Clients often want an “aggressive” lawyer. What clients don’t know, however, is that too many lawyers exploit the client’s desire for aggression to run up a huge legal bill while at the same time pursuing ineffective and counterproductive strategies. Any lawyer who has been around for a while knows that real life is nothing like fantasy TV shows. In real life, the other side in a case doesn’t simply give up in the face of a lawyer screams, makes accusations, and issues threats. Instead, most often the other side gets angry, digs in their heals, and the case just drags on. When a lawyer yells and screams in court, Judges just get upset and may rule against the screaming lawyer’s client. A lawyer who screams, yells and issues threats is just wasting time and your money. In real life, cases are won by hard work, attention to details, and careful collection of evidence.
Below is a scenario I’ve seen play out a hundred times. It involves Mary and Bob and their daughter Sally. These are not real people, of course, but their situation is typical.
Scene 1: Mary is upset at the prospect of divorce, angry at her husband Bob who cheated on her, and altogether not in a charitable mood. When Mary meets with a lawyer, the lawyer immediately sees that Mary is upset and angry at Bob. The lawyer tells Mary that Bob has treated her awfully and that the lawyer is happy to help take Bob “to the cleaners.” Then the lawyer promises that he is a pit pull who will fight for her. Mary feels good that the lawyer is aggressive, on her side and willing to fight for her.
Scene 2: The lawyer immediately files a divorce lawsuit asking for an enormous amount of alimony, more than half of the property, and for Bob to have little or no visitation with Sally. Then, the lawyer then engages in multiple rounds of intensive discovery demanding to get every last document possible, schedules multiple depositions and calls for multiple court hearings. At trial, Mary’s lawyer yells, points fingers, and demands that Mary get everything she asked for and more. Mary feels like the lawyer is fighting for her.
Scene 3: 12 months later the case is finally over. Unfortunately, the judge did not give Mary the enormous sum of alimony her lawyer had demanded, did not give Mary most of the property, and gave Bob plenty of visitation with Sally. At the end of the trial, the judge expressed frustration at the scorched-earth tactics taken by Mary’s lawyer and ordered Mary to pay $10,000 of Bob’s attorney’s fees. Mary owes her own lawyer $60,000 in legal bills. Mary’s lawyer tells her that the judge is awful and clearly doesn’t understand the law. The lawyer tells her she was ripped off and he tells her she should appeal the case. Unfortunately, Mary can’t afford any more legal bills, and so she can’t appeal. Although she ended up spending much more than she ever wanted to, and even though she didn’t get the outcome she wanted, she is thankful to the lawyer for fighting for her, and she is angry at the judge.
What Mary didn’t know is that her lawyer was a liar. Her lawyer knew full well, from day one, that Mary would never get the outcome the lawyer promised. The lawyer also knew full well, from day one, that as long as the lawyer “fought” for Mary and blamed the judge at the end, that Mary would still appreciate the lawyer. Finally, the lawyer also knew full well, from day one, that not only would the overly aggressive strategy be ineffective, it would double the legal fees.
So, why do lawyers offer to be aggressive, to make unreasonable demands in court pleadings and in court, and yell, scream and threaten? Because lawyers know that even though this behavior means the client will lose and will pay much more than necessary, the client will end up liking the lawyer at the end of the case because the lawyer was a “fighter”.
If you want to actually win your case, save a lot of money, and lower your stress level, find a lawyer who doesn’t yell, scream and threaten.