Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fuzzy Logic

James Gross has another succinct comment in his Maryland Divorce Legal Crier blog that deals with a common misperception of people going through a divorce or of the "advisers" to people going through a divorce. Many people have trouble with the fact that there usually are no clear, definitive answers to most of the questions they have during a divorce.

"Lots of my clients are computer consultants, engineers, scientists, economists, investment bankers or accountants. They ask me questions about their cases and they want clear answers. Before I became a lawyer, I was a chemical engineer, so I know something about how they think.In math class there was usually one right answer and everything else was wrong. They are looking for the one right answer. I remember staying up all night at college with my study group working through the equations to get to that one right answer.

"After math, chemistry and physics classes, law school was a shock to me. I still recall the first day of Contracts when Professor Joe Covington asked me stand up and explain to the class what 'justice' means. I am afraid I did not do a very noteworthy job of it.

"I excelled in classes where the rules were hard and fast, like Civil Procedure, for example. But I did not fair as well in those classes where the concepts were harder to get a handle on, like Torts. I can empathize with the puzzled look on the faces of my 'math and science' clients when I explain divorce law to them. It is a human system and humans are full of flaws. There are no right answers – only probabilities.

"They are uncomfortable with these fuzzy answers. But I sometimes remind them that, even in their world, they deal with unknowns, such as the
Heisenberg uncertainty principle, dark matter, string theory and Shroedinger’s cat."

Like James Gross, I often remind clients that they cannot use logic to figure things out in divorces or family law matters. Even when there are "rules", there are often exceptions and ultimately, human beings make judgment calls. Emotions can easily overrule logic when a party to a divorce is making decisions. It's best not to rely on someone else being logical in a divorce context. If you need to persuade someone on a point, you will be more effective if you analyze the other person's motivations and try to appeal to them. Forget about logic!

No comments: