Brandi Crozier | Insider Tips for Guiding Your Client Through the Discovery Process

Today, we’re excited to welcome Brandi Crozier to the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast. Brandi is an accomplished attorney and mediator with over 10 years of experience representing clients in all aspects of family law matters, and has mediated over 200 cases in her career. ​​She joined The Draper Law Firm in 2017 and was named partner in January of 2020.

Brandi says, “I like to approach the discovery process in a ‘help me help you manner,’ making things both easier and less costly for the client.” We sit down with Brandi today to talk about working with clients through the initial disclosures and discovery process, as well as:

  • One piece of advice to master the new discovery rules in the shortest time
  • Setting realistic expectations with your client
  • Detailed strategies to organizing the document gathering process
  • The KISS principle to empower your client for a deposition
  • And much more…

Mentioned in this episode:


Brandi Crozier: When you’re being deposed you want to pay attention as the client and very, you want to listen closely to what is being asked and not give a response to more than what is being asked of you.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast, your source for the latest news and trends in family law in the state of Texas. Now, here’s your host attorney Holly Draper.

Holly Draper: Today I’m very excited to welcome Brandi Crozier who happens to be a partner at the Draper Law Firm as our guest on Texas Family Law Insiders podcast. Brandi is an accomplished attorney and mediator with over a decade of experience. She represents clients in all types of complex family law litigation matters, and she also represents clients in the collaborative process. She enjoys mediating family law cases and has mediated over 200 cases in her career.

Brandi also handles family law appeals and she was instrumental an instrumental part of the legal team for the CJC case. She’s active in the local bar associations and family law sections in Collin County, Dallas County and Denton County. Brandi is well respected by her peers, having been named as a rising star by Super Lawyers in 2020, and 2021. And having recently been listed on the ones to watch list by America’s Best Attorneys. Outside of the office, Brandi enjoys making lasagnas for the nonprofit Lasagna Love. And she volunteers her time to run a beeping easter egg hunt for visually impaired children. Thank you so much for hopping on today.

Brandi: Hey, thanks for having me.

Holly: So why don’t you just tell us a little bit about your background?

Brandi: Well, I’m an attorney. So I did not grow up in Texas. But I got here as fast as I could. That’s what I tell people anyway. And I am actually from Nebraska. I went to law school in Ohio. And then my career initially began in the oil and gas industry and has transitioned to family law practice. Because once the company I was working for they went through a reorganization, I had the opportunity to kind of reevaluate and say, what do I really like doing. And when I was in law school, my job was a mediator for the family court systems there. And so I decided to make the change to go to family law. And I haven’t looked back since.

Holly: I’m glad you made that change personally.

Brandi: Me too. Me too.

Holly: So how would you describe your current practice?

Brandi: I would say it’s very diverse. And I like that I we have the opportunity to represent clients with at the Draper Firm that are going through your standard divorce, custody modifications, adoptions. We have appeals that we handle. I also have been doing several collaborative cases recently, which are interesting, and it’s been a lot of fun to do. I also think that our practice right now is growing, which is great. We’re doing a lot of diverse cases. And I think it’s an exciting time to be at the Draper Firm.

Holly: So today, we’re here to talk about one of every family lawyer’s favorite topics, which is discovery, and specifically working with clients through the discovery process, kind of a help me help you situation and how to get those clients to make their lives easier and make attorneys’ lives easier. So it can cost less and go more smoothly.

Brandi: I think you should cue the groan music now.

Holly: That’s what I need to add to the podcast I need to get a soundboard that has sound effects like that.

Brandi: Maybe Maybe.

Holly: Okay, so everybody by now should know. As of January 1, we now have implemented in the Rules of Civil Procedure, this initial disclosures process. So can you kind of talk about how you work with clients on that and whether you’re even doing initial disclosures very much?

