My journey to becoming an attorney was never easy, nor was it what most people would consider typical or ideal. Like so many others who decided to go to law school, I wanted to choose a career where I could genuinely make a difference in people’s lives.
Growing up in a Filipino family, I was (of course) encouraged to become a nurse. I could help others, have a stable job, and still make a difference. However, I always knew that nursing wasn't a career that I wanted to pursue. I was consistently hospitalized when I was younger due to my chronic asthma and have a fear of blood and needles. Hospitals are the last place I want to ever want to step foot in.
I was raised by a single mother and saw everyday how hard she constantly worked in order to send me to private schools in Los Angeles and essentially give me everything she wasn’t able to have in the Philippines. During my childhood, I wondered where my father was, why he never cared to be in our lives, or why, at the very least, he couldn’t assist us financially. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I could not rely on my father in any aspect to be there for my mom and I. That was a fact I easily accepted, because at the end of every day, my mom was I all I needed to be happy and succeed. When you have a generally small family, they are the most important aspect of your life and you would do anything and everything for them. It wasn’t difficult for me to decide that I wanted a career that involved supporting families in every possible way.
Family Law? Are You Sure About That?
When I decided I wanted to pursue family law, I was immediately met with questions and comments such as, “Are you sure about that?” “Family law is so stressful.” However, there is something about family law that sets it apart from different practice areas. You meet clients at the most vulnerable time in their lives and their only recourse is to seek help from the courts. I have worked in various civil litigation firms and assisted on cases with million dollar settlements. Yet no matter how much money we were able to obtain for a client, at the end of the day, it always came down to a single paycheck. Family law is real, personal, and at times messy, but you have the opportunity to help clients who truly need legal advice and change their lives for the better.
As much as I studied during Bar exam prep and so wanted to be “One and Done,” I struggled with passing the Bar. There were times where I questioned whether I made the right career choice. However, I was raised to never give up on my goals, chose to be resilient during times of trial and adversity and constantly reminded myself of why I decided to go to law school in the first place and certain events during my family law internship.
For the first two years of law school, I interned for the San Diego Volunteer Law Project dealing specifically with child custody and domestic violence cases. I spent at least three days a week at the Family Law Courthouse and assisted those who could not afford an attorney and other legal services. I witnessed first-hand how so many people were overwhelmed by the legal system and only wanted to find stability and peace in their lives. Each person I met had a different story and not one day during my internship was the same. I was determined to do anything I possibly could to help those who were experiencing the most trying and difficult times in their lives, whether it was simply assisting in completing confusing forms or drafting declarations that fully articulated how they felt, the unfortunate events that families and children had to endure, and what they wanted from the court.
Changing Lives for the Better
I will never forget one particular client who made a significant impact on my decision to practice family law. One client was faced with father’s move-away request to Mexico, and wanted to ensure that her child would stay in California, and safe from an abusive father. I spent an entire morning just speaking with her and getting all of the facts of her case to draft her declaration. The court ultimately denied the move-away request and the child would remain in California with her mother. I continued to see our client in the courthouse throughout the year due to modifications of custody and support, and every time I saw her the following year, she remembered me and thanked me for helping her. Every time, without fail, she was genuinely grateful for what we had done for her and her family; and for that, I could not have imagined a better position to be in.
Working at Holstrom, Block and Parke as a Custody Queens attorney gave me the opportunity to work with and learn from the best, most knowledgeable, and empathetic family law attorneys. The attorneys always plan multiple steps ahead of a case, consider every possible outcome, and are blatantly honest with clients during a time when they need it the most. From my first interview with Kristen Hostrom to simply being in the office, it is abundantly clear how passionate each attorney is about their clients and how they genuinely want the best outcome for their families.
I recently observed my fellow attorney Samantha McBride in court for a contentious custody case that involved a father’s false allegations of child alienation against her out-of-state client. Sam zealously advocated for her client, thoroughly explained the parties’ prior history of co-parenting without a court order, and utilized her extensive knowledge of the law and Family Code to show that it was in the child’s best interest to remain with her client out of state. At the end of a multi-day evidentiary hearing, the court ruled in Sam’s client’s favor, awarding her primary physical custody of the child. We walked out of the courtroom and I was fortunate to witness tears of joy and the abundance of gratitude Sam’s client had for her. At that moment, I immediately thought back to my experience as a legal intern in San Diego and felt privileged to have seen Sam attain the best outcome for her client.
Needless to say, working at HBP, especially with both Kristen and Samantha, solidified my decision to practice family law. I’m extremely grateful and fortunate to be working with a group of people who sincerely care about all of their clients and tirelessly work day in and day out to get the best possible outcome for their families.
About the Author
Custody Queens attorney Melannie Suba was admitted to practice law in California on July 14, 2020. She received a Juris Doctorate from Thomas Jefferson Law School in San Diego, and takes pride in delivering accessible legal services to clients, and has experience working on cases involving child custody, divorce, and domestic violence restraining orders.