Before I went to law school and started practicing, I thought the law was black and white, right and wrong. Unfortunately, that could not be further from the truth. The law is mostly just one big shade of gray. Many clients’ find the other side’s arguments (whatever they may be) to be wholly unreasonable and ridiculous. This means that in most instances they are unwilling to see their own mistakes, or assign some value to the other side’s position. This is even more true in the world of domestic relations (divorces/dissolutions – property division and children issues).
A good attorney will not just drink their client’s proverbial Koolaid, and believe everything that they have been told as law. They know there are three sides to every story, your side, their side, and the truth. A good attorney will focus on finding solutions for both parties and a solution that is reasonable. I tell all of my clients that you have two choices, settlement or trial. This is true in every case, be it criminal, civil or divorce. If you have a trial, you are going to spend lots of money, and a trial is not a guarantee, it is just a chance to win. Maybe the Court will believe you, and agree with your argument, maybe they will not.
A good attorney will make sure that you understand that your decisions should be a business decisions, and not emotional ones. I often use the example of a prior client. He had a clearly loosing argument; he was in violation of the law. The amount of money in dispute was $4,000. I told him to pay it, and be done. He said, “No”! He paid me $7,000 after all was said and done to argue about $4,000. We had a trial, he lost as expected, and was ordered to pay $4,000. So he paid $11,000 in total, when if he would have listened to me, would have only paid $4,000. Does this make good business sense ? Nope. Not in the least. Yet that is what he did. Why ? Very likely, emotion.
I often tell my clients that if we cannot reach an agreement, one of the four parties involved is unreasonable (one of the two parties or one of the two attorneys). We as attorneys are wired to fight and argue. We fight about insignificant issues sometimes, but we do it. We do it because our job is to “win” for you. Sometimes our arguing costs more money than it is worth to you. A good attorney will lay out the options and the reality of the facts and will advise the client they are free to choose. By way of example, I was in Court last week, and there was language that literally had no value either way, it had no teeth, and was not enforceable at all, for either side. It was language that if one side got is was a emotional win for them, and if out, was an emotional win for the other side. The attorneys spent likely a hour plus arguing…in, out, in, out… These two parties were willing to pay likely $600+ collectively for worthless, meaningless language. I cannot blame attorneys or parties; it just is the nature of the beast. A good attorney may not have argued against it, or maybe they would have because that is what we are paid for, to win!! End of the day, if you educate your client, and let them choose, I think that makes you a good attorney. If the clients are unreasonable and like paying you excessive amounts of money, over petty issues, or “winning,” that is on them.
Clients have to remember that we as attorneys work for you. We can instruct and advise, but you as clients need to decide what is important to you. Is it emotion ? Is it winning ? Is it money ? Is it spending $7,000 to argue about $4,000 ? Maybe it is about being fair, or reasonable. A good attorney will advise you intelligently, and let you decide.
When you hire an attorney, make sure that they know what you want and are willing to help you achive it.