Monday, December 20, 2010

I Shall Be Released

I'm kinda busy these next few weeks like lots of folks --family, holidays, eating too much, standing in line spending money I don't have...

So I while I can't spend much time online for the next two weeks, I want to wish everyone all the best for the new year.

And I want to share two songs:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Getting Ready For Court: For Real

I'm on the Huffington Post!  This is my article: which I've re-posted here:

Okay, you've got a big day ahead of you. Your lawyer's told you to meet her on the fourth floor of the courthouse at 9 am for the 9:30 calendar call.

First order of business: What to wear. Nothing too casual, nothing too flashy. Revealing too much won't help at all. In fact, it'll annoy everyone. And dressing as if you're broke, when you're not, won't fool anyone. Jeans or sweats only if you want to diss the judge. Men, a business suit works if that's your usual work attire. If not, a sports coat and slacks are fine. Track outfits or shorts won't do it, though. Women, same thing: Business attire (dress, suit, nice skirt and top), or neat casual. No teetery heels, no extreme make-up. Now,can you get to the courthouse without getting lost? Sure you left enough time to park or for public transport? Because being late is very bad. You don't know if your case will be the first or last to be called, but you don't want to default.

Security is the next hurdle. Not as bad as TSA, but those court security people can be very brusque,especially on Monday mornings. Just do what they tell you and be patient - empty your pockets, put your handbag and briefcase on the conveyor belt to be x-rayed, walk through the metal detectors. No, you can't take cameras and tape recorders into the courthouse. Yes, you might have to leave your cell phone with security.

You should leave anything questionable back home, or in your car, or in your lawyer's office. Court officers are law enforcement professionals and are not to be messed with. Hassling with these guys is a guaranteed downer that you won't win. And the courtroom's still ahead of you. You want to make your day in court extra stressful? Didn't think so.

Up on the fourth floor, you're looking for your lawyer and--oh, look! There she is! Wait. Hold on. No running, no shouting. Remember third grade? Same rules only, this time, court officers will enforce them. And they wear guns.

Your team's in a huddle and there's no place to sit. Courthouse staff may get grumpy if you lean on that circa 1940's wooden table with deep grooves penned across its surface. And watch out for that vintage metal chair with the broken leg. You may get lucky and find a seat eventually but, remember, the name of the game right now is hassle avoidance. Find a corner if you can. And here's another rule that's not made to be broken: Voices low, eyes open. You don't know if your spouse's lawyer's paralegal, or the soon-to-be-appointed law guardian, is standing right behind you. And what if your spouse is lurking just across the hallway, just waiting to push your buttons? Ignore her/him. That's why you're in court, remember? Because the two of you couldn't work it out by yourselves. You start getting into an argument again now, those brusque court officers will be over in a New York minute and they'll be in even a worse mood than before.

So, you've been well-behaved, kept your cool (sort of, even though you've stained your nice clothes with sweat),and checked your watch repeatedly. Still waiting for your case to be called...Where's the ladies'/men's room? Nine times out of ten, your case will be called right after you've gone to the bathroom. Maybe you shouldn't have drunk six cups of coffee already. Maybe you can wait to go at home, where the toilet is clean, where there's three-ply toilet paper that doesn't rip after you pull one little sheet and plenty of soap and real towels and warm water.

Your case is finally called, and you trail behind your lawyer, who is marching purposefully into the courtroom. You both sit at a big table in front of the judge, while the judge and the clerks and lawyers- all these strangers in your life - utter jargon, greetings and mundane directions, while your heart is racing out of control.

This is what you do: Speak aloud only when the judge tells you to. Don't drive your lawyer nuts with scribbled notes and nudges and whispers. Don't glare at your spouse or his/her lawyer. No histrionics,no stage whispers, no rolling eyes or heavy sighs. Here's where you must look like a courteous poker player, revealing nothing but always - always - treating everyone around you with respect. Because,guess what? The judge is judging you, even when you're not saying a word. Even if your court appearance doesn't go well, or even if it goes fabulously well, you're still the courteous poker player.

Remember, Round Two is just around the corner.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Wild, Wild West of Blogging

I'm pretty new to this whole blog scene, not gonna lie.

I think of blogging as putting ideas and opinions out there on the Internet, with the notion that the readers will (hopefully) find them interesting and entertaining, and comment on them.  Maybe offer their own opinions and ideas, engage in some back-and-forth dialogue with both the blogger and other readers who post their comments.  The blogger responds to any comment that s/he feels merits a response - even a simple 'thank you' for visiting.

Some of those kinds of blogs are linked here, like Prime Time Crime Review, Divorce Saloon, Family Lore, What About Clients, Huffington Post. I get their RSS feeds and check them as often as I can, along with their links to other blogs, which gives me the opportunity to stumble on some real finds.

But some 'blogs' are nothing more than straight business-getting devices. Nothing wrong with that, but how can you engage in a conversation (the point of blogging, I think) when all you're doing is describing your prowess, and nothing more? That doesn't encourage the give-and-take between blogger and reader.  Just a one-way marketing street. Bor-ing.

Then there are the seemingly informative blogs which offer guidance - and then blast away when some hapless  person posts on the site.  Like some of the writers' sites and literary agents' blogs - OMG!  Granted, people who post for comment are exposing themselves to potential ridicule and derogatory remarks, but, honestly, do the wise and world-weary 'experts' have to be so snarky in their 'instructional' critiques? Yeeeshhhh.

Can't say I love the exhibitionist, self-promoting ones.  The "I'm Divorced and Have Sex with Three Strangers a Day" blogs, replete with photos.  Seriously, what do those people want besides attention?  Very pathetic, having no life outside the Internet, because you know they're making all that crap up. And if they're not, it's even more pathetic that they feel the need to share their sordid lives so publicly in order to feel validated. Ugh.

