Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Divorce Lawyers Styles: Pit Bulls, Lambs and Foxes

Thanks to the mention by Stephen Worrell of the Georgia Family Law Blog, I saw Michael Sherman's post on the different styles of attorneys that are involved in family law cases. I have previously written on how some people do themselves a disservice by searching for "the meanest" lawyer in town, instead of looking for the most knowledgeable, experienced or effective lawyer for the particular type of case. Anyway, the following is Michael's original post, with an introduction by Stephen. As you will see, Michael has done a great job discussing the merits of each style of lawyering. It is interesting, and not surprising, that some people react the same way to family stress, whether they live in Atlanta, Mobile or Fort Worth.

"Michael Sherman of the Alabama Family Law Blog has posted a truly insightful article about the different styles of divorce attorneys. Like Michael, I am frequently asked by prospective divorce clients if I will be aggressive... or a pit bull... or a shark. They phrase it differently. But, many folks facing divorce think that what they need is the most aggressive divorce lawyer in Marietta, or Atlanta or in Georgia (or whatever jurisdiction they happen to be in).
Here is Michael's article:"


"In my years of divorce practice I have seen lots of lawyers handle divorce cases. There are as many different styles as there are different lawyers. But, I have also noticed three recurring styles of lawyer in particular. I call them the lamb, the pit bull and the fox.

"The lamb is the lawyer that just sort of goes with the flow. They are reactive, not proactive. They want to avoid confrontation at all costs and that means they also want to avoid going to court at all costs, even if it means convincing their clients to settle for significantly worse terms than they should. The lamb may even be afraid to try the divorce case. He will rarely, if ever, tell his client that he should not sign a settlement offer that is being extended from the other side even if that offer is clearly inequitable. Thankfully, there are not a lot of lambs that last very long as divorce lawyers.

"Much more prevalent is the pit bull, who is exactly the opposite. They hate to settle cases. In fact, some of them won’t do anything proactive to try to settle their divorce cases. It is almost as if they take some type of perverse joy in seeing the “blood running in the streets.” The truth is that often they do this simply to develop and maintain a reputation as “Bad Leroy Brown…baddest man in the whole damn town.” When a spouse is angry and in the emotional stage of wanting to exact revenge, they want to be the name on everyone’s lips when that aggrieved spouse asks their neighbor who is the meanest SOB in town. And, so they work hard to maintain that reputation because it makes them a lot of money.

"The sad part is that acting like a pit bull is rarely, if ever, in their own client’s best interests. Of course, the pit bull’s main concern is not their client. If you know anything about pit bulls, you will know that they are very aggressive and vicious. But, they are not thinking animals. They act only on instinct. When they fight, they not only destroy the dog they are fighting, but by their own actions hurt themselves and anything else around them (which often includes their own client’s and their client’s children).


"The pit bull is aggressive for the sake of being aggressive, not for any long-term benefit it brings their client. Often people going through divorce will think they need an aggressive lawyer to represent them in their divorce. They are wrong. What they need is a lawyer who is assertive. There is a difference. It is the difference between the pit bull and the fox.

"The fox is wise and cunning. He sees the big picture. The fox is assertive when he needs to be, compromising when it benefits his clients’ long-term best interests, and always aware of the many different consequences his actions have on his clients. He stands on principle. Yet, he is a strong advocate for his client when it promotes his client’s long-term best interests. He recognizes that reaching a fair settlement is always preferable to trying the case and leaving it up to the judge. Yet, he also knows that if a fair settlement is not forthcoming, then he must be willing and able to prepare to effectively litigate the case in court.

"When choosing a divorce lawyer, you should avoid the lamb and the pit bull at all costs. Instead, find yourself a fox."

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