Zatopa&Stephens : Our Philosophy
Zatopa & Siegel, Attorneys at Law

A Philosophy of Cooperation and Respect
Michael Zatopa and Ellen Stephens have been providing legal services to families of special needs children, adoptive parents, and the private organizations and individuals who serve them for over 40 years combined.

While no legal professional can guarantee that the problem a family or business is facing will be solved, our firm has, in 80-85% of our accepted cases, obtained much or all of the desired result. For our family clients, we have been able to obtain much of the services, or a significant portion of the reimbursement for services, sought by our clients. For our corporate clients, we are usually able to provide legal counseling that will prevent adverse legal consequences to our clients. 

Our firm has developed over the years, a clear philosophy regarding legal services to our clients. We recognize that most seeking our help have concerns about legal costs and do not want to engage in legal warfare, but to obtain a particular result for the child as quickly and economically as possible. Our firm recognizes that because the "opposition" in almost all of our cases is government, there are several realities that must be recognized in obtaining the results our clients' seek. By recognizing the following realities we have been able to more efficiently and effectively meet the needs of our clients:

  • The financial ability of government agencies to engage in legal action is vastly superior to that of our clients, creating a large imbalance in bargaining position.
  • Because of strong political disagreements in our society about the role of government in paying for social services, there is a radical gap between legal mandates placed on public agencies and the tax dollars allocated by politicians to fund legal mandates for services.
  • Our firm does not see the government or its representatives as the enemy. We try to work with public employees to enforce legal rights and services to which our clients are entitled and work forcefully and cooperatively if a dispute arises.
  • Our firm leaves the "blame game" to others. It serves no purpose and more importantly deflects our focus away from what is most important to you: the results you seek.
  • While we are staunch advocates for our clients, we recognize that the tone and manner of that advocacy can be as important as the substance of what we seek. Emotions and personality can stand in the way of settling a legal conflict. We have a track record of resolving disputes through settlement, not litigation. By focusing on the legal issues of the case, we are able to defuse the emotional and personality factors that harm rather than help our clients.
  • We do recognize that there are times when litigation or the credible threat of litigation is the only way to enforce our clients’ legal rights. While we will litigate if necessary, our job is to obtain the result with as little of your resources as possible.
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