By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.
An excellent question by a potential new client is “Why should I hire your firm?” In response, we can talk about the diligence of our firm, our philosophies, experience, how we prepare clients each step of the way, keeping our client updated, et cetera. Famed constitutional lawyer Alan Dershowitz recently summed it up beautifully though.
In an article he authored, Mr. Dershowitz stated “To be a great lawyer requires the exercise of judgment, subtlety, nuance, and an ability to predict what the courts will do.” He truly nailed it, and the applicability of this statement to great family law practitioners is astonishing. No other area of law involves such personal matters that impact a person to the core, and the process itself, as well as the outcome, have lifelong ramifications.
With the high level of emotion a party to a divorce rightfully feels, his or her judgment is likely impaired to some degree. As a result, actions and decisions made during this time may not be the best and can actually be detrimental to the case as a whole. Some lawyers simply accept their client as found, and allow further damage to be done. Great lawyers build trust with the client, so that they can work as a team, with the client asking before acting. Further, that same type of lawyer uses sound judgment in developing the case, in messaging to all players involved, and in presenting the issues in trial. Less skilled lawyers can get caught up in the emotions, not see the forest for the trees, take a piecemeal approach, and present a helter-skelter case with more emphasis on wrong-doing than the overall goal.
This is where subtlety and nuance are imperative. These skills cannot be taught. They are developed. A great lawyer not only masters these, but continues to improve on them. The best judgment in the world means nothing if not put into action properly. Over-the-top/in-your-face filings and trial dramatics usually backfire. As much as clients may want the lawyer to stick it to the other side, an effective pleading or cross examination can be done subtly with more success. However, that is more a rarity than the norm for lawyers practicing family law. It is, therefore, part of how a client can decide between a great lawyer for his or her case, and an average or even sub-par counsel of record.
As to the last ingredient that Mr. Dershowitz identified for a lawyer to be great—an ability to predict what the courts will do—this is where a familiarity with case law, statutes, and judicial officers is key. Now, no one can guarantee what a court is likely to do. But, the strongest lawyer for your case will be able to advise as to what the statute requires, and how case law has applied that law to facts similar to yours. They can also take into consideration what the propensities of specific judicial officers. With this foundation, a great lawyer can advise as to positions that will likely be successful for the specific client.
This, then, is a long way of saying that our firm should be hired because we embody Mr. Dershowitz’s definition of what makes a great lawyer. We diligently work with the client to gather relevant facts that, when applied to applicable law, offer the greatest chance of obtaining successful results. As part of that, we earn the trust of our clients and work as a team from the outset, to develop realistic big picture goals and incremental steps to achieve them. We have sound judgment, that has been developed over decades, that focuses on what facts will help, and which will not; what issues are worth fighting for and which should be dropped; and how to approach every facet of the case. We use subtlety and nuance in dealing with opposing counsel, other persons involved in the case such as witnesses and experts, and ultimately in trial if needed. Clients whose cases end up in trial consistently recognize the difference in representation at that stage the most, as the trial preparation is second to none. The presentation is professional, organized, efficient, and only on point. The big picture developed with the client step-by- step unfolds before the court (and the client). All of this, together, gives the client the best chance at a successful resolution of the case itself, while also helping them to move on in their lives in a healthy manner post-divorce.