What’s a shark?
Divorce attorneys often like to present themselves to potential clients as being aggressive – or “sharks.” Prospective clients are assured that the attorney will combatively go after the client’s spouse and “take them for all they’re worth.”
In fact, belligerent behavior on the part of an attorney only serves to increase the tension between the parties, resulting in more litigation and higher legal fees. This is obviously good for the attorney — and bad for the client. Divorce litigation is not a test of wills between attorneys, but is, rather, a test of the relative knowledge and skills of the attorneys.
When aggression has its place in litigation
Of course, our holistic approach to the legal, financial, and emotional needs of a client may not be what you’re looking for. Some clients actively look for a “shark” to represent them, in what we believe to be the mistaken opinion that an attorney who appears overly aggressive will somehow get them a better result.
We believe that aggressiveness has its place in litigation; but it is better used in those circumstances where the other party refuses to cooperate in fashioning or maintaining a fair settlement of the issues, than in impressing a client with theatrics that often have no substance in the law. And the law … diverse, complicated, and extensive … is what a case really relies on.
Even a shark can’t change the law
The fact is that no amount of purely aggressive behavior by an attorney will result in getting you anything more than you are entitled to under the law. Much of what will ultimately determine the value of the financial settlement in a divorce action is already spelled out statutorily; in other words, there are laws that specify many of the things for which each party will be responsible and to which each party is entitled. Many of the remaining items are defined by what is termed “case law,” the tens of thousands actual decisions made by judges regarding more specific issues that serve as legal precedent.
This doesn’t meant that having an aggressive attorney never comes in handy. The remaining economic issues – such as spousal maintenance, credits for the increased earning capability of your spouse, business evaluations and your fair share of those assets – are either negotiated or litigated, and having an attorney who will pursue your interests energetically is, of course, necessary. An attorney, however, who specializes in striking warlike poses at every phase of the litigation is only performing for the sake of their client, and not necessarily accomplishing anything positive in bringing your matter to a conclusion. Remember, the court almost never concerns itself with the emotional matters that underlie your divorce action. Attorneys who present themselves as being flag-bearers for your emotional issues are often just manipulating the often tender sensibilities of a person going through a divorce.
Unnecessary litigation = $$$$
Unnecessarily aggressive litigation does, however, lead invariably to one result – more expense for the client. Attorneys who submit motion after motion, and insist on litigating cases through the court system regardless of the issues at hand, are guaranteeing themselves many extra hours of billing, without being able to guarantee you a better outcome.
This firm is always concerned about our clients’ relative financial gains as compared to the expense of achieving that gain. Some issues are just not financially worth addressing. We believe that a person going through a divorce needs firm, professional, and imaginative legal representation, and that complex emotional issues are best left to therapists.
Some attorneys like to masquerade as crusaders, but that disguise isn’t going to fool a judge, only a client.
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If you would like to know more about our approach to these difficult matters, please give us a call. Ken Sherber, our legal assistant, will be happy to provide you with much more information, both about our unique approach to divorce and family matters, as well as your basic rights under the law.