Growing up, Stephanie O’Brien loved to argue. So much so, in fact, that her parents always joked that she should argue for a living. Fast-forward to the present and O’Brien followed that love for debate. Not only did she decide to become an attorney, she became a stand-out litigator for both her top-notch skills and her decidedly unique career path.
Today, O’Brien is an associate with Fillmore Spencer LLC, offering a rare perspective to clients because of her dual practice in estate planning and probate litigation.
A Dual Practice Focus
“What sets me apart? Unlike many attorneys in this practice I offer estate planning and I handle probate litigation,” O’Brien said. “I’ve taken estate cases to trial and obtained favorable verdicts for my clients. In addition to my estate planning practice, I litigate contested probate matters. By working on both sides of the estate planning spectrum – from transactional matters to litigation – I have a unique perspective and insight into managing each side. I believe the structure of my practice gives me and my clients an edge – both in the way I draft my estate planning documents and in the way I litigate probate matters.”
According to O’Brien she enjoys working in both areas – finding the mix rewarding and engaging.
“I love that I can deal with the transactional side and can emotionally help people, while on the flip side have the opportunity to fight for my clients in court,” she said.
The Client Experience
While she enjoys the thrill of stepping into a courtroom on behalf of her client, O’Brien acknowledges that the current legal landscape often leads her in the opposite direction. O’Brien shares that an attorney in the modern day legal arena has done their best work when they are able to reach a favorable settlement for their client. By doing so, they will help them avoid the emotional and financial costs that accompany litigation.
With that goal in mind, O’Brien strives to bring her client’s cases to resolution before taking that next step. When litigation is the best course for her client, however, O’Brien is prepared to take that path. When that necessity arises, O’Brien finds ways to lessen the stress of the litigation experience for her clients and make it as positive of an experience as she can.
“I receive an immense amount of joy and professional satisfaction through my work,” she said. “Even in the midst of legal battles, there are moments where you are able to make a positive difference in the lives of your clients and their family members.”
In a recent case, O’Brien was appointed the attorney in a guardianship matter involving a young woman with mental delays. At the time, the woman was in her early 20s. When O’Brien first met the client at her office, she discovered that the young woman had a deep love for all things criminal justice on TV. While she was nervous to be going to court, O’Brien shares that the young woman was elated to be able to see a courtroom in action with her own eyes.
“I contacted the court clerk ahead of time and asked if we could be called as the last matter on the rolling calendar on the day of the hearing,” O’Brien said. “I also requested that the presiding judge allow us to sit my client on the stand to be sworn in. I wanted her to experience the courtroom on all its levels.
“To the credit of Judge Brady, who is known to be very professional and caring under special circumstances, the court granted our request,” O’Brien continued. “We were able to make that afternoon a memorable and positive experience for that special client of mine.”
The Road to Success
To those who know her, O’Brien’s push to go above and beyond for her clients and her practice is no surprise.
While studying at the University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law, O’Brien accepted a position in the state Attorney General’s Office as a law clerk. There, under the direction of Assistant Attorney General Paul Amann, she participated in revising a portion of the Utah Code. These changes increased protection for Utah’s children.
Following her clerkship, she practiced law at a boutique firm in Las Vegas. It was here that O’Brien solidified her focus on estate planning and probate litigation.
In 2009, O’Brien was invited to join the team at Filmore Spencer LLC as an associate attorney, bringing her back to Utah. In this full service firm, O’Brien is able to offer her clients a more comprehensive legal team.
Behind the Scenes
When O’Brien isn’t working, she is filling her time with her two young children, ages 3 and 6. For a litigator, finding work-life balance is always difficult, but O’Brien made it a priority. In order to be an involved mother and a full-time attorney, O’Brien and the team at Fillmore Spencer structured a schedule that allows her to be home twice a week when her oldest arrives home from school.
When the kids are tucked into bed, O’Brien can pass her evenings reviewing estate planning drafts.
She and her husband, Robert, enjoy spending time with the kids – playing in the backyard, sledding, cooking and movie going.
“As a working mom, I constantly strive for work life balance,” she said. “I firmly believe that the firms, like Fillmore Spencer, that accommodate the needs and schedules of a working mother will receive back committed and loyal employees.”
As for her guilty pleasure?
“Korean dramas,” she said. “I’m currently studying the Korean language as I prepare for a trip to Seoul.”