Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Floating Down a Lazy River...

Summertime and the living is easy, which also means I've been a bit lazy in updating the blog.  It's hard to sit down at the end of the day and write about the trenches, especially with a brand new, beautiful water feature waiting for me in the backyard.waiting for me in the backyard - Heaven on earth!

I'm also, hopefully (think positive thoughts!), coming to the end of my "Cooking for Cancer/Chemo" journey.  Office Testosterone goes into the hospital for his penultimate chemo treatment tomorrow.  Kind of stinks that it's over the July 4th weekend, but he is anxious to be done in time for the start of school (and the Blink 182 concert).  I cook some meals for him and his family for every round, sort of baking positive thoughts into every bite.  (I tell his family it's so they don't have to worry about cooking while running to the hospital and then dealing with the physical aftermath of the treatment.)  After the treatments are over, we wait and see how successful they've been.  If all of our positive thoughts have done their jobs, he'll be in remission forever.  We hope and ask all of you to send positive thoughts his way.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Legacy of the Divorce

Divorce is tough, really tough.  Most people expect that when they divorce their spouse, things will be different.  Some of those changes are good, others are positively awful.  We expect some of the awful ones:  loneliness, missing your children when they're with the other parent, and living on less money.  Others are a terrible surprise, and those surprises are what can make a divorce feel worse than a death.  People who you thought were your friends suddenly aren't anymore:  some of them take your spouse's side, and others are uncomfortable being around divorces, as if it could be contagious.  Then there're the stories, we all have them, and our views of the world shape them.  Who was at fault; who is a witch, a jerk; who's a better parent; who did more to make the marriage work.  The problem with those stories is that in the telling, they become exaggerated.  With audience feedback, they become entrenched.  As time goes by, they become distorted, so that bad behavior becomes evil deeds, the villain becomes the martyr, and the saint becomes the sinner.  Even normally self aware individuals fall prey to the rewriting of the divorce; education and insight are no defense to its powers.  It takes a lot of work to get past the trauma of divorce, both the obvious and the not so obvious.   Before you leave, be sure you're up to the challenge.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Money and Divorce

I loved Barry Ritholtz's article in The Washington Post on Sunday, Life Lessons From the Super Wealthy.  There are lessons in it for those not already dealing with those of us in the Trenches, for those working with us in the Trenches, and for those who are leaving the Trenches.  Lots of folks think being "cash rich," having a certain lifestyle and owning material objects will make them and their families happy.  What happens while they are building this lifestyle and amassing their "riches," is that they don't tend to the home fires, and they don't invest in memories. So, by the time they "make it," they find they don't know their children and they've stopped connecting with their spouse.  They end up in "The Trenches."  For clients in the Trenches, stuff is just stuff, and you need to take each day as it comes, but plan for your future.  For those on the other side of the Trenches, learn from your mistakes, and remember the "7 Rules."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Do Attorneys Help or Hurt?

The answer is:  "It depends." (Would you have expected me to say anything else?  Really?).  Attorneys who blindly accept their client's position, who don't attempt to understand the family dynamics, who don't attempt to understand where the other party is coming from, make things worse, much worse.  In order to help clients here in the trenches, you need to understand people and relationships.  You also have to understand that there are two sides to every story, and that sometimes one side or the other is not an accurate reporter because their emotions are so intense that they read interpersonal cues incorrectly.  If you take your undoubtedly overwrought client at his or her word and act on that, then instead of helping your client, you make the whole situation worse.  Lawyers are trained to fight - it's after law school that we learn how to avoid the fight if it helps our clients.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Done well, email is a wonderful thing.  It enables individuals to share information in a timely manner, ask  questions and receive answers in little time, and make a record of communication of which both sides retain copies.  Unfortunately, the immediacy and speed of communication means that sometimes that "send" button gets pressed when it shouldn't.  There are lots of discussions out there concerning emails.   Seth Godin's blog on email is one of my favorites.    I particularly like numbers 13, 16 and 36.  Here in the trenches, I would also add a number 37:  Is the email informational and neutral, or does it contain accusations, innuendo, or recrimination?  If the former, press "send."  If not, rethink before sending.  Following these rules would make life easier for all of us down in the trenches.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Best Interest Attorney

We're called different things in different jurisdictions.  Some call us Guardian ad Litem, some just use the generic Child's Attorney.  We're all appointed by the court, almost always in high conflict child custody cases.  What do we do?  We investigate the circumstances surrounding a child's life, by reviewing educational, medical, and religious records, by interviewing friends and family, by talking to our client and discussing the good, the bad, the ugly, and the just plain stupid things their parents do.  You think your children don't notice, but they do.  In a lot of ways, children are the most perceptive members of the family.  I love working with them, because no matter their ages, they're thrilled to tell someone their story, thrilled that someone is listening to them, thrilled that someone else takes the pressure off them and can point out to their parents the things they can't.  They're hungry to be asked what they think and to have someone really try to understand and address their needs.  Even when I don't agree with them, we discuss it - I haven't met a child yet who isn't a great collaborator.  Few of their case are easy - if they were, they wouldn't need a best interest attorney.  Their cases are challenging and require difficult decisions, but they're rewarding.  Now if only their parents would pay the bill.....

