Wednesday, February 3, 2010

There's a right way, and there's a wrong way...

There's a right way to do family law and there's a wrong way to do family law.

One of my favorite judges told the assembled at a calendar call, that a family law lawyer could probably tell the parties how a judge would rule 95% of the time because the family law lawyer already knows the judge, the law and the best outcome.

Sometimes I'm in trial, having told opposing counsel exactly how the case was going to turn out, and opposing counsel, not practicing family law exclusively, is sure his client will fare far better than he should.  At the end of the trial, the judge makes her ruling spot on with my prediction.  Such a waste of time.  Such a waste of money.  Such a meaningless manufacture of additional heartache for the parties.

As I said, there's a right way and a wrong way to do family law.

The wrong way is for the attorney to pretend the court room is a combat zone, winner take all, where the opposing party is always scum and the client is as pure as the driven snow.  The truth is, we are all people.  No one is perfect.  No one is blameless.  That doesn't mean that there aren't real problems that have to be sorted out, worked through, and real solutions that have to be sought, found and enacted. 

But war?  The family law legal process, whether it is divorce, contempt or modification, is not suited to war.  War is a distraction.  The judges feel very strongly about this.  War is a waste of precious judicial resources, a waste of time.  Family law lawyers are good when they can identify the real issues, get quickly to the point, argue their positions without further inflaming the parties, and achieve a truly just result.

The right way to do family law, then, is to care about the family, to seek justice, not annihilation, to cut to the heart of the matter and to expeditiously (as expeditiously as circumstances and the other side will allow) arrive at the right result that helps, not hurts, the client and the larger family move through this transition into the rest of their lives.

I like the right way.

Michael Manely

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