Calling All dDvorce Mediators: Inside The Mind Of A Divorce Lawyer

When next at mediation a jaded divorce attorney collapses in the chair nearest to you, remember this has been their journey;

‘Dear client,

I am pleased that you have hired me to represent you in your divorce. I’m pleased because I need the money you and others like you pay me. I’m tired of working with people like you who are always fighting and never happy, and often unhappy with me, but I feel trapped now and don’t know how I could change my practice at this point in my career without a huge financial setback, so I hang on and do the best job I can, the best way I know, for clients like you.

If you’re like most people going through divorce, you’ve heard a chorus of voices — from your mother to your neighbor to the person who cuts your hair — warning that you better get a mean “junkyard dog” lawyer. I don’t like being a junkyard dog lawyer, and I don’t think it would be in your best interest for me to be, but I have to give you the impression early on that I am so you will hire me. I don’t like doing it, but you demand it, so I do it.

That means that when we met in our first consultation, I talked about how experienced I am. I gave you an optimistic assessment of what you would give up and what you would get working with me. If your spouse had come the same day instead of you and presented the very same facts, I would have given your spouse an equally optimistic assessment from their perspective. I learned long ago not to lose any sleep about doing this. You demand it, and I’m going to give it to you so you will hire me.

You can see what happened now, can’t you? I gave you an optimistic assessment of your case from your perspective, then one of my colleagues gave your spouse an optimistic assessment of the case from your spouse’s perspective. Together, we worked knowingly or unknowingly to convince both of you that the other is being unreasonable and that you each needed us to win you a better deal.

I told you in our initial consultation that you should avoid communicating directly with your spouse about anything other than parenting of your children. I did this because nothing is so important to me as client control. I want to be the gatekeeper of all communications between you and your spouse, so I can decide how much information to provide to you and what “spin” to put on it. This will make you and your spouse more suspicious of each other, and it will make you more dependent on me. I like that, at least in the early stages of divorce negotiations

There’s more than a 93% chance that your case will settle before trial. Nevertheless, I will prepare your case as if you were going to trial. This will be wasteful and expensive. I will conduct lengthy
discovery including interrogatories, requests for the production of documents, and depositions, charging you a great deal of money to prepare documents that I simply have printed from my word processor with minor changes.

                        author

Geoff Sharp

Geoff Sharp is a Commercial Mediator from Wellington, New Zealand. Geoff works in the Asia Pacific region, including New Zealand, Malaysia, Thailand and Pacific Islands. He is a mediator resolving business problems. He is a fellow of the International Academy of Mediators and mediates complex and hotly debated litigation covering… MORE >

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