Take Control Blog

Pitbull or Pussycat

The other day, I received an interesting phone call.  The women, let’s call her Jessica, decided to divorce.  The conversation starts with Jessica saying, “I want to get divorced, but I want it to be as amicable as possible.”  I think to myself, okay, all good so far.  Then Jessica continues talking, “But I want a really aggressive attorney to represent me!”

Given that these types of requests are sadly not uncommon, I took a deep breath and continued with Jessica’s consultation.  I inquired into the nature of her request.  Jessica explained that her best friend told her that an aggressive, expensive attorney is required to win.

Win?  Very interesting.  To Jessica winning meant getting everything she was entitled to. Well, if Jessica’s husband has the same definition of winning, how is an aggressive attorney gonna settle this amicably?

In reference to Jessica’s situation, there were four points I asked her to consider:

  1. State of Mind.  An amicable divorce, like a good negotiation, starts with two parties wanting to hammer out a win-win deal.  There is no such thing as a civil divorce where each side wants everything they think their entitled to.  Winning at all cost is a sure formula for a long, drawn out, expensive and nasty divorce.  I challenged Jessica to reassess her motives and her desired outcome.
  2. Aggressive May Not Be Better.  For the most part, the top family law attorneys all went to reputable law schools and have years of experience.  They are all good attorneys who represent clients in the best manner possible.  Aggressive is simply a persona that some attorneys take on, and it has nothing to do with the law or making them better attorneys.  I’ve seen plenty of clients who handed over their cases to aggressive attorneys only to be extremely unhappy with the results.
  3. It’s Not About How Much You Spend.  Another complete fallacy:  the more an attorney charges per hour, the better he/she must be. If it were that easy, all attorneys would simply raise their rates.  Individual attorney rates are based on supply and demand.   The more an attorney is in demand, the higher his/her rates will go.  Also affecting the hourly rates are the reputations attorneys acquire by the types of clients they represent; the firm they work for; and the types of referrals they get.  In Miami-Dade county, hourly family law attorney rates can vary greatly, anywhere from $150 per hour to in excess of $700 per hour.  It was time for Jessica to do a budget check.
  4. Everyone’s Got An Opinion.  I play soccer on the weekends, but that does not make me a professional.  In the same sense, one divorce experience does not make someone an expert on the subject.  Friends, family, the plumber, just about everyone has been touched by divorce, directly or indirectly.  So, naturally, everyone has a story to tell or an opinion about what to do, including the recommendation of an attorney.  I asked Jessica to carefully reflect on the friendly advice received from her friend and that person’s point of view.

Selecting a family law attorney involves many factors, among which are the specifics of a case, the desired outcome and the available budget.  It’s not black and white; pitbull or pussycat.

In Jessica’s case, she could not afford the expensive, aggressive attorney that she wanted and did not need.  Instead, Jessica decided to retain an attorney she could afford; matched to her personality and the specifics of her case; and one willing to work in the spirit of settling the case amicably.