Sunday, February 25, 2007

First to Go

When I began to jettison certain areas of practice, matrimonial was the first to go.

Even when I was well paid on a divorce case, from my end it never felt worth it. Put another way, there may have been some threshold of money that would make it worthwhile for me, but I never came close to finding out where that threshold was, not did I want to die trying.

I have a lot of respect for the lawyers who specialize in matrimonial, and many of them seem to enjoy their work. Legally, the cases are often interesting. There are always issues on the cutting edge of law in this field. I know this from reading the law journal, and from cases I have referred out. That's close enough for me. If there is one area of law where, as a general practitioner, I hated having adversaries who specialized, this was it. Not only did they know the law, they knew how to make sure they were well paid (very disheartening when you can't say the same), they knew the Judges, and they knew how to handle their clients. This last part is the essence of matrimonial practice, and capsulizes why the generalists should not dabble. Here is the essence........
If the case has become "personal", and is not just a business proposition for the client, matrimonial lawyers know how to give the client their money's worth, and the game gets played until it's time for it to stop.
When the case is not personal, and the clients are not overly emotional and are trying to resolve their "business" together, experienced matrimonial lawyers know how the case should turn out, and they generally get right down to it. This is where handling the clients is also key, and the discussion is along these lines....."This is how it's likely to turn out, this is what it will cost to fight over certain points, this is what we can negotiate to, etc..." This works if both clients and both attorneys are like minded. But, one lawyer who doesn't really know, leads to a client who doesn't know, and then it gets ugly. As a lawyer, you don't want to cause ugliness, nor do you want to be involved in it.
What I do with matrimonial cases now is the following:
1. I do an intake, with the understanding I am doing it so I can make a proper referral. I explain my philosophies about this to the client.
2. I try to know who the matrimonial lawyers are in each County. This is very important, because this is one field where there is a distinct home court advantage. (See my post entitled "Location location location")
3. When I am thinking of a referral, I am VERY conscious of fee tolerance and making a good match. Some clients and some cases simply do not warrant the top attorneys. Having attorneys to refer to at all fee levels is very important.

A comedian once asked, "Why is divorce so expensive?".........
Answer......"Because it's worth it."

Well, that is either funny or sad for clients going through it, but for lawyers in general practice, I suggest you ask yourself a related question.....
"Are divorce cases worth it?"........
Be honest with yourself. I have never regretted making them the first to go.

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