Brandi: Sure. I will say as we get before we get going on this. I encourage everyone if you haven’t done this already, to get your hands on Judge Emily Miskel’s paper from advanced Family Law 2021. That just happened. And her she did an excellent paper on the initial disclosures. So there’s a plethora of information in there probably will lead you to some more questions too. So read it. That’s my number one tip as we go through here. And I would say as far as the initial disclosures go, I think a lot of our colleagues would agree that it’s very case dependent.

And if you have a case where someone is completely in the dark about something, then you might want to go ahead and do these initial disclosures. If you have a case where it seems that both parties have a reasonable grasp on what’s going going on, you might want to abate them. And so I would say most of our cases lately, we have been working with our colleagues to abate the disclosure process, because, in a lot of ways I think it can be a bigger headache at the beginning, especially if people have a good grasp on what’s going on in their financial lives.

Holly: So in cases where you are doing the disclosures, what type of information do you provide to clients to get that process started?

Brandi: I will say if you’re the petitioner, I think you’re in a more advantageous position on this one, because we all know that this gets triggered once the respondent either filed their answer, or makes a general appearance. And so if you’re the petitioner, start working day one from it to start gathering that information, because you don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen until the respondent gets in the case. And if you are going through that, I think just having that dedicated time to go through what is required. And some hand holding at the beginning with your client is key, you want to take them through this, explain why it’s important. Say if you don’t do this, it can jeopardize your case in the long run. And we need to do this.

One thing that I found interesting, though, is that if they think that there is a document, but they might not have their hands on it, you can put a general description of it and possibly where it’s located. So if it’s even something that they think they know, of, it’s better to say, you might know of this, rather than having actually get the document itself. Other things that I’ve seen us do in cases lately is, especially when it comes to child support cases, or we have cases where someone’s asking for some sort of spousal maintenance during the pendency of the divorce is you’ll agree to abate most of the disclosures, but you can make an agreement to exchange certain documents by a certain time. And I think that’s been really helpful. So that way people can see tax returns, you can see pay stubs, and you can see health insurance information from the get go. But you can give everybody a little bit more opportunity to collect those other bigger documents that we all know can be very difficult to get.

Holly: So how do you you mentioned hand holding with clients? What are some of the things you do to help them through that process of gathering documents and finding what they need?

Brandi: So I say start with your inventory and appraisement document, because we’re all very familiar with that. And most of what you’re going to need for those initial disclosures are going to be the information that’s already on your inventory and appraisement. And so from the outset, go through and just ask the client, do you have this? You know, what property do you have? What bank accounts do you have? What retirement accounts do you have? And go down that because that’s going to give you as the attorney a really good insight as to what the overall financial health of the situation is with the case?

And then also whether or not your client really knows what’s going on? Because some clients know and they’ll know down to the penny, what’s in each account? Some clients will say, oh, well, I don’t handle that, you know, my husband or my wife does. And you know whether or not you have the client who’s in the dark, or the client who knows what’s going on. And there could be a hybrid where maybe they know what’s going on with their financial accounts, but not necessarily everything that’s going on with all of the accounts in the community estate.

Holly: So you mentioned inventories. And a lot of times I see, you know, attorneys in our firm, at least doing inventories, but not disclosures because of the nature of the information that you get from the inventory. But do you usually try and work with clients on an inventory that quickly? Or do you wait until later in the process? How do you like to do that?

Brandi: My preference is is to get in sooner than later. Because you never know what information you might need to be seeking from, you know, either a financial institution, especially if someone doesn’t keep good records. Now, you might not have the client initially kind of fill out everything on the inventory and appraisement. But you want them to start working on it to see what accounts they actually have access to.

And you don’t want to get to a point when you’re in your case, and you’re, you know, a week out for mediation and you’re telling the other side, oh, hey, I’m sorry, we can’t actually find this. But it’s something that you’ve known about for a while. So even if you are agreeing to maybe exchange inventory and appraisement, two weeks or a week before mediation so you have more current numbers. I think it’s best practice to go ahead and start having that initial conversation with the client about the inventory and appraisement right from the start.

