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..... 


  1. Terri? Is that you? This one is aggressive. I like it. And so true! Talk about bottom feeders, man. In the South, that kind of nonsense is HEAVILY frowned upon. But there are some Yankees you try that on for size. Do they realize how many circumstances come up where you need professional references from opposing counsels? If they did I don't think these jerks would act the way they do sometimes.

    Great article!

  2. Thanks, Jeannie! Yeah, sometimes I wax poetic musing about some of the lawyers I've dealt with over the years...sigh...