Attorney’s certification helps potential clients

A local attorney is in a class all by herself.  

Last month, Connie Thacker, attorney at Grand Rapids-based Thacker Sleight, became the first female family law attorney in Michigan to be certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA), which is accredited by the American Bar Association.

Although the certification bolsters Thacker’s résumé, it is primarily for potential clients to easily identify experienced family law attorneys who have undergone the board certification process that includes an exam, among other criteria.

Thacker has been practicing law for over 20 years at different law firms in the state, and she said it was important for her to become certified because people do not know that not all lawyers try cases.

“(I’ve) tried a number of them, and we think the certification would help the public to understand a little bit better of who we are and that we are certified in that area,” Thacker said. “We’ve gone above and beyond of what general employers would do. So, I think that that’s an important thing to have at our law firm.”

According to Julie Tomasetti, membership director for NBTA, in order to become certified, trial attorneys must have at least five years of legal experience and documentation within the last three years.

“It tells potential clients that we have been vetted by this rigorous subjective standard process of writing samples, (judicial) and peer review recommendations,” Thacker said. “It helps consumers know who have trial experience. Not all of these cases go to trial, but when they do go to trial, you want somebody who knows what they are doing in the courtroom and knows how to handle themselves. So, we are just thrilled that I have been able to get in.”

Thacker and Allison Sleight co-founded Thacker Sleight, a women-owned law firm, nearly two years ago.

They started out with three family law attorneys, but now they have grown to 13 attorneys with offices in Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and Saugatuck. They specialize in complex divorce litigation, parental alienation, business valuation, child custody, domestic violence, mediation, estate planning, business formation and property settlements.

The NBTA certifies lawyers in other specialty areas such as civil trial law, criminal trial law, civil practice law and Social Security disability law. NBTA board certification is a voluntary certification. To keep attorneys up to date, attorneys must recertify once every five years, according to Tomasetti.

According to the NBTA, there are now more than 2,400 lawyers who are certified by the NBTA.

Thacker also is a real estate broker; she and Sleight are co-owners of Esquire Realty LLC. Thacker is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and is the only West Michigan attorney who is designated as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts.

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