By: Alan E. Freed
We lawyers are often perceived as knights in shining armor, fighting the good fight and mowing down all of the dragons in our paths. The truth, of course, is far less exciting and not nearly so clear-cut.
Lawyers representing divorcing clients juggle numerous roles: we are warriors and peacemakers, strategists and negotiators, counselors and debaters. We are constantly working to balance conflicting interests: uncovering all of the pertinent facts while keeping the costs down to a reasonable level; trying to achieve our clients’ goals while remaining realistic about likely outcomes; standing firm against opposing counsel while trying to avoid the tremendous emotional and financial costs and uncertainty of a trial.
On top of these challenges, we recognize that our clients, particularly those with young children, will likely be dealing with their soon-to-be ex-spouse for many years to come, and we are well aware of the wear and tear a difficult future relationship will have on the entire family, especially the children.
Our clients, of course, perceive what we do from their own perspectives. They are frightened about uncertain outcomes and they typically see any concession to their spouse as a loss. We work hard to explain to our clients the give-and-take inherent in the process of negotiating a reasonable settlement. We know, from long experience, that achieving a resolution that is “good enough,” may be the most realistic goal we can set. We also know that getting to that resolution will require giving up on some of the less important objectives so that we can hang on to those that our clients have identified as critical to them.
In your meetings and conversations with your lawyer, you need to let them know what your most important goals are so that we know how to conduct our negotiations. Our obligation includes letting you know that you will likely have to give up some ground on less significant issues if you want to hold on to the most critical ones.
When we recommend conceding a point to the other side, we have not abandoned you; rather, we are calculating what will be required to get you the best possible outcome, taking all factors into account. Sometimes, particularly if your spouse or their counsel takes an unreasonable position, we will recommend standing your ground, even if it means going to trial. But please bear in mind that you are very unlikely to be able to get everything you want, and that getting the things you prize the most will require giving up a little ground from time to time.