Saturday, May 12, 2012
Why Did I Pay You Then?
In twenty years of being a family law practitioner, I've managed to get quite a few cases in the "W" column ("W" for "won") and a whole bunch of them in the "settled well" column. Occasionally, I have to mark an X in the "lost" column or the column labeled, "Split Decision". Win, lose or draw, I work hard. Recently, a client said, "I've paid a lot of money and gotten nothing." Aside from the fact that her assertion was not true in terms of interim outcome -- in the Motion war, we'd won a couple, lost a few, and some had been draws -- what she got was my hard work. Family law practitioners sell their time, trouble and expertise. They do not sell potential outcome. We cannot guarantee our work, nor can we put percentages on potential outcomes. The other side might win a round or two; the other lawyer might be a better manipulator; the case law might favor the opponent's position; the judge might exercise his or her discretion on the wrong side of the line for reasons no one will ever understand. On the rare occasion when a client voices objection to paying for services rendered where the outcome did not satisfy them, I know one thing almost without reserve: No outcome except total victory would provide the buzz they seek, and possibly not even that. Family law is not a win/lose arena. Sometimes it's a compromise/compromise arena, and usually it should be. In this case, the client swore her husband used drugs -- but the judge delayed ruling on my motion for drug testing until 90 days had past, making it seem to my client as though the judge favored her husband or his attorney. Moreover, on occasion the client made statements in court that contradicted the position she wanted me to take, confusing matters. Mostly, the judge's docket being crowded, and the husband inclined to stall, time wore down her resolve to fight. But she blamed me. I can only sigh, knowing I brought my hardest efforts to her case, and knowing that I will continue working as diligently as I can on every case presented to me. Because that is what I do.