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Mr. Nice Guy

Mr. Nice Guy

Nice guy“No one wants a nice divorce lawyer,” I read in our local newspaper last week. It brought be back to 1983.

“Gee whiz. I didn’t think lawyers cried,” my uncle said. I had just wept while giving the eulogy at my Dad’s funeral, less than a month after his cancer diagnosis.  I was 28 years old and three months into my law career.

30 years later, I see misconceptions about lawyers persist. When going through a divorce, it feels as though your entire life is at stake. You can’t afford to worry that your legal advocate is weak, emotional, or afraid to go to battle.  You want someone who will be courageous, tenacious, and maybe even heroic at a time when zealous advocacy and protection are essential.

Most cases resolve through mediated or negotiated settlements. You may not want a “nice” lawyer, but if you have one who insults your spouse and antagonizes the opposing attorney, prepare to quadruple the costs of your legal fees to get ready for trial.  With a bulldog for a lawyer, suddenly a child’s college fund gets spent on legal fees fighting over a parenting time schedule. A request for information is received as an accusation of criminal behavior.

You want a lawyer who can focus on the law and the facts of the case.  But you need lawyer who also listens supportively when you reveal fears about  your financial future or upcoming deposition.

“Nice” is not a useful criteria for picking a divorce lawyer. Neither is “mean.” Look for a lawyer who has the capacity to communicate effectively and bring people together at the negotiation table, while at the same time being capable of making a powerful case for you in the courtroom if needed.

The best attorneys never lose sight of what is most important to the client. They are simultaneously courageous and compassionate, eloquent orators and attentive listeners, passionate litigators and open minded negotiators.

If you are considering hiring an attorney whose heart is so cold that she would not cry at her own father’s funeral, my advice is to keep looking. 

Susan Koenig