And the abusive ones, you know, where the bloggers, or the people commenting on a post, are viciously critical of each other or of the rest of the world.  Some of these people are delusional enough to think they're being witty, while other people know they're just being jerks but feel protected by the cloak of Internet anonymity.  Every kind of -ist posts like this: racist, sexist, nationalist, leftist, fascist - the IST's who should be blocked by moderators but evade them by posting on the big, highly-trafficked sites (i.e., not this one) with little spam-blocking.  You know which ones I'm talking about.

Then there are the venters. They have an overwhelming compulsion to share their passion or rage (about a particular event, topic or person) with the rest of the Internet world.  Sometimes they seem to be clueless that their emotions are exposing them to ridicule or threats (e.g., the law professor who railed about taxes and listed the details of his family's finances online, unbeknownst to his physician-wife). Sometimes, they seem to be begging to go viral and when they do, they revel in it.  Yikes, don't they get it?

Last but not least, there are the truly inventive/creative bloggers who have something to say or show in a completely new or different way. The Awkward Family Photos, Julie and Julia. What a blast to bump into their sites!  When I do, I forget about all that other the angry chaos out there in cyberspace....... :<)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wait A Minute- Lawyers Who Get Along In The Matrimonial Underworld?

Everyone hears stories about lawyers who fight each other tooth and nail in court and then go out for drinks afterward, right? And the stories about lawyers on opposite sides who are secretly in collusion. Always makes for riveting reading, especially when the stakes are juiced up by a writer who's spent maybe twenty seconds practicing law.

Usually, though, reality isn't quite a fun (natch). I've really hated -and I mean hated - some of my opponents in the past, which is never a good thing. Not for me and certainly not for the clients. Even if those lawyers were absolutely loathsome dirtbags who were a disgrace to the profession and to humanity as a whole. Oops, I didn't say that. Ummm...they were committed advocates. (Committed as in "should be in an institution.")

And then there were the opponents who were smart, savvy, respected and sensible attorneys who never played games with the law or the process, and who, 99.9% of the time, worked with me to settle the case amicably, expeditiously, and on reasonable terms for both sides, while carefully watching out for and protecting their client's interests. A perfect situation for both the lawyers and the parties, and all too rare.

So what do these two extremes have in common? Well, I'll tell you. Professional courtesy. Usually. Sort of.  Sometimes.

If my adversary was a jerk and didn't agree to adjournments, rejected my calls and faxes and e-mails, talked trash about my client? Fine. What goes around, comes around. Say you serve me at 4:55 pm the night before Thanksgiving with a heavy motion that's returnable on Monday at 10 am - and I'm supposed to be on a flight to Florida in an hour and due back Sunday night? And you tell me, "Sorry, Terri, I'd agree to give you until next Friday to respond, but my client won't let me."

Yeah. Uh-huh. Right. Don't expect anything from me when you need an adjournment. (Of course, this kind of crap lawyering infuriates judges and law secretaries.)

Experienced lawyers - even the slimiest of the bottom-feeding slugs - oops, I mean the most hard-core dedicated lawyers (who should crawl back into the holes they crept out of) - know better than to get into this kind of spitting contest when it comes to simple mechanics like these. So everyone grants, however grudgingly, professional courtesies most of the time, within the parameters of reason and the courts' directives.

But sometimes these courtesies are absolute killers when it comes to the clients' needs. And kicking your own client in the head, when you think you're just showing a professional courtesy. is not what any decent lawyer - even the nightmare atrocity who slithered out from the slimy bottom spot in her unaccredited law school class - wants to do.

Man oh man, it's a fine line. Are we back to, "Sorry, I wish I could agree to the adjournment but my client won't let me?"

Not necessarily. Dan Hull, a commercial/corporate litigator par excellence who's a consummate professional and knows to treat his clients, weighs in on this issue in  Professionalism revisited: What about the client? (San Diego Daily Transcript)

[I'm a real fan of this guy's work. It's the second time I've linked to him here.  Admittedly I'd love to see him duke it out in Family Court in front of a brain-dead judge with that deer-in-the-headlights empty expression in her eyes, against some of the miserable lowlifes I've had on the other side over the years. But somehow I think he'd shine, no matter what.]

So there you have it. Yet another look from the inside out of a divorce lawyer's warped mind..... 

Dedicated To The Soon-To-Be-Ex-Mr. and Mrs. Grinch

Yep it's that time of year again.  If you're over 30 or so, it might be time for a little reality check.

Time for getting gifts and giving money to necessary people (like doormen, building supers, the newspaper guy, babysitters, teachers, secretaries, business associates) - ka-ching, ka-ching  - before you spend a dime on your family and friends. Time for obligatory office parties, awkward group holiday functions, and forced family get-togethers.

On the home front, the kids are anxious about the latest toy or gadget they've got to have, but the stores are sold out of them. Your clothes are getting tighter (mine are, anyway). Airlines have jacked up their prices so travel is prohibitive, even if TSA weren't so obnoxious (gotta love them pat-downs and full body scans). Midnight madness and Cyber Monday are already history and nothing's on sale right now.  And gas prices are on the rise- on CNBC, they're predicting oil will soon reach $100 a barrel again.

So much complaining is tough to take any time of year, especially around now. But unless you can get over to Radio City and get a little Rockette holiday spirit - and the amazing Rockettes do cheer up almost any Scrooge - the holidays can be rough going even for the perkiest of souls.

In the divorce biz, come, oh, say January 4 or so, after the kids are back in school, the phones start jangling.  A combination of holiday hassles (see above), the presents were crummy, the trip to Aruba stunk, the credit cards are maxxed out, the Christmas bonus didn't come through, and s/he has been staying in hotels with someone else.  Among other things.

An entry in Divorce Saloon yesterday notes the historical uptick of divorces in January.  So true.  And for so many reasons - including, and maybe especially, because the crappy Christmas gift was the last straw.

