Practicing in Savannah and Southeast Georgia, the pool of family law attorneys is rather small. I don’t know the last time I had a case where opposing counsel in a divorce, modification or contempt was “new” to me. In most cases we go back quite a way in our professional relationship. I try and keep those relationships professional and congenial. Life’s too short, and we are going to wind up against each other again and again.
In the world of family law, we get emotionally invested in our clients. It’s very difficult not to. We are dealing with people going through some of the most raw and emotional times in their lives. As family law attorneys, we are able to see the good in our clients even during their toughest hours.
Inevitably, this results in conflict. Not just the conflict between the parties, but conflict between the lawyers because, while we see the good in our clients, the other side takes a very different view. In most cases, that conflict remains purely professional, as it should. Unfortunately, in rare cases, the feuds become personal. The original case that started the interpersonal conflict between the attorneys has been long resolved, but the attorneys remain at each others throats for each new case that comes their collective way.
What’s notable about these cases is the massive amount of filings the attorneys engage in with each other on each new case. You pull up a case in the clerk’s office and find volumes of motions and responses and discovery and briefs. And after awhile, it comes across that the fight isn’t between those particular spouses as much as it is between the attorneys.
This may come as a surprise, but lawyers don’t work for free. If your attorney is throwing things across the room over the behavior of opposing counsel, there’s your sign. If your lawyer talks more about opposing counsel than opposing party, there’s your sign. If your lawyer has an axe sitting next to their desk waiting to grind it, you missed the first 15 signs and need to run!
Because they may be sharpening their axe for your opposing counsel, but it is your bank account that is about to get whacked.