Setting a New Benchmark in Family Law
Section: Press Center

Setting a New Benchmark in Family Law

Posted on June 07, 2007 04:05pm

SEATTLE — The attorneys at Seattle-based family law firm McKinley Irvin practice their craft in a completely different way than their peers within Washington State. The result is a dynamic and successful firm that has experienced significant growth over recent years.

According to Sands McKinley, managing partner at McKinley Irvin, the foundation of the firm is built around improving a system that can be very frustrating. For years, he has heard stories about couples and families disappointed by the family law system due to an attorney that is less than professional or by the lack of aggressive advocacy. He knows that this dissatisfaction contributes to a negative stereotype of family law attorneys, and creates disappointment about the fairness of the judicial system.

In contrast, McKinley and his partner and wife of 13 years, Rita Herrera Irvin, have built their firm to defy this unflattering perspective and to create a new benchmark for the practice of family law. Together they have created a rigorous client service philosophy and have hired experienced attorneys with expansive legal knowledge and a deep passion for the law. They have also built an infrastructure with state-of-the-art technology.

Their different way of practicing has sparked a blaze of interest in the firm over the past few years. By the end of 2006, McKinley Irvin grew 40 percent over 2005 to $2.9 million in revenue. With 12 attorneys and more than almost 20 people as support staff, the firm is currently on track to reach $4.2 million in revenue in 2007. McKinley and Irvin recently opened a new headquarters in downtown Seattle and they have expansion plans for other major metropolitan markets over the next few years.

“Since the day we started practicing, we have been dedicated to raising the standard of family law as a sophisticated, complicated and highly unique practice that reflects evolving societal trends," said McKinley. "We set our standards so high that it is not possible to work with us if you do not share this same level of commitment. Through our daily actions, we strive to give our clients a much different experience than the norm."

According to McKinley, the style of how the firm practices appeals to people for a variety of reasons. For one, their clients appreciate the McKinley Irvin attorneys understanding of the high stakes and unique nuances of each family law case, and their commitment to solving the puzzle that each case provides. His colleagues are valued for understanding that family law can be extremely complex and that cases are not often easy to resolve. Each attorney within the firm is dedicated to winning by preparing forward-thinking, strategic, and aggressive representation, and always negotiating from a position of strength.

"My motto is that our people need to be more professional, more prepared and more fearless in how they function for their clients," he added. "We recruit lawyers that lie awake at night thinking about their clients and their cases. We also only hire extremely strong litigators who are excellent in the court room."

To give some perspective, throughout his career McKinley has seen family law attorneys who are ill-prepared when entering into settlement discussions. He has also seen attorneys who fail to provide their clients with full disclosure about the ramifications of their case and many who are not interested in going to court to protect their clients interests. In fact, many attorneys that he and his team go up against are more interested in avoiding trial and going through an arbitration system.

"Because the stakes are high, it is essential to always be ready to go to court at a moments notice to defend our clients interests," he noted. "We are continuously surprised by how many attorneys would rather settle than go to court."

Beyond their unique practice philosophy, other firm success elements include a management structure that is more typical in a standard business than in a law firm (no management by committee) and an organizational structure that promotes excellence in the practice. Only he and Irvin are equity partners, and all business decisions are left to them, leaving the attorneys the luxury of just practicing.

McKinley Irvin is also the largest family firm within the area, which gives the team depth in defending cases. And, attorneys within the firm also have an understanding of all different types of law since often their cases tackle real estate, business, employment, immigration, trusts and estates and bankruptcy issues.

"Today's family law system is much more complex than ever due to the increasing complexity of finances, relationships, globalization, reproductive rights, and the migratory nature of families," noted McKinley. "These changes in societal norms are now issues in family law cases. We are seeing more gay and lesbian family law issues as well as international travel discussions and new perspectives on how families are constructed. It makes our work fascinating."

The McKinley Irvin attorneys handle cases that involve divorce, custody cases, parenting, international family law and other family law matters. The firm handles only complex litigation cases. Family law information is available at


Sands McKinley, managing partner of McKinley Irvin, PLLC.


  • is Washington’s largest law firm focused exclusively on divorce and family law;
  • is highly skilled and experienced at handling complex cases;
  • provides family law services related to divorce, child custody, child support, relocation, non-traditional family relationships, international treaties and other practice areas.
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  • Best Lawyers - Lawyer of the Year 2024
  • Avvo Rating 10.0
  • "My attorney was very good in and out of the courtroom. Always kept me up to date on any issues that came up. " R.R.
  • "We would highly recommend the knowledgeable and dedicated law firm of McKinley Irvin to anyone who might be seeking legal services. " P.M.
  • "I knew I had made the right decision. From the beginning of my case to conclusion, I knew I had a great team looking out for my best interest. " Christine P.
  • "I cannot imagine two people better able to represent me " M.L.
  • "I always felt my specific needs were very well represented and that I could count on David to be a trusted adviser. " T.M.
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