But to the rest of you - and even to you, Mr. and Mrs. Grinch - I truly hope you will enjoy the holidays.  Because it is the time of year to open our hearts to each other.  Or to someone, anyone, even if it's not your spouse. And we're alive and on this earth, regardless of whether we're all 100%  physically, emotionally or psychologically healthy.

I'll be doing a sing-in of Handel's Messiah again this year.  The music never ceases to stir my soul. Lift up your heads, O ye gates....

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Enough About Good Divorce Lawyers- Where are the Good Mediators?

There are about ten zillion articles and posts on how to hire a good divorce lawyer.  Zzzzzzzzzzz.  Are they telling you anything you don't know?  No. Are they helpful?  Many of them are, if you actually follow them.  Of course, most people hire someone who acts like they do, or acts they way they think a divorce lawyer should act. Or they hire the lawyer who represented their friend, family member or someone who was in the news.

In my travels on the Internet, I've seen a lot fewer posts on how to hire a good mediator. Caveat: I don't really like the mediation model.  I don't think it works for most people, and I have yet to meet a mediator I think has done a first-rate job, although I know they're out there.  (The AAML has a mediation group, so I'd look there, first and foremost, for the training, the skills and the knowledge base.)

I read a frustrated comment on Huff Post Divorce on this topic (in response to this post:, to which I made the following brief reply:

"The role of divorce mediators is to find a meeting point, or common ground, to resolve differences (not to bring people together for the purpose of reconciliation, although that can happen when a couple sees that they CAN indeed work things out).

I think you need look for a few things when looking for a good mediator. First, you should feel financially comfortable - if the mediator demands money first, before even seeing you, I'd say, thanks but no thanks. Second, I'd suggest staying clear of mental health pros who work as mediators - you don't want a therapist, you want someone who knows the law, the court system, and the ins and outs of the local legal scene. Last, you need someone who can pass the proverbial 'smell test- you want a mediator who is a smart, honest, strong, forthright, experienced agenda-free professional. A good mediator isn't going to take sides, drag out the mediation, allow one side to abuse the mediation process, or be incapable of drafting your separation agreement.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Top Ten "Must Knows" for Divorced Dads

Very nicely put, Joel! If both sides of the equation (i.e., divorced moms as well as dads) paid more than lip service to your top ten list, I think we'd see far fewer claims of parental alienation and far greater numbers of happy kids and parents.

The crucial thread that runs throughout your post is that a non-custodial parent NEVER just 'visits' with his/her child - unless s/he's doing time in jail :
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Death This Time, Not Divorce!!!!!!!!!!!

I just found out this afternoon that a short story I'd written last March and submitted to a writing contest has been selected as one of twelve short stories (out of 900 submissions) to be published in an anthology themed around 'Memory.'

I am feeling soooooooooooo cooooooooooool!  My first piece of published fiction!  YAY!!!!!!!!!!

The story, entitled 'Somerset,' is an unsentimental study of a dying woman who ponders what her obituary should say.

Oh, stop!  It's not  that depressing! Besides, death and divorce are two of my favorite topics (along with destruction, greed and lust!!!)   :<)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Worthless Lawyers

I find this absolutely irresistible - It's from the fabulous blog of the inimitable JD Hull ( ):

The 7 Habits of Highly Useless Corporate Lawyers.

"Ernie from Glen Burnie", not his real name, is an unreliable but wise childhood friend of mine who likes the works of Hunter Thompson. EFGB is now a partner at a Washington, DC law firm. For years he has claimed that the following--by an unknown and long-dead lawyer, and dated 1836--was discovered during the 1980s in the ruins of an old Episcopal church in a northern Virginia town near our native DC. I would believe EFGB--except that I doubt that the word "weenie" was much in style in the antebellum American south:
1. Be risk-averse at all times. Clients have come to expect this from their lawyers. It's tradition. Honor it.

2. Tell the client only what it can't do. Business clients are run by business people who take risks. They need to be managed, guided, stopped. Don't encourage them.
3. Whatever you do, don't take a stand, and don't make a recommendation. (You don't want to be wrong, do you?)
4. Treat the client as a potential adversary at all times. Keep a distance.
5. Cover yourself. Write a lot to the client. Craft lots of confirming letters which use clauses like "it is our understanding", "our analysis is limited to..." and "we do not express an opinion as to whether..."
6. Churn up extra fees with extra letters and memoranda and tasks. Milk the engagement. (If you are going to be a weenie anyway, you might as well be a sneaky weenie.)
7. As out-house counsel, you are American royalty. Never forget that.

Monday, November 8, 2010

On Being A Hardass

I've been giving this some thought over the past, say, 20 years or so.

It's very unpleasant to be on the receiving end of some testosterone-laden (male or female, doesn't matter), froth-at-the-mouth, belly-jutting jerk who never EVER lets anyone else get a word in edgewise, never EVER wants to talk settlement unless it's a total surrender, and never EVER has anything but the utmost contempt and abuse for you.

On the other hand, sometimes I've found I can be a hardass without (I think) being totally unreasonable.  Taking a tough negotiating stance can  psych out my adversary.  Having the time, energy, money, reputation, power and  resources to back up a hardline position - even when it's unreasonable - can lead to (perhaps undeserving) good results. And sometimes, being a hardass is the only option.  Like when the other side is so irrational that it would be impossible to cave, let alone meet half-way, without marching into quicksand.

But being a hardass is so energy-consuming - Lord, it's exhausting!  And apart from being so draining, who the hell wants to look in the mirror and see the person you usually loathe staring right back at you, looking just like you? It's unnerving.  And the effect on the people around you?  OK, some people LIKE hardasses. They seek them out for any number of reasons.  For the most part, though, normal people would prefer to spend their time not being embarrassed and not being stressed out by being around such hyper-aggressiveness.

So, I wonder, is it really worth it to be 'tough', despite the potentially good result?

