Our Policy: We seek to resolve client divorce or family law matters in an ethical and efficient manner that allows our clients to move from their current status of conflict or uncertainty, resolution in their best interests: “Getting you There” to borrow from our website.
“Resolution” does not mean a perfect result. It means a matter being brought to an acceptable current conclusion, understanding that future issues could arise requiring additional legal assistance, and also understanding that resolution is a complex process that typically requires mutual compromise to positions which may not be “perfect”, but are considered acceptable to our client.
“Efficiency”, obviously, is an ongoing process, the goal being to constantly consider better ways to reduce the time and effort (and legal costs) to the client in bringing them to resolution. There should be significant attention by our office to review our files to address any areas where actual “waste” is occurring, whether as a result of system issues (justice administration) or as a result of lawyer and/or staff issues. Legal costs have become difficult and in some cases impossible for the public to afford – and we must be vigilant in improving our processes to provide timely and economical results.
“Best Interests” of the client should always be a “client designed” focus – keeping in mind, however, that clients may not fully consider the competing issues at play and it is the obligation of the lawyer to assist the client in fully realizing the broad and competing interests, including considerations of the “value” to the client of purely emotional interests which may be very significant to the client. For example – a client will want to understand that a question of “Getting as large a property settlement as I can” is not as simple a question as it may first appear, considering:
a) Starting with quantifying “property” – is all property valued on the basis of “market or cash value?” Are there other “values” that change the value to the client – i.e.) does $500,000.00 cash have the same value to the client as a $500,000.00 home that they raised their children in? Are there emotion or other non-measurable “values” at play in considering asset “value”?
b) Understand the difference between gross value of a settlement, and the net value, considering legal and other financial costs to the client. i.e.) a $500,000.00 settlement is only worth $450,000.00 after considering $50,000.00 in legal fees, disbursements, and lost income for time off of work to attend to legal matters.
c) Consider other non-quantifiable “values” that may be at play, consciously or unconsciously, and how those should or shouldn’t factor into the client’s perception of “value”. For example, a client may have a very difficult time conceding a greater settlement to their spouse, even if the “net value” to them is greater:
Client attending trial may result in a client obtaining $500,000.00, but it will cost them $50,000.00 in legal fees with a net award of $450,000.00.
An offer is on the table for $475,000.00, which would allow the opposing spouse $525,000.00.
Many (perhaps most) clients will balk at the offer, notwithstanding that their best day in court is a net loss of settlement position – but the “value” to them of not allowing their spouse to obtain more than “their share” may be perceived as being more than the loss resulting from resolution after trial. The may feel it is a better “deal” to end up with $450,000.00, instead of $475,000.00.
There may be other very real, but difficult to quantify “values” such as time and stress. Is it worth engaging in the ongoing stress of litigation – forgetting about financial costs for the moment – if a client has to wait two years for resolution, reducing the level of enjoyment in their life over that period, to save $1,000.00… or $10,000.00… or $100,000.00? That “value” must be considered and factored into the client’s design of their resolution plan. It is not the job of the lawyer to substitute THEIR opinion of value, but it is the lawyer’s job to help the client fully consider those factors in coming to resolution.
In this regard – we must be constantly cognizant of assuring the lawyer’s own interests do not creep into the value equation:
a) Lawyer Ego: “I won’t lose to lawyer X.”
b) Lawyer Greed: “I will make much more money if the matter goes to trial.”
c) Lawyer Fear: “I’m afraid of losing.”
d) Lawyer Sloth: “Trials are too much work.”
These “lawyer values” are real, not imaginary, and if unchecked, may impact upon a lawyer’s advice – therefore, the lawyer much be scrupulous in assuring that process decisions are always that of the client, not of the lawyer: