When Cilla Webster opened Chapel Legal just eight months ago, it was a homecoming and the culmination of a career that had prepared her to assist clients in the areas of family law and estate planning.
Chapel Legal is located in the Tampa Palms Professional Center off Commerce Palms Blvd, near the Bruce B. Downs exit of I-75. Although Sila is available for in-person consultations at her office location, she says many clients prefer talking on the phone or meeting virtually via a video conferencing app.
Most often, it helps families who need child custody arrangements, or who need to amend arrangements that have already been made. She can help with divorce, adoption, and other family matters, too.
Chapel Legal also helps people create a will, appoint a healthcare surrogate, set up a power of attorney or guardianship, and other important areas of estate planning.
Sela has also developed a specialization in Church Law, helping churches with all kinds of legal questions – from personnel matters to coronavirus compliance. “Two of them (churches) have a quick connection,” she says. “I never know what they will ask.”
But, Sela says, she’s always ready no matter what they ask of her, thanks to a long and varied career that has exposed her to numerous courtrooms and legal opinions in both Florida and New York.
Sela left her hometown of Temple Terrace after graduating with a BA in Political Science from the University of South Florida. She says her plan was to go to New York to study law and then return home to practice.
I started down this path, earning my Juris Doctor (JD) degree from Syracuse University School of Law in Syracuse, New York, in 2000.
Then she took an extended stay for nearly two decades before returning.
“I tell people I ‘accidentally’ been there for 19 years,” she laughs.
During those years, Sela began her family law career, worked in the field of legal aid and served as an attorney in the US District Court for the Northern District of New York. She also served as chief of staff to a judge in that district, learning behind-the-scenes details and writing legal opinions.
When it came time to move back to Florida in 2015, she and her husband, J. Matt Webster, PhD, moved their family — including three children — to Wesley Chapel. As we mentioned in the previous issue, their son, Jack, recently graduated from Wiregrass Ranch High School and will be entering the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, this fall. Their daughter, Eliana, is now 16, and their son, Nathan, is 12.
Upon her return to the Tampa Bay area, Sela went to work for Bay Area Legal Services. Looking for a change of pace, I then served as the general counsel of Hernando County for three years.
With her wide and varied experience, she says, “I’ve worked on every kind of case on the planet.”
That’s when she decided to jump into her own clinic. Cilla says this gives her the opportunity to serve clients exactly the way she wants, which starts with being a good listener and explaining to her clients that — even though they may not get everything they want — they will be heard, they will have good representation, and an attorney who He really cares about them.
“Family law is not like the ads you see on TV, where lawyers promise to win your case for you,” she says. “It has its own rules and standards. Everyone compromises a little bit so the settlement is fair. It’s not as black and white as the prosecution and defense.”
In addition to family law, Cela is an estate planning expert and can help make sure you have the documents needed to protect your loved ones.
A very personal example…
She shares her personal story so people understand how important estate planning is. Even as a lawyer specializing in this field, she unexpectedly found herself in a situation where her mother became temporarily incapacitated, but Sila was unable to make decisions on her behalf in the hospital because she did not have all the paperwork required in advance to do so.
Fortunately, her mother quickly recovered and they immediately signed the necessary papers so that this would not happen again. Although Sela certainly didn’t expect to find herself in this situation, she uses her story to help people understand that the time to execute documents like power of attorney and healthcare surrogate is long before you think they’ll be needed.
Sela is licensed to practice in both New York and Florida, but focuses entirely on serving families in the New Tampa and Wesley Chapel areas.
A local business owner named Ann recently hired Chapel Law to help amend her will.
“It was great working with Sela,” says Anne. “She is professional, supportive, and clearly knows her stuff.”
Anne says the process has been educational for her and her husband, with Sela coaching them both in the nuances and loopholes. “Sela helped us make some tough decisions and he was a very good coach,” says Anne. “She is an excellent lawyer all around.”
Sela says she considers it her privilege to serve her neighbors and operate as a small operation, answering her own phone calls and making it a priority to be available to her clients, including responding quickly and in person to all their emails.
“I’m just a regular person who loves what I do,” she says.
While many attorneys do not offer a free consultation, Sela says it is important to her that people have a chance to ask questions before they decide whether to hire her.
“In fact, if people have a question about whether or not their case is a problem, I’m happy to discuss it. Would the judge consider making the change you’re asking for? Let’s talk about that,” she says.
And she is happy to talk about it in Spanish or English.
As a Cuban and Salvadoran—and a native Spanish speaker—Cela has no problem working with those who only speak Spanish or who prefer to communicate about sometimes complex family law issues in their native language.
Chapel Legal is located at 17425 Bridge Hill Ct., Suite 202. If you need assistance with a family law or estate planning matter, Chapel Legal Attorney Cela Webster offers a free telephone consultation. For more information visit ChapelLegal.comCall (813) 524-6393.