Notice this post isn't addressing the idea of only LAWYERS as being hardasses. No, I'm talking about hardasses in general.   Because sometimes, the biggest hardass of all isn't a lawyer. It's the lady calling from Customer Service who won't give you her direct extension, the State Trooper who pulls you over for going seven miles over the speed limit, the Customs Officer who rips apart your suitcase, the sanitation worker who refuses to remove your leaf bags, the guy behind the counter going on his break so the other check-out line has twenty people waiting -- you get the idea.

Fine, yeah, sometimes it's the lawyers.

Which brings me around to my favorite expression: If people weren't a**h***s, they wouldn't need lawyers (I made that one up a while ago).   Something to ponder the next time someone makes another bad lawyer joke.

Bottom line: Plenty of hardasses from all walks of life to go around.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Why Doesn’t She Just Leave Him?

Why Doesn’t She Just Leave Him?

My new friend Allison Leotta, a DC sex crimes prosecutor, has just had her debut novel published, entitled "Law of Attraction". It is already garnering rave reviews and she is being compared to Lisa Scottolini and Linda Fairstein!

I have just downloaded this book on my Kindle and can't wait to read it. Here's to the lawyer/writers of the world who have fabulous insights to share, and excellent writing skills that make their insights entertaining, accessible and credible!!

I'm Not The Only One Off-Line

My friends @ took a hiatus, as did champion blogger David Mott @  Unplugged and Offline

So I feel a little less guilty.

Busy writing, sorry! ...

Been busy busy busy writing....

Thanks everybody - I'll rejoin the human race soon, I promise!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Writing sex/love scenes

Lordie, it's hard (no pun intended)....

Among the difficulties:

1.  Describing body parts (porno-sounding vs. romance-novelly vs. medical vs. boring vs. slang)

2. Details of the act (just a little vs. nothing vs. implied vs graphic vs. flowery)

3. Emotions/internal thoughts (OMG vs. pure lust vs. none vs. mocking vs. analytical)

Just saying, it's not so easy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Writing's A Bitch But I'm Doing It Anyway

I thought writing my novel was tough.  That was before I started this blog.  Now I'm being ripped apart, trying to keep on track with my revisions so I can send my manuscript out before I drop dead, while I'm trying to keep on top of the blog.  Well, like the title of this post says, it's a bitch.

I think many bloggers are people looking for something - new business, more money, sex, friends, attention, a catharsis...Others just want to share their insights and experiences.  As for me, I think I'm split about 30/70, maybe 20/80, but I'm not really sure at this point.  I've been at it all night (again) and feeling a little like the Yankees lineup facing Cliff Lee at the game on Monday night -- knowing I have an uphill battle with the book and the blog, and wondering why I'm bothering (although unlike the Yankees, I don't have a huge salary to keep me going when/if I blow it-- I wish I did).

In the divorce blog world, there are a hell of a lot of divorce info blogs written by legal and mental health professionals  for marketing/solicitation purposes.  And a lot of agenda-driven blogs written by newly-single men and women who've gotten through some nasty times.  And probably the biggest group of divorce-related blog is the memoir-type blog -- some of them share far more personal information about the blogger's sex and social life than I ever want to know.

Some of these blogs make great reading.  I've linked a few that I think are excellent to my site.

I thought it might be kinda neat to write a blog about the people- including lawyers - behind divorce and custody cases. About the stresses they face and how they handle it.  Some of the problems that arise before and after people break up. Relationships between men and women. How lawyers think and behave.  The way the media portrays breakups and lawyers.

My goal has been to write about all this stuff in a fun, non-lawyerly way, but still through eyes of an experienced lawyer.  No, like I said in my very first post,  I'm not writing this blog to get any law or divorce-related business AT ALL; no solicitations, no agendas, no soul-searching. No touchy-feely stuff, either (not really my style).

I also thought the blog would be a nice companion to Client Relations, which that has similar themes and has, as its main backdrop, a raging custody battle between a ripped-as-hell celebrity chef and his workaholic physician wife. Seemed like a good way to regroup my energies, get some feedback, share my progress, have an additional creative outlet, have a little fun ("Gee, this could be fun! "- I love the Extenz commercials!).

And it is fun.  But it's also a bitch because it's yanking me in so many directions.  And I'm doing it anyway.  Guess I'm still driven, despite everything...

Wait a second--- Does this post count as 'soul-searching'?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Crazy Divorce Lawyer Ads Gone Viral

Get rid of that vermin you call a spouse - wreck his New Year's!  Yeah!

Even AOL's jumped on these:

I guess these guys are technically 'colleagues' -- OUCH!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lawyers in the Facebook Movie

Saw the Facebook movie (The Social Network) on Monday.  Excellent acting all around.

But ...the lines some of the lawyers had?  Like the examining attorney at the deposition who asks the defendant/witness if he thinks the examining attorney isn't worth his attention.  DUH!  What FACT did he hope to elicit from such a dumb question (eliciting facts is, of course, the purpose of depositions).  What point was he trying to make, that the defendant was arrogant  and hostile (again, not the purpose of a deposition). And what plaintiff's lawyer (in an intellectual property suit, no less) would be stupid enough to ask the defendant that question in the first place?  Answer: a screenwriter trying too hard to score dramatic points.

And how about the second-year associate who's ALREADY an 'expert' in jury selection -  WTF?  More likely she'd be an expert on which take-out is open at 11 pm while she's still plowing through discovery responses, or on which partner is most likely to hunt her down at 4 pm on a Friday afternoon for a research project due on Sunday night.  And not at all probable she'd tell a high roller like Mark Zuckerberg (FB founder) - who was probably paying her employer law firm millions for his defense - that he was trying to be an asshole.

AARRGGGHHH!!!!!!!!!  I shouldn't make myself so nuts when 'The Good Wife' hasn't even begun its next season next  - another mecca for great actors and bogus legal lives and lines... Entertaining? Yes.  Reasonably accurate?  Well, ummmm...... :

That's show biz.

