If a poll was taken of the average person on the qualities they want in family law or divorce attorney, there is no question that “aggressive” would be at the top of the list. People call our office often asking for a “Pit Bull” attorney for their divorce or family law case. They want an attorney who isn’t afraid to stand up to the court and opposing counsel. If yelling is needed, fists pounded on counsel table, nasty letters, or other hostile measures, they want an attorney who will charge forward in the blink of an eye.
Some will not like the title of this article. It will instantly confuse them and turn them off. They have been programmed, and taught for so long, that a “Pit Bull” is what they want. They will also wrongly assume that theme of this article will shift toward weakness or appeasement. This is not the correct course, either. You don’t want an attorney who is weak or simply advocates appeasing opposing counsel and the judge. You shouldn’t run to this other extreme, either.
What traits should a party look for in a divorce or family law attorney if a Pit Bull is not the answer? Below are some of them:
For starters, a potential client really wants a “bold” attorney for their family law or divorce case. A bold attorney is not afraid. A bold attorney will advocate zealously for their client. They will file the difficult motions. They will be willing to take the hard path. They are not afraid to respectfully disagree with the court or guardian ad litem when the time calls for it. A bold attorney is confident. A bold attorney knows that the path of least resistance is not always the best path for their client or their family. But a bold attorney also knows that it is still important to show proper decorum and respect to the court and opposing counsel. A bold attorney knows that persuasion works much better than flat-out aggression in most instances. After all, it is often true that you can catch more flies with honey.
When an attorney is simply a “Pit Bull,” this can cost clients lots of money. It can also cause the judge or opposing to tune out or lose the worthy arguments your attorney might be making on your behalf because they become muddled with the aggression. It can also result in the judge assuming that you hold the same hostility since you chose this attorney. In a custody case, for example, when reasonable and steadiness is needed to properly parent children, aggressive behavior can be counter-productive.
Preparation is another key trait that a potential client should look for in another attorney. Versus having an attorney show up to court in a wrinkled suit, with one manila file with all the paper shoved in it, they should want an attorney who comes put together with charts, graphs, and other supporting evidence. They should want an attorney who comes in with exhibit books and questions outlined if there is a trial or hearing setting. They should want an attorney who does legal research, puts memorandums together for the court, and who realizes that doing the arduous and time-consuming behind the scenes work is a critical feature in a successful outcome for the client.
Just like an actor rehearses, reads the script, and takes the preparation of their role seriously, an excellent family law attorney must do the same. They have to prepare. They have to be able to perform in a trial by zealously advocating for their client. Appearing for a client in court is a serious business that affects real families. This is not the time for a park bench approach to the practice of law of just showing up and winging it.
Pragmatism is another key trait a party should look for in an attorney. There are times where settlement makes sense for the parties. In some cases, there really isn’t enough to fight over. In other cases, if a party declines a settlement offer, they could end up worse at trial. On the other hand, in some cases, a party should really try the case. Maybe the position of a guardian ad litem or judge in a pre-trial conference is not one that the client believes is truly in the best interests of their family? Maybe there is a real possibility that the guardian ad litem or judge could be moved when they are presented with all of the evidence?
A pragmatic attorney, like a card player, knows when the client holds a good hand and knows when they hold a bad hand. They know when to try a case and when settlement makes more sense. Having a bold, prepared, and pragmatic attorney who is skilled at both trying cases and settling cases is what a client should seek, not somebody who is simply a Pit Bull.
If you are contemplating filing for divorce and have questions, you can call Stange Law Firm, PC, and our Divorce Attorneys in Troy, Missouri at 314-963-4700. We represent clients in divorce cases all the time and can help you analyze your options.