Holly: Yeah, I agree. And even though you’re going to have to do some updating, if it takes a while to mediate, most of the stuff that needs updating is easy to update. Okay, we just need one or two more bank statements, however many there’s been since the last time. But the big stuff you’re going to have, and it’s not going to change a whole lot, or you’re at least going to know what needs to be updated.

Brandi: I agree. And I think it just makes it a lot easier. I think a lot of clients too, sometimes are guilty of having their head in the sand, if you will, about their finances, or they might be, you know, a little shy or embarrassed to talk about maybe debt that they have. And you just need to make it a safe place for your client to talk to you about it. Because the more you know, the better you can represent them. And I think that’s a big key takeaway is just to let them know, hey, I’m not here to judge you. But this is part of the process. And the more upfront, you are with me now, the less surprises there are, the better, I’m able to represent you and guide you through this, because that’s ultimately what our jobs are, is to guide them through this divorce process and advocate for them.

Holly: So when you have the client who’s been in the dark, either voluntarily or not, what sort of tips do you give that client to start looking for information

Brandi: I think, the first thing that they can do is to run their own credit report. Because I think you and I can, you know, clearly say that we’ve had cases where maybe the other spouse opened up something in the other spouses name that they had no idea about. And I think credit reports a really good place to start. Because even if maybe they don’t understand what’s everything that’s on there, you can get them to run it. And then you can go over it with them, and ask them about the accounts. And so I know Credit Karma is a great thing to tell clients to sign up for because you get two of the big three for free just by signing up for the account. And so that’s a really, almost open door into kind of what’s going on in their financial lives. If they don’t know.

Holly: I agree 100%. And then, you know, on the debt side, if it’s not showing up on our client’s credit report, and it’s out there in the other spouse’s name, I guess I don’t really care if he chooses not to disclose that or she chooses not to disclose that, because we’re going to include a catch all that says you’re paying all other debts in your name. But we want to make sure that we’re protecting all of the debts that happened to include our clients name.

Brandi: Right, exactly.

Holly: So what about on the asset side? Do you have any tips for how to get clients to dig a little and find information when they don’t initially have it?

Brandi: I think you just have to tell them to think about things sometimes. Because it’s a matter like they live in that house, they see mail that comes in, they know, you know, they probably know even if they don’t know if they really were to think about it, what bank they’re at. Or even if it’s maybe you know, if it’s the wife, for example, who handles all the money and the husband’s saying, oh, I don’t know. Then the husband, I start asking the question. Well, have you ever seen her while she’s on her computer handling the finances?

Do you remember what website she’s at. Because that gives you an insight as an as to when they can maybe come up with the answer that might be very deep somewhere in their brain. I also tell them, you know, look at your own cards that you have, because maybe they don’t realize that if they have, you know, maybe it’s a Marriott charge account, but it’s operated by Wells Fargo there all sorts of various accounts there. And you can just get a lot of information just by that as well.

Holly: So now that we have the initial disclosures and the pre trial disclosures required by the rules, there are still going to be some cases where there’s traditional written discovery. So are there any differences in how you handle other written discovery as compared to the initial disclosures?

Brandi: Yes. And I think the biggest thing there is to set realistic expectations with your client. And so we all know now with the initial disclosures, you can’t actually serve discovery until after those are due. And so during that time, you have a chance to review it with your client. If you’re the party that’s going to be sending out some additional discovery because maybe you want some interrogatory or admissions or some other production documents gathered, then I think it’s important to go through that and ask your client what specifically you think they need. And then you as the attorney also weigh in as to what you need. And if you’re the party who gets served with discovery after that. I always tried to approach this with the client and the following order of priority and the number I say admissions go last, and then I put interrogatories.