(Allison Leotta's blog, The Prime-Time Crime Review (linked here: does a great job of rating the accuracy of SVU).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why Women Still Lag

This is a post well worth sharing here- I haven't seen the issues that hinder women's success so well stated in a long long time. I think Jacki Zahner's analysis also applies to women in all the professions.

Purse Pundit: The Lack of Women in Finance - A RANT!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Thriving, Years after the Custody Battle

Being a lawyer is often frustrating, almost always stressful. And divorce law?  Yikes. I didn't get this Quasimodo look from looking at The Rule Against Perpetuities (something dreadful we studied in law school) for all these years.

But every once in a while, something wonderful happens.  More than finding a case exactly on point, more than constructing a great argument or winning a motion.  Even better than getting a great, and I mean seriously GREAT, result in a case.

No, what I'm talking about is finding out over ten years later (!!) that the people you helped are not just doing okay, but actually thriving.  

I've been feeling pretty happy for the past two days, after running into the siblings of some kids (now young adults) whose lives were dramatically changed for the better after I got an award switching the primary custodial parent over to my client back in the 90's.  The kids had been an absolute mess (socially, educationally, emotionally, you name it) before the change in custody.  And during the case, I know everyone - parents, kids, lawyers - was going through hell.  After the custody order was issued, I knew the kids were a lot better, but still, you never know about those long-term effects....

So now I've discovered they're launching successful careers of their own - way to go, you guys! - with loving family support behind them.  

Yes, custody battles are horrific experiences. But sometimes, after the war is over, the changes made in the children's lives - and they're the ones who really matter, a hell of a lot more than the parental egos of the clients - can be so positive and wonderful that, in the end, it was worth it.

Condoms in the Car

The ultimate test of self-restraint, courtesy of Mr. Bolch across the Pond:

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Truth About Crime Shows

In search of what Stephen Colbert calls it  "truthiness,"  I found a wonderful new blog written by a Federal prosecutor and novelist (who is about to get her first book published) that analyzes the truthiness of  SVU (Special Victims Unit).  I'll link you to it while I finish setting up my new computer.  (It took me a week of buying, setting up and and returning two others before settling on another VAIO despite the lousy power connections - hence my week of silence online...)  I'll be back in a day or so...

Here it is :

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Lawyer Doing Coke - In Court!

This just in, from the ABA Journal:

A Minnesota lawyer has been sentenced to two days in jail for snorting cocaine in the Winona County Courthouse while defending a client in a terroristic threats trial.
Charles Ramsay, 43, was also fined $2,500, ordered to perform 240 hours of community service and sentenced to 10 years of probation in the third-degree felony drug possession case, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
His conviction, which resulted from a guilty plea last year, will be converted to a misdemeanor if he completes his sentence successfully.

Do lawyers like Mr. Ramsay make other lawyers look bad? Do they only confirm the public's existing negative opinion? No, wait - he was just building his street cred with potential clients.

Ah, the things some people do to get business....

Monday, September 20, 2010

Busy Bee Divorce Lawyers

No more gloom and doom for the matrimonial bar, according to the Star Tribune in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.

Divorce rates, and therefore business for the average divorce lawyer, were on the decline during the worst of the recession.  But rates are up again, as pent-up frustration with dead marriages is yielding a new rise in divorce filings.

So there's no need to worry about finding another line of work.  Not yet, anyway...

Friday, September 17, 2010

BS Sex Discrimination Suit?

Anyone paying attention to this latest anti-Wall Street news?  I think this kind of nonsense helps no one, from investors who'd like to see the markets bounce back and their portfolios return to pre-crash levels (and keeping Goldman alive and healthy is part of the mix), to women who don't like being cubbyholed as whiny bitches.

I just opined about this case on  Wonder if I'll get positive or angry responses to my view that it sounds like a crap case, and makes those of us women who worked our butts off to get where we are --without making stupid complaints about not going to golf outings or joining the guys at strip clubs -- look bad.

According to The New York Times, the same law firms are representing the plaintiffs in another Wall Street gender bias case, that one against BOA Merrill.  Guess they're looking forward to making some nice fees.
So I'll add another group that doesn't benefit from bs lawsuits: us lawyers.  Makes us look bad, too.

Grrrrrrrrr. Lordy, this kind of stuff REALLY bugs me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Benefits To Being A Man

To be fair to the opposite gender, they do have some advantages over us.

As I see it, gentlemen, your benefits include the following:
1.  Swaggah isn't an issue.
2.  Strangers assume you're the one in charge.
3.  When car salesman talk to you, they don't treat you like an idiot.
4.  No worries about whether a particular pair of jeans makes your ass look fat.
5.  Loosening bottle caps and jar lids is a snap.
6.  It's easy to have an orgasm, even when you're not in the mood.
7.  Making a decision about what clothing to wear to work is limited to (i) what shirt is still clean; (ii) which tie is clean; and (iii) making sure you don't wear brown shoes with a blue suit.
8.  You can pee in a public restroom without worrying that the seat is wet.
9. You don't take your daughters clothes-shopping.
10. You usually make more than a woman for doing the same job.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

If Men Were Smart, They'd Be Women

An old expression of mine...

Okay, guys, don't get grumpy at me.  Just answer the following questions and you'll see what I mean:
1.  Do you keep watching the same sports team over and over, even when they keep losing?
2. Apropos of the above, are you fixated on watching the game (that your beloved team is losing) to the bitter end, even though the score makes the probability of any other outcome virtually zero?
3. Would you travel 50 miles to get 85% off a $600 designer leather jacket that you don't really need, when it looks great on you?
4.  Do you wait until it's below 32 degrees F before you wear a coat?
5.  For the over-50 set: Do you own your own pair of reading glasses? AJCPKPYVXBCD 
6.  Do you check to see if the toilet seat in a public bathroom is wet before you sit down (on those occasions when you need to sit)?
7.  Do you have a new container of toothpaste in the bathroom cabinet as soon as a pinhead-sized drop is all you can force out of the tube you're using?
8.  How long do you keep the refrigerator door open before you accept the fact that it doesn't contain what you're looking for?
9.  Do you wait until you're totally out of clean shirts before you take your dirty ones to the dry cleaners?  Do you wait until you're out of underwear before you do the laundry?
10. Do you keep store coupons in your wallet?

