe I should have been listening to my inner voice. Now, if I’m treading on something too personal. Please tell me. I am curious though, if you’re owned, like how your own divorce like after, after you went through something like that, how that impacted how you practice law and how you work with your clients. Let’s take a quick pause for message from my sponsor, prominent practice.
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Lynda: So I think my situation was somewhat unique. So it doesn’t necessarily impact that directly other than the fact that I sort of understand the frustrations of dealing with people, but I’m I, I was able to very quickly work out a resolution with my axe, like we didn’t have big issues that we couldn’t work out. So we did it in an uncontested way. And that that part was easy. I would say that, what I take from that is that sometimes you have to, and I tell my clients this all the time, sometimes it’s better to not fight and instead be strategic about how you’re approaching ending this marriage. So I looked at it as a business, here’s the things that we have to separate and how we have to you have to go on with your life in this way. And I have to make sure that both of us have what we need, because that way we’re not fighting. And we did that. And I think that too often people get caught up in the beginning and the fighting about the emotional part. And then it becomes about the emotional part and they can’t get over. Sometimes even very simple issues that could be resolved if they could just dip their mouth a little and get through it. And then if you want to call them out after it’s all done and there’s ink on paper, go crazy.
Suzi: But wait until after the divorce papers are signed, then then you can cuss them out. So prenup or no prenup
Lynda: absolutely prenup now prenups are not prenups are not in you know they’re not something that you can definitely count on. There’s definitely situations where they get broken down down later, but it manages expectations. It creates a creates a dividing line about what happened before the marriage versus what’s happening after. It provides some level of simplicity if you decide to part. And also if you decide to stay together, there’s always that safety and knowing you’re not together because somebody’s going to be able to take advantage of the other. I have an app with my current husband, he had no problem with that, you know, it did not impact the love that we have at all. It was just, you know, let’s let’s be smart about this and do the right thing.
Suzi: What would you say to the client that comes up to you and says, Billy wants me to sign this prenup. But I don’t. I feel like he doesn’t trust me because he wants to sign this prenup. And it’s making our relationship more like a transaction vert. Like versus, like love, right? Like I’ve heard people say this before. So I’m curious, like, what your what your thoughts are on that kind of resistance to prenups.
Lynda: So I get it, I do understand it. It’s kind of an old school thinking. But the reality is that we’re asking a state to say it’s okay for us to live together, even if we already do. So once you involve the law, you have to include the law. So if you don’t want to involve the law, and you don’t want to get married, you don’t have to include the law and how you work out your money. But once you do involve the law, you have to understand that if you separate the law is going to be involved there too. And you want to control how it’s going.
Suzi: So I’m curious, I love like looking at your website, and I’ll have a link to your website in the show notes. So everyone can find you. And I can tell that your your entrepreneurial spirit definitely shines through in so many different ways. What is next for your career and your law practice?
Lynda: So, as I said earlier, I think you know, we’re increasing how much we can do virtually, so that we can provide more convenience to clients, we’ve had a huge boom, like I think most family lawyers post pandemic. And, you know, so we’re just really busy and keeping going in that regard. I do see us having a little bit of growth, perhaps in terms of our staffing, but I never want to be really big, because I like the little family feel that we have. And you know, I’m not young. Eventually I’d like to retire. So you know, I’m trying to groom a practice that can move on with the people that I have working for me that are younger.
Suzi: So what would you want your listeners, the listeners right now, primarily young female lawyers to know about you? You said, I love to encourage young women to be the boss.
Lynda: Oh, yes, absolutely be the boss. And I, you know, I I think that it’s hard to think of yourself in that way. Particularly when you’re young, it was a little easier for me to step into the role because I’d already had a variety of other roles in my life. And I already had a certain self confidence in my ability to do things and achieve things. But I think you have to take ownership and be the boss of your own life, even if you can’t, even if you have to work for someone else. Be the boss of your own career in your own life and, and understand that when you have belief in yourself, other people are going to follow that. Not everybody, but enough people that you’re going to be able to get the job done.
Suzi: Mm. Yeah. So I think you make a really good point that even if you are working for the man, right, or you’re in big law, and you’re and you’re feeling like a cog, you can still be the boss of your career and direct it. You can still surround yourself with like your own board of directors, like kind of your own board of directors or mentors, there’s things that you can do, to sort of exude that leadership.
Lynda: And I will say also, this, there’s absolutely no job worth being harassed or belittled over, no matter how much money you’re getting, it’s never going to be worth it. And I’ve never tolerated that. And if I see it happening to someone else, I’ve seen young women being paraded in the courthouse by other men and I have let them have it. It just you don’t have to tolerate that. It’s just unnecessary. And there’s nothing worth it.
Suzi: There’s nothing worth it. There’s nothing worth your mental health. And I think that you make a really beautiful point here too, is that if you see it happening, stand up for the other stand up for women, right? Take care of them, especially the younger women that are coming out. They’re intimidated, or, you know, they’re stressed. If you’ve had if you have more experience and you see it happening, you know, say something stand up for her. Absolutely. I mean, there’s times I think I’ve had women who have not stood up for me and I’ve had women who have and it makes such a huge difference in the terrain. trajectory of my career and my own self confidence.
Lynda: Right? We have to we have to look out for each other because sometimes that’s that’s the only thing that makes a difference between somebody having six successful life and an unsuccessful and it’s so true.
Suzi: And it can just be one, it could be one thing that could happen that could just completely like devastate someone. Or it could be one thing that you say that can lift them up. Right. And this kind of goes to the the other thing that you stated, I said, What is your must share strategy or piece of advice? And you said, be yourself at all costs?
Lynda: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And by that, I don’t mean your worst self. So you don’t have to have to show up every day and like the job and say, Well, this is the authentic me. Yeah, I mean, your best self, be who you are, and be true to yourself. But also don’t be a jerk. Linda, this has been so much fun.
Suzi: Thank you for hanging out with me today. We will find you.
Lynda: You can find me on the web at Linda hinkle.com LYN Da Hai and Kaylee and also at Kinko law on Facebook and Instagram.
Suzi: This has been fun. Thank you so much.
Lynda: You have a great one. That my friend.
Suzi: Thank you so much for hanging out with us today on legally bliss conversations. If you love this episode, and you want to hang out with other inspiring and light gold female attorneys, be sure to join the legally bliss community at legally blissed.com And be sure to follow me on Instagram at Suzan Hixon. See you next time.
Be Your (Best) Self at all Costs with Lynda Hinkle