Stephan V. Futeral

Charleston Attorney with Real-World Experience

Stephan Futeral has deep ties to the local community. For over 50 years, he’s lived and worked in the Lowcountry. He grew up in West Ashley, he went to high school and college in downtown Charleston, he worked on oyster boats on Shem Creek, and he’s lived in Mt. Pleasant for over 30 years. Chances are you’ll run into him on the beach while he walks his dogs with his wife Kelsey, or at a community event such as the Oyster Festival at Boone Hall.

The greatest asset a lawyer can have is integrity. You don’t gain integrity by getting a law degree. Integrity only comes from being straightforward, dependable, and competent. Integrity is what judges respect, jurors appreciate, and our clients deserve.

He and his wife Kelsey Gilmore-Futeral are huge animal lovers. They have several registered pet therapy dogs that they take to visit the elderly, the disabled, and special-needs children. They also volunteer at the Charleston Animal Society and for Keepers of the Wild, an organization dedicated to the conservation, preservation, and rehabilitation of South Carolina’s wildlife.

Military Veteran

Before becoming an attorney in Charleston, Stephan Futeral served in the United States Army from 1982 to 1985 and the United States Army National Guard from 1985 to 1987. While stationed in Augsburg, Germany with the 74th USFAD, he worked with strategic nuclear weapons and tactical satellite communications. Also, he was a member of the 440 Armor Unit in Fort Carson, Colorado. During his time as a soldier, he received commendations for participating in massive military exercises such as Return of Forces to Germany (Reforger 84 – “Certain Fury”) and Desert Chief III.

Former Judicial Law Clerk & Law School Professor

In 1990, Stephan Futeral graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Business Administration. In 1993, he graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law. After law school, he was the judicial clerk for the Honorable C. Tolbert Goolsby, Jr. at the South Carolina Court of Appeals. In 2003, after many years of practicing law throughout South Carolina, he founded the law firm of Futeral & Nelson, LLC.

Stephan Futeral was an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Charleston School of Law teaching about subjects such as legal writing and insurance law. He’s written articles for the South Carolina Lawyer magazine and the American Bar Association Magazine. Further, he published a legal annotation regarding the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act in South Carolina Jurisprudence. He’s written books for the public on family law, DUI defense, gun laws, boating laws, motorcycle laws, and animals laws in South Carolina. He also edited the “South Carolina Deposition Procedure Handbook” authored by his law partner Thomas Nelson and published by the South Carolina Bar Association. This book is used by attorneys throughout South Carolina to help them understand the process for properly conducting the depositions of witnesses in civil, probate, administrative, family court, and other types of cases. Finally, he frequently lectures to non-lawyers and attorneys on such topics as personal injury, family law, and criminal law.

Top-Rated Lawyer in Charleston

Stephan is a certified by the Supreme Court of South Carolina as a civil and a family court mediator.

Martindale-Hubbell recognizes Stephan Futeral as an AV-rated attorney, the highest rating available to any individual lawyer. AVVO recognizes Stephan as “Superb” (10 out of 10) in the legal fields of divorce, DUI defense, criminal defense, and personal injury.

Stephan was granted membership to the National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Criminal Trial Lawyers. This is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state in the nation who meet stringent qualifications as criminal defense trial lawyers.

The National Academy of Family Law Attorneys (NAFLA) recognizes Stephan as one of the Top 10 Family Law Attorneys in South Carolina. NAFLA uses a thorough selection process to determine the top family law attorneys in each state.

Over the years, Stephan’s clients have endorsed him with 5 stars ★★★★★ on Google Reviews and elsewhere online.