But first and foremost, I want production documents. Because that is the biggest Bear I think any of us ever deal with as attorneys, are production documents and getting them from the client. So I always try within, you know, two to three days after getting served with the discovery is to have a meeting with a client. And whether or not that is myself doing it or an associate or paralegal doing it, I think right out of the gate, you have to get them starting to gather documents. If you don’t do that, you’re going to put yourself in a really very, very horrible situation. And put timelines on your client and make them honor those timelines. And I usually give people about 10 days to two weeks to get those initial documents back to me because I tell them, I need a chance to review them.

So if you’re not seeing this back to me, until you know, the day before it’s due, I like you, but I didn’t want to be up until you know, two in the morning going through this and you’re gonna pay me a lot of money. Then the other thing that I find really helpful because I know, I really hate to pay for lawyers to organize their documents, I would send them a sample of a folder, you know, or if you can, hop on zoom and show them how to set one up if your client isn’t as tech savvy. And the reason why is because the more organized they are, the less work you have to do at organizing files on behalf of your client.

So I will typically tell them, if we’re looking for, you know, bank statements, and let’s say they have five bank accounts, then I want a folder for each separate bank account. And then I want it in chronological order. I don’t care if you go first date to last date, or, you know, vice versa, but I want it to be consistent. And I really do think it’s giving them clear instructions and expectations that makes you the most successful during the discovery process.

Holly: So do you normally just send out whatever you were served with to the client? Or do you go through it first and kind of narrow down, this is what we really need.

Brandi: It depends on what’s going on in my world at that point, you know, so if I get them coming in, and it’s, you know, Monday afternoon, my hearing wrapped up early, I’m going to go ahead and probably give them a skim before we get into it, and then send it to them. And if I know that there’s something that we need, that’s gonna be really difficult to get, that’s the first task I assigned to them. But sometimes our schedules just don’t allow that. So I do think it’s important to go ahead and send that to the client and tell them to start reviewing the production document first, because that’s what you’re going to start with with your meeting with your client.

Holly: I also think it’s important, if they are being sent to the client, just as we receive them to really make sure they understand. I know, you might not understand everything on this list, it may seem overwhelming and may seem like they’re asking for the moon, and we’re gonna object to the things that aren’t relevant or the things that are, you know, go back way too far, or whatever the case may be. And to help them kind of understand we’re gonna narrow this down to the relevant documents from the relevant time period. But we want you to go ahead and see what they’re asking for. So you know, but don’t freak out.

Brandi: Right. And I think that’s a really good point. It’s also, you know, know your client too. Because if you have a client who you know whose stress level is, at the top of the top already, maybe best to say, hey, we got discovery, I would like to set up an appointment with you in the next few days to go over this. Because if they’re going to overanalyze things, and then freak out, that’s not going to do you or your staff and your favors. And so I think that’s probably a really fair point too is to, you know, know your client and it but if you have someone who you know, is Johnny on the Spot and can just get going on it, go ahead and send it.

And then after you have at it at that initial meeting with the client, I take the time to go through the production request with the client and say, basically what you just said, Holly is saying, I think this is too far back, we’re going to object to this and really pull out the key points and the key requests that you want them to start working on. Then for the interrogatories, after you get the production documents back, then I have clients start working on the interrogatories and have them typically come back about five to seven days after I’ve asked for the client to get their production documents to me. Because then they can work on that while you’re working in reviewing their production documents. And then that still gives you about a week to tweak anything that you really need to.

Holly: So when you’re having a client work on interrogatories do you just send them a Word document and say type in your answers or how do you do that initial first step with the client?

Brandi: I typically will put it into a Word document, and then I’ll put notes to them in there and ask them to start responding. Because it’s, it’s supposed to be in their own words. And so I want to go through and then I have that come back. And then I’ll go through and we all know clients will put stuff that’s maybe not relevant to the question that’s asked and then go through and we work with the client to tailor their answer to specifically what’s being asked of them at the interrogatory.

Holly: And sometimes a lot of attorneys west for way too much information or they’re asked for things that aren’t isn’t relevant. And so I certainly like to in the comments to the client, narrow down, say, you know, I just want you to refer to answer a, b and d, don’t answer c, because we’re going to object to that.

Brandi: Right, exactly.

Holly: Okay, so one last point of discovery that we’re going to chat about today relate to depositions. And I know, in our practice, we don’t do them that often, but they do come up in family law cases. In our experience, if you have certain firms on the other side, you’re very much more likely to find yourself in depositions. But there have been situations where I wanted to use them as well. So can you kind of describe how you go about preparing a client for a deposition.

Brandi: So if the client’s deposition is being taken, I think it’s you need to spend the time preparing them for it. Clients sometimes will groan and say, oh, I don’t want to do that. And I want to pay the money for you to do that. And you’ll say, well, here’s the deal. It’s basically like you’re giving testimony anyway. So we’re doing it. And I think you just have to lay your, lay down the law on that one with the client. Most depositions these days are videotaped. So I think it’s really important to discuss, you know, what your client’s appearance is going to be that day.

You know, if you have been to that lawyer’s office before where the deposition is being taken, if you can explain the layout to the client, try to make them feel as comfortable as possible. When it comes to the client’s appearance. You want them to dress business casual, you want them to feel comfortable, but not to the point where they feel so stiff, that they’re, you know, doesn’t don’t feel like themselves. As far as what questions are going to be asked, we can speculate this, I always, you know, let them know, the other attorney’s, not your friend. They’re going to try and make it seem like they’re your friend, that’s not the case.

They really need to have their wits about them. And to look for traps, you don’t want another attorney to paint them into a corner with asking you a question. And I think it’s really important to let the client know that if they don’t know the answer, if they can say, I don’t know the answer. Or tips like is that all and you need to give them kind of the cue and remember, when you’re prepping them to say, that’s all I can remember at this time. Because to get them, but the other side’s always trying to do is to definitively paint them into some sort of corner. And you want to avoid that if you can. I think that’s the biggest tip you can give clients.

Holly: Right, that’s the lawyer who’s going to say, okay, name all of the reasons that x should happen. And you name one. And then okay, that’s one, what’s number two? And they try to get the client to list out everything, and they’re trying to pin them down to never say anything else. So I think it’s really important to help clients understand recognize that and have a answer, just like you said about, that’s all I can think of for now. I’m sure there are more, but that’s what I can think of for now. Yeah, give themselves an opening to later, oh I remember another.

Brandi: And depositions are, they’re scary for the for your client, because they don’t know what to expect I know. And then they will look at you and go, well, why are you objecting? And I think it’s also to let them know what the objection process is like in a deposition comparatively to what might be in court, because we’re limited as to what we can do. I also, when someone is being deposed, I think it’s important to let them know that you are in charge of asking for breaks and that sort of thing. Because I don’t like clients to have to go more than 45 minutes to an hour of being without a break. And that’s twofold.

One, it’s really stressful for them. And two you know, it’s okay to take a break to get up and kind of gather your thoughts. I mean, we’ve all been there where we’ve been sitting there in court waiting our turn, and waiting our turn and waiting our turn to be called, at least when we were going to court in person. But I kind of equate it to that client who normally maybe would only give, you know, 15 minutes of testimony at a hearing is now being deposed for you know, six hours and that you need to take breaks because it lets your client recenter and refocus. And then also just breathe for a little bit. And I think that’s really important as the attorney whose clients being deposed that day.

Holly: And it’s also, you know, we’ve all had the client that we really did not want to have to put on a stand. It’s one thing when that clients testifying at a 20 minute a side temporary orders hearing, or 30 minute a side. It’s another when that same client has to be deposed for six hours. And are there any resources or outside experts or anything like that, that can be used in helping to prepare clients like that?