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Highest Compliment

that can be paid a family law attorney is to be referred a case, not by a former client, but by their spouse.  We always hope that our clients appreciate our services, value what we did for them, know we really care, and are pleased with the result of our representation.  We don't give a lot of thought to the other party/client, except to hope they know we are doing our jobs and that it's not personal.  When a new client calls and says they were referred by the spouse of one of my clients, it feels good.  It feels even better when they say that the referral source gave them my name because I knew my stuff, treated them with respect, and really cared what happened to their family while vigorously representing my client.  Having your opponent recognize your worth, appreciate your skill, understand your message, and send you their friends is priceless.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Lawyer's Lawyer

Let's start the week with a poem by John W Davis (April 13, 1873 – March 24, 1955), who served as Solicitor General of the United States, and was generally know as a Lawyer's Lawyer:
The lawyer's a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief;
Among all the sinners, he's considered the chief.
His friends all admire him when he conquers for them;
When he chances to lose, they're quick to condemn.
They say, "Ah! He is bought!" If he loses a case;
They say, "Ah! He is crooked!" If he wins in the race.
If he charges big fees, they say he's a grafter;
If he charges small fees, "he's not worth going after."
If he joins the church, "It's for an effect;"
If he doesn't join, "He's as wicked as heck."
But here's one fact we all must admit:
When we get into trouble, our lawyer is IT!
Happy Monday.

Friday, June 3, 2011


My friend's wedding weekend
Another friend's vigil with her daughter
Office Testosterone felt well enough to 
work in the Trenches!!!!!!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Big Firm Dirty Secret

Can we talk about the secret about which the big firms don't want you to know?  What's the secret?  That most of them aren't that good.  That most of them don't do any better than the solo or small firm lawyer.  It's been driven home to me time and again that the attorneys with the big firms are not necessarily the best or the brightest.  They just made a different choice in how they chose to practice family law.  I graduated 6th in my class of 304, was an editor of the law review, a member of the Order of the Coif, and clerked for an appellate judge.  My credentials rival any lawyer in a big firm.  What makes me different is leverage.  I don't have associate attorneys underneath me who can bill time for which I get the credit; I don't have a large staff who does the tedious work so I don't have to, people who are dedicated to sorting, scanning and saving endless pages of discovery (I do, however, have a fabulous staff who consistently make me look good - thanks, Chrystal, Erin and Curtis!).  I do the overwhelming majority of the work.  Nothing goes out of my office that I haven't looked at and touched.  The same can't be said of attorneys at my stage of practice in bigger firms.  Things are less formal at my office than at the big firms.  I can make alternative arrangements with fees without running it through committee; I take the time to get to know my clients in a way partners in larger firms can't and don't - i have that luxury.  What I don't have is the big firm name and clout - so what?  The name doesn't win the case, doesn't get the best result for their client, doesn't make their client feel supported at a critical time in their lives.  The individual attorney does, and that is what a client should be looking at when they hire one, not a firm name.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

She's Getting Married

One of my friends is getting married in four days.  It's her second marriage; his too.  Funny thing, is that she swore she would never marry again.  Now, she's getting married, and she's so ridiculously happy about it that she glows.  I'm so happy for her.  Of course, you know that all this makes me think about the trenches, as it should, because my friend is also a colleague here in the trenches.  Her decision to marry raises a lot of questions about marriage and our attitudes toward it.  Did she really not want to marry, or did she just not want to marry because he wasn't asking?  I think the decision not to remarry was sincere, as it is with most of us who decide not to marry a second time.  Her relationship didn't need a judicial decree to make it real - the commitment was there regardless of what the law might say.   What changed her mind and his was that circumstances changed.  A serious health scare, a promotion and a possible move away, it doesn't matter what it was, just that it was serious enough to make them both rethink their priorities and decide that it wasn't enough that they knew how they felt about each other.  They wanted the world to know and to witness and formalize their declaration of that commitment to each other.  When we hear all of the debate about marriage and whether it should be only between a man and a woman, the discussion usually comes around to procreation and the need for marriage to people the species.  Although continuing the species is important, it is not the only or even the most important reason to marry, otherwise, why would older couples marry?  We have marriages for the different stages of our lives, to meet our different and unique needs at each.  Sometimes, it's the same marriage and the couple evolves, and sometimes, it's different marriages.  Sometimes, it's between a man and a woman, and sometimes, it's not.  We're a social species; why shouldn't we marry for social as well as for biological reasons?  Whatever the reason,  it takes a lot of courage to join yourself with another, making that commitment in front of friends and family, and joining yourselves together legally and economically.  It is not a decision made lightly or easily by most, but once made it is to be celebrated by society.  A long and happy life together, my friends.