Just saying.


Sunday, September 12, 2010


Sometimes I think even the most sympathetic people can look bad when they push too hard and for too much. And sometimes, I think, lawyers can do a great job of undoing their own client's case by being too aggressive (or allowing their client to make over-the-top demands).

Here's an example:

HOW does the media get hold of these things? (In New York, only the parties and their lawyers can see family court filings.)

Makes me suspect that maybe Oksana's lawyers didn't think about the negative implications to their client, by submitting a formal request to the Judge seeking recompense for her personal PR expenses in the form of tax-free child support.  Did they anticipate the very real possibility that their client's initial motives and good faith might be questioned? I'm wondering if the judge might be a little circumspect about her now. 

And her application sure didn't score brownie points in the the court of public opinion (not like that matters when it comes to judicial decision-making about custody, support and matrimonial decisions, as I've posted before, except when it comes to the significant, out-of-court impact on the careers of public people like Mad Max Mel).

Of course, only the lawyers in the trenches, and their clients, know all the facts and all the nuances of the case. But as the NY Post article indicates, this was probably the best thing that could have happened to Mel under the circumstances. In court, and with the public.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Eat Pray Love? 'Fraid Not.

I have to confess that I have only read the free Kindle sample pages of Eat Pray Love.

I'd tried reading it in hard copy at Barnes & Noble and I barely made it past the introduction.  That opening line, "I wish Giovanni would kiss me" sealed the deal - I rolled my eyes, shook my head and shut the book.  But I was nice and replaced it in the stack. Really. I remember doing that much.

The Kindle sample pages, which I read a week or so later at home with a drink in hand, hoping I'd get more in the zone - I mean, after all the buzz about Liz Gilbert's memoir, there had to be something to justify its bestseller status - simply reinforced the fact that I just don't get it:  Self-indulgent wealthy woman, the "primary breadwinner" who decided "I don't want to be married anymore", travels to three places that start with "I" (I get that much) for food, sex and occasional attempts at spirituality for a whole year.

Wait a second. I'm supposed to identify with her?  Admire her? Wish I could be her?  (Well, I am unabashedly envious of her success as a writer - but I still don't get it.  Maybe if I read the whole book, I would...but I can't.  The sample pages were sufficient torture for me.)

I wasn't quite as clueless about why they made it into a movie starring the always-radiant Julia Roberts (Ms. Julia loved the book, which explains it), but I haven't had the slightest inclination to see the movie either.  I almost want to see The Expendables (does that title come from the silly "What mean expendable?" line from one of the Rambo movies?) out of contrariness, but seeing all those aging action guys would be too depressing.

Who has read the book? Who has seen the movie?  Can someone explain to this intolerant, non-touchy-feely, unsympathetic curmudgeon why I should give a damn about this woman's story?  Are there any other women out there who are as disinterested in it as I am?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What the heck!!

A great posting from Family Lore: Not a good idea #3...

On how NOT to avoid paying child support...

P.R. for the Sex, Drugs & Rock'n'Roll Disasters

Okay, who hasn't been at least peeking at the headlines of the latest celebrity train-wreck splits?  Vicodin rehab, sex addiction clinics, rock star lovers, etc etc.  Of course, whoever's in the news today is in the recycle bin tomorrow.  Then it starts all over again, and we get regaled anew with tales about other rich, famous, glamorous people who've unzipped their pants one too many times, or left rings of white powder gobbed around their noses in public, or cussed out a self-styled journalist who posted the video all over YouTube.

I know, I know. I totally watch this crap, too.  Thinking stuff like, better them than me. Or, if I had all that money, I'd never do that. Or, how could someone that talented end up like that?

And then I hear all the snarling about the lawyers for these people.  Publicity hounds. Greedy bastards  wallowing in their celebrity clients' misery.  Is it true?  Who's responsible for all the ugly P.R.?  What makes people think the train-wrecks didn't ask for the publicity themselves?

Lawyers who go issuing press releases about a sensitive case without permission have some serious issues if they breach client confidences.  Most experienced lawyers pretty much have the attitude of 'same old, same old'.  Custody and divorce cases don't get resolved in the court of public opinion, unless you want to count how an individual's career survives the hurricane headlines.  Remember Woody Allen?  Alex Baldwin? Christie Brinkley?  How did all the public noise about their personal travails affect their cases? Not one bit.  Now think about how it affected their careers.  Mel Gibson is a case in point. So what's the negative P.R. about one spouse or the other really all about?  Yeah, thought so.

Here's a great example, just hitting the headlines this week:  In the Woods's divorce, these highly-regarded bloggers were notably impressed that the lawyers said nothing about the details of the settlement.  A dignified conclusion to what had been a media circus.  

But for some reason (I don't blame her for being angry, but Lord knows how much the settlement actually was for their short-term marriage), silence won't suffice for the ex-Mrs. Woods.

Hmmm, do I smell a book deal?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Eight Emotions During and After The 'Closing'

In no particular order:

1. Exhaustion (from: negotiations, legal fees, pressure from spouse and family, emotional turmoil)
2. Relief (because the parentheticals in #1 are over)
3. Anxiety (about: financial future, ability to survive and bounce back emotionally, children where applicable)
4. Anger (i.e., why the hell did s/he have to put me/us through this?)
5. Sadness (about: the end of the marital relationship or the strains placed on it)
6. Guilt (that the relationship required a formal agreement in the first place)
7. Joy (that the parentheticals in #1 are over)
8. Emptiness

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Now on Technorati!