Brandi: There are, I know, there are people that you can hire to prepare you for giving testimony or being deposed, but it comes down to what a client can afford. So if your client is in a position where they can afford it, and you have very serious concerns about how they might present, it’s probably worth investing in hiring, you know, a PR person, if you will, for a deposition basis. That’s how I would explain it to somebody. You know, and for the clients that can’t afford that. I always tell clients, when you’re being deposed, you want to pay attention as the client and very, you want to listen closely to what is being asked and not give a response to more than what is being asked of you. And that’s why it just comes back to a KISS just keep it simple, sweetheart. And I think that resonates I think most of us have heard that at some point in our life

Holly: I only heard it as keep it simple, stupid. I think it’s funny that you changed it to sweetheart.

Brandi: No, I’ve always heard keep it simple, sweetheart. So that’s funny,

Holly: I guess we’re never dealing with your own client, they may may or may not prefer to be referred to as sweetheart versus stupid, but.

Brandi: Maybe you can change out the last, the last S. I mean, if your client client’s name is Stan, when just say keep it simple, Stan, it might work. So I think that that’s, you know, that’s I think that’s the best approach that you can take for depositions is, make sure your client knows that they need to focus on what’s being asked of them, and keep their ample their their answers short and sweet.

Holly: Right. And I think helping the client understand that you’re not going to win your case on this deposition, they are not going to give you the opportunity to tell your story the way that you want to tell it or to make the arguments that you want to make. They’re there to get information to help them. So answer the question, be honest, but do not provide extra information.

Brandi: And I think the other thing too, with a deposition, is that I think the people who are asking to take someone’s deposition, they’re really efficient. And because they’re looking for something that they don’t have the answer to. And so when you can tell a client that, sometimes that empowers them a bit, because they know their case, they know the facts, they know what’s going on. So if you can help shift that nervous client’s mindset to one of empowerment during a deposition of like, I know this, you can ask me anything you want. And I don’t you know, I’m going to tell the truth. And it’s up to you to ask the right question. And so if you can approach it that way with your client, I think that’s also helpful.

Holly: All right. So we’re just about out of time. But one of the questions I like to ask everybody on the podcast, even when they come from my own firm, if you could give one piece of advice to young family lawyers, what would it be?

Brandi: So one thing that I did when I was first starting out, if your schedule allows for it, go to the courthouse door, and these days turn on that the zoom channels of the court, and, and observe. I think you’re going to you learn so much by watching other attorneys, both good ones, and bad ones. We all know that happens. And you’re able to figure you know, you kind of learn how courts work in your area. And I know me personally, when I was sitting, you know, watching cases, I had judges go Hey, you Who are you? I’ve never seen you before, what are you? What are you doing here? And I met several of our judges in the area just by sitting in the courtroom and observing because I was interested. And I wanted to learn how different judges ran their courtrooms. I wanted to learn what to expect when I was getting ready to go for my next hearing or my first hearing at that point. And I found it to be incredibly helpful and just a really smart thing to do. That would be my number one tip for a young lawyer.

Holly: Yeah, I think that’s a great tip. At least all the judges, most of the judges that I’ve encountered are very receptive to young lawyers learning and you know, if they are showing up in the courtroom, they’re happy to answer questions when it’s over or anything like that. And I’m sure it’s that way, all over with very few exceptions.

Brandi: I would agree. I think we’ve got a pretty good judiciary in Texas and they’re, they like to see people who are interested in rather than coming in and showboating and thinking I know everything when it’s the first time you’re ever in front of them.

Holly: All right. Well, if you would like to find out more information about Brandi, you can find her profile on And if you enjoyed this episode, go give us a review on your favorite podcast site and subscribe to get future episodes. Thanks so much for joining us.

Brandi: Thank you.

Voiceover: That Texas Family Law Insiders podcast is sponsored by the Draper Law firm. We help people navigate divorce and child custody cases and handle family law appellate matters. For more information, visit our website at

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