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LOVE & MARRIAGE

Eric & Michelle Ludwig, Founders of Ludwig Law Center, Inc., Have Earned a Well-Deserved Reputation as the Small But Mighty Family Law Firm Renowned for Handling Complex Litigation

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"Family Law is probably the most diverse and complicated field of law to practice. In the family law field, we cover finances, including complicated accountings, stock options, valuations of portfolios, business disputes, partnership disagreements, fiduciary breaches, real property disputes, heartwrenching child custody/visitation and domestic violence matters. Additionally, we deal with child support, spousal support, and financial reports from employers,” says Michelle Ludwig, Attorney and Co-Founder of Ludwig Law Center, Inc.
“The law we deal in covers contracts, torts, real property, corporations, community property, trusts/wills, criminal crossovers, procedural issues, and discovery disputes. Each family law case presents like a bar exam question, encompassing many issues at once,” adds Eric Ludwig, Founding Partner and Senior Trial Attorney at Ludwig Law Center, Inc. Fortunately, the diversity of the issues within their primary practice of family law is something both partners relish. In fact, it has allowed Eric and Michelle to venture into also handling business disputes, in addition to serving as a corporate counsel to small businesses such as a local electric company, a construction company, and a not-so-small finance company.
But make no mistake, Eric and Michelle have worked tirelessly to earn their outstanding reputation, which has resulted in an entirely referral-based practice. “We haven’t paid for advertising in many years,” says Michelle. “Our clients are either referred from other clients, or from other lawyers. Sometimes we are hired as co-counsel to litigate a case, and other times the case is extremely difficult and is referred to us because our niche is complex litigation in the family law arena,” she adds.
Suffice to say, Eric and Michelle don’t shy away from a challenge. Their perseverance, dedication, and ability to help clients through the worst and most complicated period of their lives, is frankly a result of their own experiences with overcoming obstacles, and coming through them not only unscathed, but on top.

17aTAKING THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED TO THE TOP
Michelle is candid when she admits that the odds were stacked against her and Eric not only making it as revered attorneys, but remaining married for 28 years and counting. “We were married at age 19 and 20, respectively,” she says. All the same, Eric recalls, “My mother used to say ‘you want to argue every issue, you would make a great attorney.’ But as the child of divorced parents I thought being a lawyer was only a dream. My father was a barber and my mother worked in an office during my childhood. I didn’t come from financial privilege, but I was always told I could accomplish anything I set my mind to.” Eric would go on to be the first member of his family to graduate from college.
Michelle grew up in a house with both parents, however her family suffered a tragedy that most people can’t even imagine. When Michelle was just 12 years old, her 15-yearold sister Kerry Patterson was kidnapped and ultimately found murdered in Fullerton. “The police didn’t really investigate her disappearance. Because of her age and the lack of evidence of any foul play, she was quickly labeled a runaway. Six months after she disappeared, my mother saw a tiny article in the paper about human remains found in Tonner Canyon, which is behind the Brea Mall. My mom immediately contacted the Coroner’s office, and dental records subsequently identified them as belonging to my sister. She was abducted while coming home from an ice cream shop about a mile from our house.”
The case remains unsolved to this day, and not surprisingly, Michelle says that the devastating experience was a huge factor in her decision to pursue a career in law. Her desire to seek justice for others was reinforced by the fact that her late father, Paul S. Patterson, was an attorney and former Judge Pro Tem in the Norwalk Courthouse. “I worked in his office starting at age 16. He was heavily involved in the Southeast Bar Association, and I grew up surrounded by other attorneys and judges. Whenever I could, I went and watched him in court and hung out in the Judge’s chambers,” she says.
Although Michelle and Eric came from seemingly opposite backgrounds, the two connected instantly as teenagers. “I was kind of the snooty girl, and he had an earring,” Michelle recalls with a laugh. The two began their life together with Eric joining the Air Force, and soon after marrying the two moved to Denver, and started a family. After four years, they returned to their native Orange County, and struggled to support their growing family.

