AN EMAIL TO MY NIECE by Bob Smith 
Friday, January 5, 2018, 08:13 PM
Posted by Administrator
Editor's Note: Bob Smith is a retired South Florida lawyer who sometimes writes for the blog. He wrote this entry from his home in Northern Wyoming, hard by the Canadian border. Previously, Bob has written mellower pieces from a Tim Hortons Donut shop he frequents at the Walmart SuperCenter in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Given the tenor or this piece, we wish he'd head back to the Tim Hortons. Bob writes........


Personally, I'd rather not settle. I know I can put on a good performance at a hearing and, since the result of a disputed hearing is up to the judge, I won't get blamed for a crappy result. Settling means that I've got to predict what the judge would do if we had a hearing and tell the client whether they are likely to do better or worse by letting the judge decide the issues. Worse=settle. Better=don't.


Since there are lots of judges who are in lots of different moods on different days, it is impossible to predict....except that some judges are very conservative or male oriented or female oriented and, sometimes, you can make a decent guess.


Sometimes you have a hearing because, though you're looking at an okay offer, the client really, really wants to tell the judge their story. Sometimes, you have a hearing because the other side makes a stupid-low offer that, on any day, you will either equal or beat at a hearing. If the hearing is risk-free and there is only an up-side, so, why not have a hearing.


Getting clients to decide what to do is usually impossible unless they accept that half the decisions we make in life are wrong; that making a decision is a necessary evil that can't be avoided forever in a neurotic haze of circular thinking; and that you have to pick the least bad option.......that there are no "good" choices (but that it is always good to make a decision, right or wrong, and not let your lawyer swing in the breeze....bad for the blood pressure). And, that even if you pick the least bad option, you still, quite possibly, made a mistake. I frequently tell clients to look up "approach-avoidance conflict" but I doubt anyone does.


Luckily, these kind of decisions have only a temporary effect. Kids reach age 18. Adults get a higher paying job. Men forced to pay alimony lose their jobs and can't pay. People get arrested, die, win the lottery, move out-of-state. This kind of decision is more like what you should order for dinner at a restaurant than what St. Peter is charged with doing at the pearly gates. People make it back from bad-results divorces but not-so-much back from hell.


Life is unfair. If it were fair, you'd be a trust fund baby laying on a beach in Tahiti with a needle in your arm. You can't fix 20 years of a bad marriage in a half hour hearing. You can, on the other hand, win or lose at a hearing, let the soon-to-be-ex know that you are dumb enough and petty enough to do your best to fuck with him if he messes with you. And, sometimes.......often......almost all the time, that is the best thing to do.


With my clients, I am usually dumb enough and petty enough to have a hearing for the sole (anticipated) purpose of showing the client's soon-to-be-ex exactly that (though always hoping for a big win). But, on the other hand, I am not well liked among young divorce lawyer who (for the most part) think we are here to kiss each other's ass (in anticipation of future referrals) and settle cases.


Enjoy your evening.
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