Now you can find me in Technorati, the blog search engine X6ZZTDFUBW42

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Heartbreaking Case from Jolly Old England

Forget father's rights, mother's rights- this should disturb anyone with a heart and soul, regardless of agenda:

Family Lore: Warwickshire County Council v TE & Ors: Another father abandons his battle

World Literacy Initiative

I thought I'd share this information, which I saw linked on Emily Giffin's blog (

A company called Better World Books, that was started 8 years ago, has raised over $8 1/2 million for world literacy projects. They collect and sell used books online, and the purchase proceeds help to fund the global literacy projects.

Here's the company's website:

TIME magazine also has a blurb on it: Better World Books

Family Lore: Revenge is a tissue to wipe your...

Family Lore: Revenge is a tissue to wipe your...

Toilet Paper's New Name Is...Revenge!

I found this article about Charmin a/k/a Cushelle linked on John Bolch's excellent "Family Lore" blog from across the pond (‘revenge-on-ex-girlfriend-cushelle’/

Now that's one angry (and powerful) ex, if it's true!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blame It On The A-a-a-a-a-alcohol

Just thinking about a few examples of life in the loony-bin world of divorce and custody cases:

A father rants on the phone, oblivious to the probability he's being recorded. Telltale white powder rings a mother's nose as she hurls obscenities at strangers, while her kids cringe next to her.  A husband spends tens of thousands of dollars on hookers instead of on his family.  A wife runs off with a lover and expects her kids to welcome her back with open arms after a 30-month absence.  A lawyer doesn't look at the settlement proposal that  her adversary sent six months earlier.  A judge issues contempt orders, over and over and OVER again, for the exact same offense that happened one time last year.

Cripes. What are these people thinking???

Some folks say, blame the lawyers.  Others say, blame the adversarial process.  Still others say, blame the whole legal system.  There's plenty of blame to go around. Like blame solves anything, right?

I say, there comes a point when I've just gotta go with Jamie Foxx and T-Pain: Blame it on the vodka, the Henny, the blue top, and the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol.

I can't wait for tomorrow's headlines (sigh).

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Now this is one fugly fish.

It's also one of the stars of a guaranteed movie classic-in -the-making, scheduled for release in the US on August 20:  Piranha 3D!!!!!

Here's the IMDb summary for this must-see flick: After a sudden underwater tremor sets free scores of the prehistoric man-eating fish, an unlikely group of strangers must band together to stop themselves from becoming fish food for the area's new razor-toothed residents.

"Fish food for the area's new razor-toothed residents"?  I'm hooked!'s my segue: Divorce lawyers may be ruthless, but jeez-- I don't know anybody who's quite this ugly.  Not even me after I pull consecutive all-nighters.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Lawyer vs. The Writer

Lawyer : The parties executed a separation agreement on June 25, 2009, approximately two years from the commencement of the action for divorce.

Writer: Paul grasped his pen as if it were a bayonet. Across the conference table, Elaine leaned her chin on her hand and suppressed a yawn at the sight of her husband's consternation.  What's the big deal, she wondered?  After two years, just write your goddamn initials underneath mine. Every page, just like the lawyers had instructed.  She heaved a theatrical sigh as he finally scribbled his name under hers on the last page.  Finally.  All  the lawyers had to do was not smear the ink from their notary stamps all over the page.   And fill in the date: June 25, 2009.  The hemorrhaging was about to end.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Likeable? No, make that redeemable

An instructive post from literary agent Nathan Bransford:

After the divorce- a celebration?

I can't count the number of clients who've told me that when their case is done, and they've finally shed their spouse, they're going to throw a huge party to celebrate their new freedom.  And they're going to invite me, of course.

Well, I've never been invited. And I suspect it's for one of these reasons:

(1) The client couldn't stand the sight of me when it was finally over (I've found that when I send a former client a simple holiday greeting, they groan and wonder what bad thing has happened- me and bad memories, we go hand-in-hand); or

(2) The party never happened - the client realized the divorce was too sad, too anti-climactic or too damn debilitating to leave much energy (or much money) for celebration.

I've seen a few photos of "divorce cakes" on the Internet (seems like they're more pro-women).  I wonder if they're for real and if they are, how many people actually enjoy eating them.

How We Piss Off Our Clients: Another Top Ten List

What goes around, comes around.

1. Nickel-and-dime the client to death. Charge for subway fare, the dinner you ate while you were thinking about the case but working on a closing for someone else, last month's roaming charges while you were on vacation, etc.
2. Yell at the client. It's your normal speaking voice.
3. Diss everyone in the case. The client's therapist. His/her parents. Your adversary. Make sure it's impossible to speak directly to any third party without having to go through someone else.
4. Remind the client you have a lot of other cases to handle. It's a matter of priorities. Triage, if you will.
5. Keep your client waiting for you. Make sure (s)he sees you sneaking out for a sandwich before the appointment, and waltz back into the reception area with either (i) a brown paper bag; or (ii) a receipt that you can ostentatiously slap on the front desk. Your choice.
6. Don't look at the FedEx packets your client sends you. Just say, "I never received your financial documents" and hope no one tracks the delivery date.
7. Whenever something's missing - and delivery to your office has been confirmed - blame your staff.
8. Is the client calling you again? Hell with it, you're busy. All the time. Ignore their letters, too. And why waste time sending them copies of anything? They'll find out eventually.
9. Make shit up. Everyone else does it. The judge never sanctions anybody.
10. Billing is an art form. So don't bother.

