The Nature of the Practice of Law: Are you the frog or the scorpion?

The Nature of the Practice of Law: Are you the frog or the scorpion?

Posted By Megan McClinton, Marietta Family Law Attorney || 25-Feb-2016

“Finding themselves both stuck on the bank of a deep and busy river, a scorpion asks a frog to carry it across the river. The frog hesitates and initially says no, afraid of being stung, however the scorpion argues that if it did so, they would both drown. Considering this, the frog agrees, but midway across the river the scorpion stings the frog, dooming them both. When the frog asks the scorpion why, the scorpion replies that it was just in its nature to do so.”

One huge factor that makes the practice of family law a little easier is having an opposing counsel that you can communicate with and work with towards a resolution. When you have an opposing counsel who helps facilitate settlement or peaceful resolution, it takes a lot of the sting (pun intended) out of what is often a bitter pill to swallow. And I know one thing for sure: it’s not healthy to be around people who keep you in a perpetual state of anger and anxiety. It’s just not helpful to you as a client, or as a person. You are always better off with that person who’s going to be honest with you, and not keep you worked up.

Science has proven that you make better decisions when you are not angry or emotionally upset because anger disrupts the balance of your body physically and chemically. When you think clearly and with an open mind, you’re more prone to make a more positive and level-headed decision.

I tell my clients that I view our relationship is as a team. We’re working together towards a goal. I tell my clients that it’s my job to take some of the stress off of them – let me worry about these details for you, let me help you through this time of transition. This becomes difficult if the opposing counsel (or opposing party a lot of times) is stubborn, obstinate and intent on keeping you wound up. It’s our jobs as lawyers to advise you well so you can reach or come as close as possible to your goals. It’s not our job to be puffed up and angry, and push you to be puffed up and angry as well. Not only is it unproductive and costly, but also that conduct could make you look bad in front of a judge or keep you tuned out of a possibly really beneficial settlement.

There is also the precarious situation of the attorney who is rude, condescending, belligerent, and/or otherwise unprofessional towards his opposing counsel. (And the misogyny I witness as a female lawyer is a whole different blog post!). I still don’t understand what the goal of the mean-spirited practice of law is. To be intimidating? To bully your way towards the outcome you want? To put on airs for your client? This hostility and hubris always looks to me like you’re trying to compensate for something that you’re lacking, maybe confidence or evidence. Is it in these people’s nature to be nasty? It’s definitely harmful to their client. As the story goes, you can't change a scorpion's nature.  Everyone drowns.

So when you’re looking for a lawyer for your divorce, decide whether you want a frog or a scorpion? Do you want a lawyer who’ll carry you safely across the briny depths? Or do you want a lawyer who’ll end up stinging you halfway through, drowning you both with his self-destructive attitude?

It is usually best to live to see another day.  Swim on.

Megan McClinton

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