18a

With two young daughters to support, Eric took a job cleaning pools while attending Cal Poly, and Michelle went to work with her father, who trained her to be a legal secretary. Eric was then accepted into law school at Western State University School of Law, while Michelle took classes at night to finish her undergraduate studies. When Eric finished law school, the couple had their third daughter, and Michelle went on to earn her law degree by attending law school at the University of La Verne at night.
“The struggles of working full-time, raising children and making it through college and law school for both of us was a severe hardship and often times, a seemingly unattainable goal. However, when family and friends said to ‘quit and just try something else,’ it just made us stronger and more desirous of achieving our goals. Throughout our marriage, both of us have set goals, and each time we have set a goal we have achieved that goal. There is nothing we can’t do, so long as we stay committed and focused on completing the task. We have applied the same diligence and focus we utilized to become attorneys to commit as partners in our law firm and in our lives,” Michelle says.

TWO MINDS ARE BETTER THAN ONE
After Eric was licensed to practice in 1999, he hit the ground running, earning referrals galore for civil and family law cases from criminal law attorneys he had clerked for, along with referrals from his father-in-law, who was primarily a family law attorney. His business grew so rapidly that Michelle, who had been working as a legal secretary for powerhouse Personal Injury attorney Herbert Hafif, came in to manage and support Eric’s thriving practice while she finished law school. By the time Michelle was admitted to the Bar in 2002, Eric had earned a reputation as a wildly talented trial lawyer in the family law courts, and Michelle’s 12 years of experience as a legal secretary and paralegal and being a staff writer for her law school’s law review, had given her unrivaled writing skills, and an understanding of the practice of law, she never would have gained through law school alone.
“Eric’s personality allowed him to become an immediate fixture in the family and civil communities. We had both previously worked for a civil litigator who was extremely financially successful in law. As the result, we both knew that neither of us wanted to continue to make someone else money, and watch them enjoy the fruits of our hard work,” says Eric. By contrast, “When you own your own firm, you get to make the decisions about what is best for the firm, the lawyers and the clients. Neither of us has to consult our partners or bosses to ask if this is how they want us to handle something; the freedom to decide how a case plan should be structured and implemented is ours.” Thus Ludwig Law Center, Inc. was born and neither Michelle nor Eric has ever looked back.
“We work very well together and it is recognized by our clients. Eric is known for intense passion for the practice of law, and his ability to stay focused during trial conflict and controversy. His ability to see the issue, when others would be flailing about is a trait that cannot be taught, but is something that every good trial lawyer is born with,” Michelle says.

19For her part, “Michelle is great at writing and dealing with clients who truly believe the sky is falling. She is able to educate the clients on the law, and help them realize their rights and what to expect during the phases of a dissolution of marriage, custody battle, or other type of case,” Eric says.
As a team, Eric and Michelle decide which cases the firm takes, and the variety of cases keeps the work interesting for both attorneys. “We have had clients who borrow money from family to pay us, to clients with multi-million dollar estates. Most of our cases involve intense litigation where the parties are fighting over the value of their family business, the cash flow derived from the business—which often times involve a forensic account to assist us with sorting through the business assets and liabilities— as well as, perks received by the owners which are hidden in the business expenses,” Eric explains. “We also find ourselves litigating child custody matters, move away cases and domestic violence. This often involves the appointment of a child psychologist, who evaluates the family and makes recommendations to the court.”
Of course, many of the clients that come to Eric and Michelle have never had experience with an attorney, so the responsibility of educating the client on what to expect is not something the attorneys take lightly. “The mission of Ludwig Law Center, Inc. is to offer our clients complete access to attorneys to answer all of their questions and guide them to a favorable outcome during a very difficult time in their lives,” says Michelle. “When clients come to see us, they don’t know what to expect, or they have had a bad experience with other lawyers or firms. We hear from some that they were never able to speak to their prior attorney; it was always a law clerk or a paralegal they had to talk to, and in some cases, an associate attorney whom they never met would appear for them in court,” she says.
Eric confirms, “Our business model is completely different. We focus on ensuring that our clients have complete access to us. If they have a question I will answer it or Michelle will answer it. When they hire our firm to represent them, they know from the start to the end that Michelle and I will be handling their issues, and not a non-attorney law clerk.”
Continuing he says, “We are experienced and dedicated litigators. We do not understand the words ‘failure’ or ‘second best.’ We are prepared and ready for each and every case. All of our clients have complete access to us.” Though Eric admits giving such access to clients can be draining, it’s always been worth it. “In the end our clients always say ‘thank you’ by sending their friends and family our way.”

