Updated: Sep 13, 2020
One of the common things women going through a separation are first told is “Get yourself a good lawyer!”.
When I ask what is meant by a “good lawyer’”, the answers I get often boil down to:
· The lawyer who is a warring warrior, ready by your side to do battle with your ex; OR
· The lawyer who is a magician who can turn the proverbial sow’s ear into a silk purse.
Often, people will conflate the amount that a lawyer charges with that lawyer being able to out-warrior or out-magician everyone else. I have seen clients who are scared witless that their ex will use a stronger financial position to pay for a fancy-pants lawyer who charges more in an hour than they earn in a week.
Here’s the good news - no matter how much a lawyer charges, no matter their skill or their experience, they cannot take a rotten case and "warrior" or "magician" their way to making it a winner.
I am the first to say that the one of the biggest decisions you make in any separation is your choice of lawyer. Not so that you can have your lawyer lead you into war with your ex but, rather, so your lawyer can use their skills to keep the temperature down on any conflict between you and your ex. You need the lawyer who can help you peacefully find resolution. (ps it is possible!)
I call these lawyers the “baker lawyers”. The lawyer who is a baker…
…knows that you don’t crank the temperature right up and not expect pots to boil over or tops to get burned. Unlike the warrior lawyer, the baker lawyer carefully keeps an eye on the temperature of any dispute or conflict and adjusts their approach gently,as required, to bring things back to the right balance.
…knows that the end result of the legal issues in your separation or divorce will only be as good as the ingredients she or he is given by you to work with. YOU are the biggest ingredient in the mix. She knows she can only work with what she has and can’t ignore what is missing. As such, the baker lawyer knows not to over-promise and under-deliver or give false hope. The baker lawyer knows not to tell you what you want to hear but, rather, what you need to hear. If you give me only eggs and sugar, I know not to promise you a cake but I do know I can deliver you a pavlova. It is the same with a legal dispute. I often tell clients “Give me poor or insufficient ingredients, you will get a poor result. I am a lawyer, not a magician.”
…has some hacks up their sleeve. They aren't magicians but they know how to make the ingredients you have work to their best and shine. The baker lawyer will help you identify when: something is not working for you, you need to be doing something differently, need to reconsider your approach to an issue and helps you get on the right track.
… understands you can’t control all the elements. Sometimes the oven is running hot or the yeast is dead and a pivot or adjustment is required. Similarly, things outside your control may happen in your case. Perhaps you strike an unsympathetic judge. Maybe the law simply isn't on your side.
…knows that to overmix can be lethal. Sometimes, a light touch is required if you are to avoid a tough result. You may want 20 extra paragraphs in your affidavit or a letter to your ex's lawyer or a heavier hand to be taken but the baker lawyer will know when that will do you a disservice.
...appreciates that timing is everything. The pace has to be right in order for everything to come together optimally. For some clients, there is merit in a slower, more considered approach.
...knows old baking powder or yeast doesn’t rise. Dredging through events from 2...3...13 years ago will likely be costly and not help your case.
...let's you lick the beaters! You've got to relish the small, positive gains along the way. Sometimes they are difficult to spot, particularly if you've never been through a separation before and have no comparison point. The baker lawyer makes sure you know when you are rocking things and doing well along the way.
So, what type of lawyer do you think you need? Let me know over in my closed group, The Divorce Lighthouse Group on Facebook or in the comments below.