Every attorney starts their career the same way, by graduating from law school. But, of course, all attorneys are not the same, because they are shaped by their experiences before, during, and after law school. My experiences have made me want to be a compassionate advocate who makes sure that my clients’ rights are protected and are advanced through the legal process.
I understand that choosing a family law attorney is an important and personal decision. I would like to share some of the life lessons that have shaped my approach and philosophy, so that you can get a sense of my approach and whether my services would be a good fit for your needs.
Lesson #1: Exceed Expectations and Look for the “Win-Win.”
Some people say that everyone should work in customer service at one point during their life, so that they can fully appreciate what it takes to meet another person’s needs. I spent 15 years working in the hospitality industry, and I learned valuable lessons about serving others which have carried into my legal career.
One of the biggest takeaways for me was that I learned that success was not measured in meeting sales goals, but by the satisfaction of being able to consistently do the work well. Another was that respect is not automatic; it is earned through constantly exceeding expectations. The theme of my “education” from that time was that even in a chaotic environment you can always find a way to solve a problem that offers some kind of a win for everyone involved.
That solution does not come from focusing on trying to be right, but rather from learning how to de-escalate situations, which often starts with personal accountability. I’ve never forgotten what a manager said to me once when I was struggling with trying to solve a problem. Situations are never black and white. There is always a grey area in between, and that the solution is probably there where you are not looking.
Lesson #2: The Best Solutions Come From Considering All Sides
Law school education hammers home that life isn’t black and white. The basis of teaching in law school is that there are many sides to every issue. To teach this, the professors use the Socratic Method, which is a way of questioning students. Instead of acknowledging that an answer to a question is correct, professors respond to a student’s answer with another question, usually on the opposite side of the argument that the student was making. This is often frustrating for the student. The point of the exercise is to teach law students not to be “right,” but to explore all sides of an issue.
The lesson of law school was that there are always going to be multiple sides in a legal problem, and that each side has to be fully understood in order to find the best solution. Stated another way, you cannot solve your client’s problems if you cannot fully understand what the other side wants to accomplish and their motivation.
When you understand how the other side’s motivation drives their behavior, you can respond effectively. This theory of problem solving was what led me to become certified in mediation, to become trained in Collaborative Divorce, and what has guided me in “outside the box” problem solving in my practice as I strive to resolve my client’s issues.
Lesson #3: Work Toward Settlement, But Prepare to Litigate
Alternative dispute resolution processes like mediation and Collaborative Divorce can be a good way to reach a settlement that is a win for everybody. But sometimes, one side wants everything, and they are not willing to give up anything. If the other party is unreasonable, compromise doesn’t work, as this exaggeration illustrates:
Suppose the other side has decided they want both your arms and both of your legs, and they will not settle for anything else. Well, applying the principles of reaching a mediated settlement in this scenario might suggest that they should get something, but not everything they are asking for. This is because mediation tends to attempt to find a middle ground between parties’ positions. In the case of the arms and legs, it just does not make sense that you should be forced to give up one arm and one leg just because that would be “meeting in the middle.”
But what about just one arm? Wouldn’t that be reasonable because it means that you only gave up one quarter of the total limbs that they were asking for, and the other side gave up on seventy-five percent of what they wanted? Obviously, the answer is no. While this is an outrageous hypothetical, it points out how there are times when the two sides involved in a disagreement are so far apart that there simply is no middle ground. There is no mediator, with any amount of training and experience, who could guide the parties in reaching a fair resolution to this case. You obviously want to keep both arms and both legs, and you will never settle that matter in a way that will satisfy the other side.
Dealing with unreasonable parties is where litigation comes into play. My theory is that we must always be preparing for trial at the same time that we are working to settle a case. A phrase I commonly use with my clients is that each case is about leverage; who has it, and how they are using it. Sometimes you start out with leverage, such as having physical custody of the children, or having exclusive use of a marital home, or being in control of most of the assets or the large income.
Other times you have to create leverage by engaging in discovery in order to determine where the other person is hiding assets. Or by getting an appraisal on the house. Or by finding out that the other party cashed out their retirement account prior to filing for divorce. Having these different issues thoroughly prepared at the time of trial to present to a judge is usually the best way to create and use leverage in a case. This means that engaging in thorough discovery is a major part of preparing any case. Not coincidentally, it is also where you will often gain the leverage that you will need to nudge the other side to settle the case in a way that is most favorable to you.
Attorneys who don’t prepare thoroughly to litigate are often forced to settle, even if that’s not best for their clients. I will never put my clients in that position.
Lesson #4: Loving Your Work Helps You Do It Well
One last saying that I will share with you is one I heard someone say at a training while I was working with youth in foster care: Love what you do so much that you would do it for free, but do it so well that people will want to pay you to do it.
That resonated with me when I heard it. I wanted to be that passionate about my work, and I certainly was about the work in foster youth programming. I still am today as I continue to work with problem solving for families. Everything I have done in the past has led me to the work I am doing, and I love doing it every day.
I hope that you find what you are looking for in a family law attorney. I invite you to contact Blume Law Group to learn more about my approach and to see if my services are a good fit for your needs. Thank you for visiting my website.