John Parker, Kimberly Bryan, Amy Britt, and Dave Holm practiced together for many years in the family law section of another Raleigh law firm. Brent Tanner joined them in 2018, expanding the firm’s services to include military family law. In January 2019, the family law section formed Parker Bryan Family Law and opened two other offices in addition to the Raleigh headquarters. Stephanie Jenkins joined the firm in April 2020, and the now nine-lawyer firm has a statewide practice with offices in Raleigh, Holly Springs, Fayetteville, and Morehead City.
John Hill Parker laid the firm’s foundation, and he retired at the end of 2018 after serving as a district court judge and practicing law for 50 years. “He practiced always with professionalism, ethics, and great empathy in a way I think we all strive to emulate,” said Britt.
“I’m a huge fan of Marvel Comics,” Tanner says. “Our approach to building the Parker Bryan team is similar to the concept of the Avengers; curating a select group of people, each with a particular skill-set, with a goal to achieve more than any one individual can accomplish alone.”
“Oooh…I want to be Hawkeye. I can shoot arrows,” interrupted Bryan to peals of laughter.
“Each of us has specific strengths,” added Tanner. “There isn’t anything this firm can’t handle.”
“We’re able to rely upon our many years of collective experience, ” said Jenkins. “The longer you’ve practiced, the more issues you’ve tackled and the more you’re willing to look to alternatives. When faced with almost any scenario, we have someone within our circle who has handled a similar case, and we call on each other.”
Combined, Parker Bryan’s nine attorneys have over 150 years of experience which, pandemic or no pandemic, they leverage to find solutions.
IN THE TIME OF COVID
“Everyone is more stressed now than before the pandemic,” said partner Amy Britt. “I have seen the same personality traits that led families into litigation before the pandemic recur, exaggerate or be triggered by the stress of COVID.”
“For example, normally, parents are choosing between public schools and private schools, and these choices can bring on conflict and disagreement between parents. Today, add home schooling to those choices, plus virtual academies where kids are on the computer full-time or in-school instruction on a rotating schedule, and it has made the dilemma of school choice even more difficult which creates conflict and disagreement between parents when there was not conflict before,” said Holm.
“Pre-COVID, we would file a motion saying, ‘Mom or Dad lost their job’ and we could get into court to hear the matter within a few months. Things are significantly backlogged now so we’re utilizing more mediation and negotiation along with arbitration in order to get disputes resolved,” explained Jenkins.
Now, we can’t predict when a case will be heard. The courts have closed for most in-person hearings, then opened back up a few times already. Many hearings are being held via a virtual platform with a limited number of exhibits. Now, more than ever, we must try to resolve matters outside of the court system,” said Holm, “and if despite our efforts a courtroom resolution is necessary, we are encouraging arbitration, or we must be patient.”
When it comes to client relationships, Parker Bryan is finding workarounds.
“We are now meeting clients for the first time virtually, where-as before Covid, our meetings were usually in person. It’s easier to gain a sense of the emotion and genuineness of a person’s situation during an in-person meeting. Connecting via virtual platforms makes authentic human interaction more challenging,” said Jenkins.
Kimberly Bryan chimed in saying “We’ve realized that we must communicate effectively with words since expressions are masked. Clients are going through the emotional wringer. I like to give my clients a hug or hold their hand or offer some kind of touch or gesture. I miss that connection, and I believe our clients do too.”
As our interview wrapped up, Tanner headed out to meet a client at a local park trying to keep the human connection intact.
Bryan’s practice includes all areas of family law with an emphasis on complex financial matters, premarital agreements, and child custody issues.
“It’s a privilege to practice during these auspicious times,” says Bryan, “Couples are facing the realization that they don’t share similar philosophies, personally or politically. Add a marital separation and in this political and social environment those differences are seeping out. It’s a very heady time and there is a lot of guidance we are able to offer to families.”
Bryan is an Adjunct Professor at Campbell University School of Law teaching family law. She is a fellow with the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and one of only a few lawyers in North Carolina certified by the Academy as a Family Law Arbitrator. Bryan is also a NC State Bar Board Certified Specialist in Family Law, certified by the NC Dispute Resolution Center as a Family Financial Mediator and is qualified to serve as a court-appointed parenting coordinator.
Britt’s practice encompasses all areas of family law, including separation, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, property distribution, domestic violence, premarital and separation agreements, and qualified domestic relations orders.
“Every divorce, every fact pattern, and every family is unique and will define a workable resolution differently. Often, the emotions of a separation or divorce make our clients unable to see it as a business transaction. I try to pause to allow them to have those emotions first then refocus to tend to the business of it,” said Britt.
She is a NC State Bar Board Certified Specialist in Family Law, certified by the NC Dispute Resolution Center as a Family Financial Mediator and qualified to serve as a court-appointed parenting coordinator. She currently serves as a council member of the Family Law Section of the NC Bar Association and is the Chair of the Continuing Legal Education Committee.
Holm’s areas of practice include premarital agreements, separation agreements, absolute divorce, child custody, child support, and alimony. Dave’s sweet spot is Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs), of which he has drafted over 250 for his own clients, and on behalf of clients represented by firms across the state.
“Retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and pensions can be divided in separation cases with QDROs. I try to get involved before settlement documents are signed and use my experience to make sure those I am assisting, know what the options are and what can and cannot be done.”
Holm will serve as President of the Wake County Bar Association in 2021. He is a NC State Bar Board Certified Specialist in Family Law, and a past chair of the NC Bar Association Family Law Section.
Jenkins’ practice focuses on matters including custody, child support, spousal support, complex equitable distribution, and domestic violence issues.
“Our clients are dealing with probably one of the worst, if not the worst time in their lives. They’re scared because they’re dealing with things that matter to them the most. They’re dealing with their family, their kids, and they’re scared about their financial future. We are dealing with people whose confidence is very frequently shattered for lots of reasons, and they need us to be there to let them know that we support them, and we believe in them.”
Jenkins’ main practice focus is family law; however; she was a prosecutor on Wake County’s Dangerous Offenders Task Force, prosecuting defendants with the worst records for violent felonies. Her criminal background bolsters the firm’s ability to represent clients in family law criminal matters.
The catalyst for Tanner’s pursuit of law stems from his childhood. “I wanted to make my family proud and figured if anybody was going to carry the baton, it had to be me. Growing up in a rural Cumberland County trailer park instilled the need for self-reliance, and the knowledge that persistent hard work was the key to my success. ”
The bulk of Brent’s clients are members of the military, navigating divorce and co-parenting, often from different states or countries. “The military niche requires a deep understanding of the ever-evolving dynamics between federal and state law. Cases involving service members often involve a myriad of international components and complex military law.
Tanner is a NC State Bar Board Certified Specialist in Family Law, certified by the NC Dispute Resolution Center as a Family Financial Mediator and qualified to serve as a court-appointed parenting coordinator. Brent currently serves as chair of the Military Committee of the American Bar Association (ABA) Family Law Section, and an Editorial Board Member for the ABA’s Family Advocate magazine.