How to Piss Off Your Divorce Lawyer (A Top Ten List)


1. Promise to pay. Then don't. Or pay in dribs and drabs - string it out for as long as you can.
2. Yell at him/her at every opportunity. Make sure you can be heard even if the telephone is six inches away from your lawyer's ear (not on speaker).
3. Say you need to discuss his/her legal advice with your best friend (neighbor, former roommate, drinking buddy, etc.), who got a great deal on his/her divorce.
4. Remind your lawyer that lots of other lawyers are waiting to take your case.
5. Arrive 30 - 60 minutes late for all your appointments. Or just show up unannounced and demand immediate assistance.
6. Insist that a complicated document (e.g., your Statement of Net Worth, an affidavit, your draft Separation Agreement) be completed and e-mailed to you on a particular day, although you have no intention of looking at it for at least two weeks because you'll be on vacation.
7. Forget to tell your lawyer that you own property in another state (or country). Let it be a surprise when you testify about it at your deposition
8. Grill your lawyer about the status of your case - repeatedly - four or five times in a single day. Even better, several times in the space of one hour.
9. Invent facts, both trivial and major. No one's going to notice.
10. Repeat #1.

Best Publisher Pages on Facebook

Best Publisher Pages on Facebook

Monday, August 2, 2010

Are there winners in custody cases?

The usual answer is "no".

Kids get so twisted up inside - pressure from both parents, pressure from other family members, pressures they face outside of the custody case (medical, psychiatric, school/learning, social issues, sex, drugs, etc.).   They act out, they get sick, their existing problems get worse.  Tons of studies discuss how the stress impacts kids for the rest of their lives.

Parents?  They have their lives swabbed  all over a gigantic microscope slide.  Pretty unpleasant.  I mean, who doesn't have something negative in their past or present?  And on top of the emotional and financial stress, they get to have their heads shrunk repeatedly, not just by their therapists, but by forensic mental health professionals for use in court.  Yeah, not fun.

Whatever the results, everyone's too burned out and too broke to do much except collapse after their cases end.

But let's look at this from another angle.  The earlier, more traditional - now passe - view.  Maybe there are winners.  Not all the time, but sometimes.

Like in the documented child abuse and neglect cases, of course.   Saving those kids from years of torment, well, that's a win for sure.  No argument there.

Then there are the "shades of misery" cases, where, as a lawyer for the kids in one of my cases put it a long time ago, being with one parent was like living in black-and-white while being with the other was like living in technicolor.  I'd say the vast majority of cases fall in this compartment. Tough to prove, but when the facts are finally pointing clearly in one direction and the kids end up with the technicolor parent), isn't that a "win"?

Now we get to the noisy, celebrity-choked gray zone of parental alienation claims.  Experts pop up everywhere on this one, from the solid  mental health pros who've been studying (and testifying about) this stuff for years, to the pissed-off parents whose latest  rants are making the circuit on the Internet.   Who knows who's really the alienator?  Okay, sometimes the answer's kinda obvious.  Not as often as you might  think, though. Sometimes it boils down to: Who's kept the voice mails?  Who retrieved the deleted parts of the hard drive?  Who's got the most damaging text message records?

But assuming one's worse than the other - and someone usually is far worse (seriously, is any warring parent totally innocent?) - the facts will eventually be revealed.  Hopefully, during the case.  And then, isn't getting the kids away from the mega-toxic parent a good thing?  A "win"?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Early hours

My first blog post ever.  I'm starting this blog to share my thoughts about divorce and custody wars, warriors and survivors.

Okay, I think an introduction's in order.  I did my time in two big law firms, starting off as a commercial litigator from a top-something law school.  I (almost literally) fell into matrimonial law when a good friend and colleague at firm #2 enlisted me to work on a large matrimonial case.  Yep, just like the bumper sticker says.

That was in the late '80's.  A few years later, I jumped ship, formed my own firm, and spent the next two decades of my career eyeballs-deep in the world of  matrimonial law.  Building my practice, raising a family, and unsuccessfully battling MS.  (Of course, I'm royally pissed about the MS but that, unfortunately, doesn't make it go away.)

In the course of two-plus decades, I've represented husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, the wealthy, the poor, the smart, the not-so-smart, arch-conservative and left-of-liberal. I've seen games played by both sides, one side, and neither side, of my cases.  Good judges and bad judges, indifferent judges and some (okay, a few) who really cared.  I've battled in court to the bitter end; settled before lawsuits ever were considered; handled pre-nups, post-nups, and collaborative (misnomer alert!!) divorces.  Pretty much been there, done that, and if I haven't, well, them's the breaks, right?

I did the usual stuff that all reasonably ambitious lawyers do - I wrote lots of professional articles, gave lectures, networked.  Became a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, an amazing group of some of the best matrimonial lawyers in the US.  I actually like a lot of people.  No, I'm not posting rah-rah, back-slapping, self-congratulatory crap - I know the flaws of the profession.  But I'm not into  "bitter lawyer" stuff, either.  I've been around enough toxic snarkiness in my time -- I don't need or want to add more to what's already out there.  And because I've been around a block or two, I'm not pro or con any group, or any gender. Not into father's rights, mother's rights - maybe because I'm still idealistic enough (after all these years) to believe in human rights.

I've turned writer.  Pure fiction - not fictionalized memoirs.  It's been hard, un-learning how to write like a lawyer ("just the facts, ma'am").  Practicing law for 25 years before shifting gears- how very un-Turowesque. (Yes, naturally I'm another of the gajillion Scott fans.  I went to law school fearing/dreaming about "One L".)  I've been studying the "craft" of writing for the past five years or so...sometimes with some pretty bizarre people in my writing classes.  I've had to re-learn the art of humility (I know- no sympathy out there for me on this one).  Gone to a bunch of writers' conferences and meetings, I subscribe to writer-friendly blogs (I'll be providing links), etc.  The whole nine yards.  I'll be posting excerpts of my work here from time to time.

Here's a  heads-up/disclaimer. This is NOT a legal advice or legal opinion blog, NOT a how-to blog, NOT a war stories blog.   If anyone wants to talk or bitch about their own divorce or custody case, I'm not dealing with it.  Like I said before, been there, done that. I'm not doing more of it online, believe me. Ain't happening.

So we'll see where it goes from here.