It has been a year since Theresa “Traci” Capistrant and Daniel “Dan” Van Loh merged their successful family law practices to form Capistrant Van Loh, P.A., and there is much to celebrate. Despite the pandemic and all its uncertainties, the firm has now welcomed a new associate and is generally thriving. Its success is the result of a mindful approach to both the practice and business of law, an ethos shared by its attorneys and staff and demonstrated time and again in the legal solutions they tailor to individual families.
In addition to courtroom advocacy, the firm offers a full range of ADR services.
A milestone like this one is often a time for reflection on the journey so far and what yet lies ahead. Looking back, Capistrant and Van Loh’s collaboration arose out of their mutual respect that evolved through prior interactions as opposing counsel as well as time spent together training as parenting consultants. They both sought to expand their ADR practices, and an analysis of their combined talents and resources revealed that they could go further together.
Capistrant has focused on family law for more than 30 years, representing clients as a fierce trial advocate and as an effective neutral. She is a Rule 114 qualified neutral and a social early neutral evaluator (SENE) in Anoka, Hennepin, Ramsey, Sherburne, Washington and Wright Counties. Capistrant is also a founding member and emeritus board member of the Cooperative Practice Network of Minnesota. A recipient of many honors, she has been named a Super Lawyer every year since 2002, and she holds a 10 out of 10 rating status through AVVO. She is a contributing member of many professional organizations, including the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC).
Van Loh’s family law experience spans more than 20 years and through time and trial experience gravitated toward conflict resolution. Like Capistrant, Van Loh is a Rule 114 qualified neutral SENE and FENE evaluator in the greater metro counties. Van Loh is a fellow of The Minnesota Chapter of The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and has been a presenter in numerous CLE seminars on both ADR and family law topics. His community contributions extend to board leadership at a multi-campus suburban church, previously teaching as an adjunct trial skills professor at William Mitchell College of Law and currently as adjunct faculty member in the University of St. Thomas School of Law Mentor Externship Program as a faculty mentor. Van Loh is also recognized as a Super Lawyer. Both Capistrant and Van Loh are active in professional consult groups focused on ADR.
When Capistrant and Van Loh began planning their merger in early 2020, the pandemic was not yet a consideration. Theirs was an intentional partnership, based upon a well thought out transition plan informed by third-party advisors and insights gleaned from a psychometric tool designed to analyze their personal and professional compatibility. While the pandemic slowed forward momentum for many, Capistrant and Van Loh chose instead to accelerate their merger.
“There was so much to do,” Van Loh said, “and it worked out well. The merger provided a goal to strive toward during the uncertainty of the pandemic while giving us a sense of accomplishment once the merger was complete.”
“We recognized that we had to proceed with what we were doing,” Capistrant added. “Family law did not take a back seat during the pandemic. In fact, it exploded in many ways with issues like schooling, vaccinations and loss of income. We’ve been running full tilt since we merged.”
One of the things Capistrant and Van Loh set out to do is to create an ADR team made up of well-trained professionals who could answer calls, coordinate sessions between clients and their respective attorneys and generally provide a supportive environment for families. Further, the firm has created a safe atmosphere with multiple conference rooms to accommodate ADR sessions as meetings move from Zoom to in-person.
“Building and developing a quality team has been an important goal which allows us to meet the needs of our litigation clients while focusing our time and attention toward mediations that take up time on our calendars,” Van Loh said. “Traci and I each also have experienced and highly engaging paralegals to service client needs. We share a full-time ADR coordinator to handle scheduling and file management, which frees up paralegals to handle client matters.”
Teamwork and collaboration define every aspect of the practice, whether supporting a client through litigation or an ADR process. Everyone at the firm participates in an Insights Discovery assessment to discover where their strengths lie and how they can be put to highest use.
“We spend a lot of time getting input from the team and their insights about what they’ve seen with clients,” Capistrant said. “We have a business meeting every month to check in and stay on top of things, making sure we’re putting our best foot forward with clients every time they have contact with our office. We also do an annual working retreat to connect and go deeper on these issues.”
The firm has also utilized other assessments to provide the team with a full understanding of their individual strengths and for their own professional development.
In this highly intentional environment, hiring an associate was a thoughtful process. As a law student, Colleen Case clerked for Van Loh and went on to clerk for a Hennepin County Family Court Referee. She shares Capistrant and Van Loh’s client-focused philosophy and was the ideal candidate to help shoulder their busy caseload.
“Culture and relationships are valued here, and so is humor,” said Van Loh. “We identified Colleen as someone who would mesh with our firm culture, align with us as individuals and as a team and the way we work. Colleen is highly competent and has the skills we need, along with the ability to be mentored in our way of client representation.”
Capistrant and Van Loh both have significant experience working in the trenches with families in conflict. “We’d like to say that we’ve learned from this experience not just on how to be better advocates/warriors, but also to take what we’ve learned to be better counselors/advisors on how to avoid or resolve conflict, not merely fight for client positions,” Van Loh said.
According to Capistrant, the sanctioned approach early in her career was a more adversarial one. “My goal now is to help families through a transition in the least offensive way possible. To me, that means not in a courtroom. No matter what, the transition will be hard. But we want to get people through it with as much grace and comfort as we can, while also managing expectations about what that will look like.”
Capistrant and Van Loh strike a fine balance as both advocates and neutrals who bring an empathetic and transformative approach to resolving family conflict inside and outside the courtroom. “I’m driven personally by my faith to make a difference and add value in the lives of those with whom I interact. This can be achieved by providing options for a peaceful resolution to families in conflict or transition.”