Stephan Futeral - Charleston Attorney

Professional Accomplishments

Associations & Memberships
  • South Carolina Bar Association
  • Charleston County Bar Association
  • U.S. District Court Bar, District of South Carolina
  • U.S. Court of Appeals Bar, 4th Circuit
  • U.S. Supreme Court Bar
  • Technology Committee, Charleston County Bar Association
  • Professional Responsibility Committee, South Carolina Bar Association
  • Lawyer Advertising Sub-Committee, South Carolina Bar Association
  • Certified Civil Court Mediator
  • Certified Family Court Mediator

University of South Carolina School of Law Juris Doctorate – 1993

Honors & Activities:

  • Moot Court Bar Order of the Barristers
  • Student Editor ABA Real Property, Probate and Trust Journal
  • Phi Delta Phi International Legal Fraternity

College of Charleston Bachelor of Science Business Administration – 1990

Honors & Activities:

  • Outstanding Student Award
  • National Collegiate Business Merit Award
  • All-American Scholarship Award
  • Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society
  • From Toy to Tool: Essential Tablet Apps for Lawyers (Tenn. Bar Journal March 2013)
  • The Biggest Legal Mistakes Physicians Make and How to Avoid Them, The 10 Biggest Legal Mistakes Physicians Make After Filing for Divorce (Seak, Inc. 2005)
  • Unfair Trade Practices Act, 28 S.C. Jurisprudence (West Group 1998)
  • Public Impact: The Stumbling Block to Stating a Private Cause of Action Under the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act, South Carolina Lawyer Magazine, Sept./Oct. 1995
  • Developing a Firm Website, ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Section, Volume 16 No. 4, 1999
Classes & Seminars Taught
  • Adjunct Professor of Law – Charleston School of Law
  • Animal Law – An Emerging Legal Frontier – South Carolina Bar Assoc. 2014
  • iPad Apps for Practicing Law – South Carolina Bar Assoc. 2013
  • Technology to Win Cases & Streamline Your Practice – Charleston County Bar Assoc. 2013
  • Tech Savvy Law Practice and Ethics of Cloud Computing – Dorchester County Bar Assoc. 2013
  • Top Ten Things You Need to Know: Tort Law – South Carolina Bar, 2000
  • Magistrate’s School, 1997
  • Paralegal Certification – University of South Carolina, 1996 – 1998
  • The Internet for Attorneys – Half Moon, LLC, 1996
  • Personal Injury Practice for Paralegals -Clearwater Information Systems, Inc., 1995
  • Computer Technology: Making the Right Choices for Your Law Office – South Carolina Bar, 1994

The 5 Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned as a Lawyer in Charleston

I’ve spent nearly half my life as a lawyer in Charleston, South Carolina handling divorce, DUI and criminal defense, and personal injury claims. Although age is a high price to pay for wisdom, at the end of the day it’s worth the cost. Whether you’re a young lawyer, a client, or anyone from any walk of life, I want to share with you the following 5 lessons I’ve learned about being successful in your life. If you think I am talking about being “financial” success, that’s not my point. To be sure, it’s challenging to be joyful when you are struggling financially. Trust me – I’ve been there! Instead, I am talking about the true measure of success in your life which is reaching a point of understanding about who you are and what your life’s about.

1) Be Humble – I must admit, this is a hard one for many lawyers to master. Lawyers spend their days “taking charge” of other people’s lives such as other people’s marriages, their estates, their need for compensation for the harm they’ve suffered at the hand of another, and so on. Also, many lawyers spend time rubbing elbows with others who have power and influence such as judges and politicians. Lastly, there are those lawyers who’ve found financial success. As a result, some lawyers buy into their own hype and they begin to view themselves as having more importance than others. The same could be said about other learned professions such as doctors. This notion of self-importance is an illusion. Everyone around you plays an important role; don’t take their role for granted. Here’s a simple example. If your garbage man stopped coming by your home for weeks on end and you found yourself wading through piles of your own rubbish, you’d soon come to appreciate his weekly visits, wouldn’t you?

