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Not What But How to Think About Your Lawyer

In spite of what impressions you may have from T.V., sunlight, silver bullets and crosses don’t kill us.  Although I can think of a few colleagues to which that may not apply.  We are like you but in the divorce arena when you are a party, the problem is you are not like you. Your ability to focus and remember is likely reduced. Stress from divorce can be debilitating after all you are feeling the impact of a life changing event.

A result of “you not being you” may be you outwardly appear to be agreeing with your lawyer but you have misfired on what you have been told and actually may not be in agreement or may not have asked appropriate follow-up questions to clarify.

So now where are we in reference to “How to think about your lawyer”?  If this guy is right and I am not myself then I really need to focus and after talking to him in a quiet moment reflect on what the dialogue was.

We now know that there is a good chance you are not yourself so the task of choosing the right lawyer for you is even more of a challenge. Let’s compound the problem of assessing or thinking about your lawyer when you are “that guy”.  “That guy” No. 1 is the person that has chinned every bar and been all playground in every endeavor they have ever attempted.  Or you could be “that guy” No. 2” a person so physically attractive (at least in their own mind) since his or her teen years that without admitting it, finds it just possible that the people they have chosen to spend time with have gotten some type of bonus.

Numbers 1 and 2 are the people that get bad test results back from the doctor and right away hit the internet and develop their own medical roadmap for the doctor.  Tough sledding for the doctor and in a different venue tough sledding for the lawyer.

You guessed it.  “That guy” No. 1 is usually a male and “that guy” No. 2 is usually a female.

You can only operate from your own individual perspective in thinking about and analyzing your lawyer.  We already know that your focus may be reduced but if you are “that guy” getting a correct read on your lawyer just got more difficult.  Your lawyer should be presenting themselves to a variety of clients in a fairly consistent manner.  He/she does most of the talking or most of the listening?  Sense of humor no sense of humor?  Empathetic or critical of some of your behavior, grandiose in what he or she can do for you or business like about the possibilities?  Good effort in answering your questions clearly or has a side agenda where they talk about themselves?  However he or she presents it should be fundamentally consistent with a variety of people.

It is very easy for us as lawyers to be empathetic once a client tells us that they are wanting a divorce or not wanting a divorce but know it is going to happen.  It is a greater challenge for most of us to be ourselves when we are talking to “that guy”.  Don’t we all know at least one “that guy”?  Missing a law degree but certainly capable of guiding his or her lawyer through the challenges of “winning” the divorce.  Both “that guys” have trouble after the initial conference in concluding anything other than; I just met with another person that is not as smart as I am.  That could be right but the problem comes in not acknowledging they are now a part of the judicial system.

The best remedy for “clients 1 and 2” is to assess the lawyer not in terms of “not as wonderful or as bright or as attractive as me” but in terms of is this person one that I sense can and will help me?  It can be a heavy lift for that “that guy 1 or 2” but if something about the lawyer on the other side of the desk causes you to yield to the fact that you are now part of a complicated system and this is a person you can trust to take the helm then sign up and stay signed up. Can you check your ego at the door of his or her office or the courthouse?  Can you discipline yourself not to go to their office without an appoint or blow up their phone because, I am me, and therefore, entitled?  If you can, it is going to be a lot smoother ride.

What if you are just suffering from a divorce fog and you are not “that guy number 1 or 2”?  The best fact pattern for your lawyer is for you to be married to “that guy 1 or 2”.  Now your analysis is does my lawyer come across as someone that can put the high beams on my spouse in a deposition or on the witness stand?  This is an important analysis; it is mostly subjective and intuitive.  However, that being said if your lawyer strikes you as a person that listens closely to you and asks you insightful questions, that may be a good anchor reference as to whether or not they can peel the layers back on your “that guy” spouse.  How important is this assessment process in thinking about your lawyer?  How important is your intuition and your judgment that your lawyer listens acutely to you and asks you insightful questions?  It is at the least very significant.  Why?  Because if you are married to “that guy 1 or 2”, they play out very poorly in front of a judge.  Spouses with the “that guy 1 or 2” label have an elevated self-regard.  That characteristic may be an asset as a parent or in the business world.  The flip side is that there is usually a corresponding deficit for “that guy 1 and 2”; they do not realize how they come across to others.  They have an implied assumption that the overall glow of being as wonderful as they are: (1) allows them to spin the facts while under oath and send their distorted message right under the radar past the judge.  Not likely.  (2) Monogamy is not their strong suit and there are often times a trail of previous relationships, perhaps to the extent that a percentage of their pay check got scraped off before it got home.

A line comes to mind from the movie Casino Royale where the head of MI6 (our version of the CIA) a woman in her 60’s says to agent 007: “Bond, this may be too much for a blunt instrument to understand… but arrogance and self-awareness seldom go hand in hand.”

From the other side of the desk,

Jay P. Cummings

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