Family law is one of the most difficult areas of law to specialize in. Often very tedious and quite emotional, it takes a strong person to stand by your side in the court of law. Joan Malbrough has helped families during their most difficult times for over 25 years.
After graduating from Mississippi College School of Law in 1992, Joan returned to Houma, where she was born and raised. She began her law career with the personal injury firm of St. Martin and Mahoney. After being laid off a year later, she started her own firm, Joan Malbrough, Attorney at Law, in 1993. The firm has been through several name changes over the years and a few partnerships, growing into the firm it is today: Joan Malbrough and Associates.
Even though Joan began her career in the area of personal injury, it was family law that found her.
“As a solo practitioner, fairly young and right out of law school, you don’t get a lot of personal injury cases,” recalls Joan. “Early on I stared getting referrals for family law cases from friends and family, other lawyers I knew, judges and even mental health professionals. There weren’t a lot of family law professionals in Houma at the time and it just kind of became the primary focus for what I do. I have done thousands of family law cases over the years, which include divorces, child custody cases, community property cases, and adoptions. I tried a lot of cases and I was winning a lot of cases. I built a reputation for handling the cases very well, and in turn, I got more referrals.”
Her private practice continued to grow and Joan started adding associates. At one time, Joan had three associates in the firm. She soon discovered that she preferred being in the courtroom versus in the office, managing people, so as her associates starting retiring or moving on, Joan took the opportunity to downsize.
Currently at Joan Malbrough and Associates, you can find Joan and Estelle Mahoney. Both Joan and Estelle specialize in the area of family law. They do a few crisis interventions and cases involving the state when children are removed from their homes.
Continuing education is very important to Joan and her staff. She usually attends either the Loyola Family Law Conference or the LSU Family Law Conference. She also takes other classes to further her education, including classes on DWI, drug testing, traffic stops, various criminal issues, and family law seminars.
The firm maintains the feeling of a small, very hands-on, family oriented type of business. “Family law is very labor intensive, so we do have a lot of staff here,” explained Joan. “We have competent people in place so that when a client calls, we can take care of their issue immediately.”
Joan and her staff are very civic minded, doing volunteer work in the community. “We try to give back to the community that has been good to us,” says Joan.
She herself has been a member of the Kiwanis Club of Houma for 20 years and the Terrebonne Bar Association. She has served in leadership roles in both organizations multiple times.
Joan also served Terrebonne Parish as a public defender for four years, from 1994-98, handling all the felony cases for Division A. This position created a heavy workload for Joan, and as her private practice got busy, she was forced to give up the position.
One of Joan’s proudest service achievements was being appointed by Justice John Weimer to a statewide committee of family law professionals who drafted a set of uniform rules for family courts throughout the state. The committee lasted seven years and drafted a set of uniform rules that are now published.
Joan recognizes that she is in a field of law that others often pass on. It can be heartbreaking to see families torn apart, but for Joan, it’s the positive moments that keep her going.
“I’ve seen some terrible things, but I’ve seen some wonderful things too,” smiles Joan. “I know that some of the work that I have done has profoundly impacted the lives of children in a good way.”
With family law, you also see the results of your hard work almost immediately. From the time she files a case, she is in and out of court quickly.
“A lot of people do burn out on family law,” explains Joan. “It is grueling. You are in court all the time. You could have three court appearances a week, sometimes more. In the last five years, I have tried 76 cases from start to finish. That’s not including the cases that settle. We only try about 10 percent. Most of the time we settle before the judge takes the bench.”
“I love what I do; I love the law, it still intrigues me,” says Joan. “My husband retired recently, and I think about what I would do all day if I would retire, so I know I’m not ready to leave the courtroom any time soon.” •