2) Be Compassionate – Depending on what type of law you practice, you may find yourself becoming jaded or insensitive to your clients’ needs. This doesn’t happen overnight for most lawyers (this includes judges too). Call it the “crush of years” that comes with practicing law. Many lawyers deal with cases that involve heart-wrenching tales of woe where children and spouses are abused, defendants do unspeakable things to others, persons who lie, cheat, and steal to get to the top, and unfortunate souls whose catastrophic injuries have permanently altered the course of their lives. Over the “crush of years,” lawyers become desensitized to these horrific circumstances. They feel that if they don’t detach themselves, then compassion and empathy will drag them down and make them ineffective. Not true. It’s OK to feel compassion for your clients. Instead of allowing compassion to turn into depression and dark thoughts about human nature, turn your compassion into a conviction to right wrongs. Sure, you may not win every case or find the justice you seek for every client. Nevertheless, don’t stop chipping away, one client at a time, one case at a time, by channeling your compassion into your chosen profession.

3) Be Giving – As lawyers, we are in a position to do good for others regardless of financial reward. Ask yourself what you want your legacy to be. Better still, ask yourself what you want your epitaph to read. Which sounds better to you? “So-and-so” Esquire was an accident attorney that made a boatload of cash by handling fender benders” or “Mr. or Mrs. Smith will be deeply missed by the community” because lawyer Smith was a champion of justice and gave freely of their time to various causes or to the impoverished or disenfranchised. You don’t have to change the world or right every wrong. Every bit helps. Each year, help a client without any concern for financial reward. Take the case because the person or cause is genuine because they have no one else to turn to, because their cause is just, and because your profession blesses you with the opportunity to make a difference to others. Lastly, giving doesn’t have to be “legal.” There are so many worthwhile causes, too many to name here, that desperately need volunteers. At the end of the day, recognize that you have a moral imperative to help others without any regard for a financial payback now or in the future.

4) Be Balanced – In pursuit of success, many lawyers make the mistake of overlooking their families, friends, and even themselves. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t work hard at being a good lawyer and doing your best for those in need. What I am saying is that you should find a balance between your law practice and your life. Your family needs you too. Don’t let precious moments with your children or your spouse slip past you. It’s OK to leave work at a reasonable hour, to spend time with loved ones, and to take the time to develop interests outside of the practice of law. Ask any aging lawyer who spent the majority of their time in the office whether it was worthwhile. An honest lawyer will tell you that they have regrets for the time they lost with their loved ones. Always remember that being a lawyer is what you do, but it is only a part of “who you are.”

5) Accept Change – As lawyers, we want to “control” life’s events. We want to control the success of our law practice. We want to control the outcome of our clients’ cases. We want to control how others view our profession. It’s all about control. Lawyers aren’t the only ones who want to control things. At some level, we all want to have control over our lives. Inevitably, many folks suffer from depression and anxiety because they feel that they don’t have control over the persons and events in their lives. It doesn’t take long for us to realize that what we planned for our lives, and what life has planned for us, are two different things altogether. So what can be done? As lawyers, help yourself and help your clients to accept the changes in our lives, both good and bad. I want to share with you the following ancient parable about the “Taoist” farmer and accepting change. I hope it helps you understand the concept of acceptance as it has helped me:

A poor farmer and his only son lived on a mountainside, working the land each day with their only horse. One night, the horse broke out of its corral and ran away. The farmer’s neighbors told him, “What bad fortune you have farmer,” to which the farmer replied “Perhaps.”  

Later, the farmer’s horse returned to the corral trailed by a whole herd of wild horses. The farmer’s neighbors told him, “What good fortune you have!” The farmer replied, “Perhaps.” 

The next day, while breaking in one of the wild horses, the farmer’s son fell to the ground and broke his leg. The farmer’s neighbors said, “What bad fortune you have.” The farmer replied, “Perhaps.”

Later, the warlord of the farmer’s village was in need of more soldiers, so he sent a captain to conscript young men to fight in a war where young men faced certain death at the hands of the enemy. The captain passed over the farmer’s son because his son was crippled. Once again, the neighbors told the farmer, “What good fortune you have farmer!” Once again, the farmer replied, “Perhaps.”