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Who Are You?

Picture this: we're in Court, waiting for our case to be called. We have an entourage with us, our client's family. They each have their opinions, strongly held. Our client has his opinion as well, quietly held.

We (my client and I) are in conference with the other side, still waiting for our case to be called. The other side consists only of the opposing party and her attorney. Her attorney is standing her ground. We are unreasonable, she contends. They are going to win. She is convinced of it.

We unload our evidence supporting our position. It mounts and continues to mount. We build to the great climax of proof of our case, why our position is solid, why we are almost certainly going to win. Then, the air goes out of the room. Both opposing counsel and opposing party are gasping for it, taking it all in, all the ramifications, all the results.

Now their strategy shifts. The other side it trying to save face, to make the best of a bad situation. The other side is just trying to survive the day. The other side is just trying to get out of this courthouse alive. Fairly quickly, we get to most of what our client wants. The other side has caved like a dog that rolls over onto its back, offering its belly for the evisceration. Will our client accept the offer?

Our entourage is informed of the present offer. They smell blood in the water. They are hungry for the kill. "Finish her off," we are told. "Leave nothing left of her." We are prepared to do that, if called upon. The client ponders his predicament.

You have got to know who you are to be able to face the situations presented in your family law case. You have got to know whether you demand a sacrifice or will be happy with a livable peace. If you don't know that, you can't be happy with the outcome.

As people face their pending or impending family law case, they interview attorneys striving to select someone who best satisfies their criteria. That criteria may include years of practice, success of practice, perceived competence, but probably the most critical criterion is, does the attorney "get" the client. Does he or she speak the client's language, understand their needs, comprehend the bent of their direction?

Someone who is looking to just get away from their spouse will gravitate toward an attorney who makes the process sound all too easy. Someone who is looking for a mauling will seek out a pit bull and those who are looking to accomplish their objectives but still keep the peace will search for an attorney that keeps an even keel.

It is critical to know who you are so that you can feel through the kind of counsel you believe is best for you. That way, when you find someone who heads in your general direction, you can evaluate just how true to yourself that direction feels. You thought it was a good approach, but now that you are approaching it, does it still feel good?

Also, the divorce case itself changes a person's perspective over the life of the case. It is essential to constantly check in with who you are as your case develops so that you can check your present disposition against your original goals and gut check your outlook with the approach your counsel pursues. Your best judgment and your counsel's approach need to remain in harmony. To achieve that, you have to stay in touch with who you are.

So, back to our client and his predicament. His ex has substantially offered what we know he wants but his entourage, his family, came to court loaded for bear. He can instruct us to try the case, slice swiftly with the sword of our overwhelming evidence, and destroy her as an adversary now and probably well into the future. Or, he could instruct us to settle and preserve and perhaps even repair some family harmony.

Our client knew who he was. "Settle," he said. The client and his ex left the court house better off than when they went in. He knew who he was therefore he accomplished his goals.

Michael Manely

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