Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Make it So, Number One
What is more frightening than having your family fall apart? Leaving what happens next entirely in the hands of a third person. Why would anyone do that? Well, actually, it turns out that lots of people do just that when they hire a lawyer. They walk into the lawyer's office, pour the mess that is their life into their laps, ask them to fix it, and most importantly, trust that it will turn out the way they want it. Then, they brush off their hands and move on, checking in from time to time with the lawyer, signing the papers they're told to sign and showing up when they're told. They ask few questions.....until they get the bills.....until the judge doesn't rule their way....until it's too late. Then, they complain that their lawyer didn't keep them informed, didn't give them enough choices, didn't keep them informed of costs (even when they received monthly statements)....You get the picture. What's interesting is that these are the same people who take no responsibility for the breakup of their family in the first place, probably put little effort into making the family a successful entity in the first place, and blame everyone else when things go wrong. (Disclaimer - I am in no way excusing the behavior of those lawyers who do not communicate with clients, fail to treat them as intelligent human beings, and don't send accurate and timely bills) These clients are simply playing out the dynamic of their marriage with their professional team. We see this all the time here in the Trenches, and it is incredibly counter-productive. Sometimes we catch it, and sometimes we don't. Our best chance of recognizing the replay of the marital dynamic occurs in the collaborative process, when the professionals are working together to help the clients disentangle and change their destructive ways of dealing with each other, and also to make sure the professionals themselves aren't sucked into the dynamic. Not surprising, it's in litigation, with its "us against them" culture, that these clients can spin out of control and take us with them if we're not careful, because we have no check or balance on the dynamic, just the other side encouraging it. That's why, no matter the case, no matter what the client's stated preference, conscientious lawyers will explain EVERYTHING, multiple times, engage the client in strategy sessions, encourage them to think deeply about their desired objectives and the way to attain them, and to understand the financial cost as well as the emotional of their plan of action. It's just one more way we help clients move on with their lives productively - here in the Trenches.