SMALL FIRM MAKING A BIG DIFFERENCE
Referrals flood Ludwig Law Center on account of Michelle and Eric’s skill, and they often come from seeming adversaries. By way of example, Michelle recalls a recent case where the court-appointed psychologist made recommendations against the Ludwigs’ client. “Eric fought against the recommendations and after two days of intense cross-examination of the expert psychologist, he completed his examination. The expert recently contacted our office via email asking for our business cards because she was so impressed by how prepared Eric was, and his tremendous courtroom skills that she wanted to refer her clinical clients who needed representation in their divorce to our office,” Michelle says.
In another case, “We worked with a single mother who lived out of state with her daughter, who suffered from a disability. The parties had been in court for nearly ten years. The mother had been bullied by the father and his lawyer for several years. Our client was backed up against a wall as the psychologist who had conducted the two prior Evidence Code §730 evaluations made a recommendation to have the child move back from the state she had been living in for the 3 years preceding the hearing, to live primarily with her father in California. The trial went on for approximately 10 days. We discredited the court’s expert on cross-examination and then hired our own expert to focus directly on the regression and maladaptive behaviors of a child with the disability this child had, that may result from the move and change in the child’s environment. In the end, the trial court agreed that it was in the best interest of the child to remain with the mother. Our client finally got justice and peace of mind, and has not been bullied since,” Michelle says with a smile.
Clearly, when justice matters, Michelle and Eric are ready to do whatever it takes for their client. “We’re not afraid to litigate. We do not believe in rolling over just because the recommendation is against our client’s desires. Instead we believe everyone is entitled to their day in court; if our client does not want to settle, we do not force them to, instead we prepare and engage in a fight for our clients’ best interest, and the best interest of their children,” says Eric.

A PARTNERSHIP BUILT TO STAND THE TEST OF TIME
Although the bulk of Michelle and Eric’s case load revolves around these types of complex family law matters, they are willing to take on select business cases for past clients or on a referral basis from existing or previous clients. “We serve as a sort of in-house counsel to a few small businesses, who were referred to us by other clients, or who we helped with a family law matter in the past,” Michelle says. “We enjoy the variety. The business of family law, and the civil litigation we do, does not necessarily always end in an enormous financial windfall, rather it ends with the satisfaction that justice was served and our clients got their day in court,” she says.
As parents of four, and now grandparents of three, Michelle and Eric couldn’t be happier with the way their partnership— both professionally and personally— has evolved over the past three decades, in spite of the seemingly impossible odds they faced. “Our success rate is extremely high. We each have unique and complementary strengths. We love what we do, and the firm we’ve built is grounded in the principles we’ve always applied to our career and our marriage,” Michelle says.
Obviously, the busy attorneys and firm partners don’t always have a lot of spare time. Michelle acknowledges, “Now that most of our children are older, we would love to be able to travel more, so we have considered bringing on another attorney, but it’s never been in our business model. So we will have to see what the future holds.” Michelle’s ultimate goal, she states, is to become a Judge some day. “In the meantime, we love watching our 11-year-old son play sports, and we love spending time with our adult children and grandchildren… and we still make sure to schedule date night, and also watch the Broncos games every week,” she says with a smile.

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Eric S. Ludwig, Esq. , J.D., Esq.

EDUCATION

  • Undergrad: Cal Poly Pomona (Major: Real Estate, Finance & Law), Pomona, CA
  • Law School: Western State University School of Law, Fullerton, CA

MEMBER

  • Orange County Bar Association
  • Family Law Division
  • United District Court
  • Central District of California
  • Northern District of California
  • Supreme Court of California
  • American Bar Association

Michelle P. Ludwig, J.D..

EDUCATION

  • Undergrad: University of LaVerne, LaVerne, CA (Major: Criminology)
  • Law School: University of LaVerne, Ontario, CA (1999-2002); Law Review Senior Staff
  • Writer, Board of Editors (2000-2002)

AWARDS

  • Recipient: American Jurisprudence Award – Wills & Trusts

MEMBER

  • Orange County Bar Association
  • Family Law Division
  • United District Court
  • Central District of California
  • Supreme Court of California
  • National Association of Professional Women.

Contact:
Eric & Michelle Ludwig Ludwig Law Center, Inc.
505 S. Villa Real Drive, Suite 213
Anaheim Hills, CA 92807
www.ludwiglawcenter.com
Email: LudwigLawCenter@hotmail.com
Office: 714-283-1023

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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