When you are facing a legal challenge, you need to find the right ally to help you navigate the legal system. This is a very personal choice, and you should take your time researching the person’s background and reputation. Some are known for being incredibly aggressive litigators, others have more of a collaborative approach that focuses on creative resolutions outside of court. The client has to be able to determine what style s/he wants first, then the selection of an attorney that will meet that need can occur much more efficiently.
Litigation in my family tore us apart for years, and I made a personal choice six years ago not to litigate my own divorce for my son’s sake. I wanted my son to have his father in his life as much as possible; I did not want my son to suffer the way I did, and I encourage my clients to get passed their anger as quickly as possible so that we can focus on the best solutions for the family as a whole.
Big firms tend to focus on litigation, which produces lots of billable hours and work for associates, paralegals, etc. Meanwhile, those of us that truly promote mediation or a more collaborative approach focused on settlements outside of court are either solo practitioners or small firms. With smaller overhead, solos and small boutique firms tend to have much more reasonable fees, whereas large firms have high hourly rates (often above $400 per hour for a senior attorney), and I have seen clients often spend over six figures for their divorces. I always wonder at the end whether those clients felt it was worth it– ultimately it depends on the complexity of the issues and what is at stake.
My greatest joy is helping people minimize the losses from a separation/divorce. It is my goal to make the best of a bad situation, to preserve as much goodwill as possible, and spare the costs of unnecessary litigation whenever possible. For those who want an aggressive litigator, I have a short list of colleagues I can recommend, so that I can stay true to myself and the client gets what s/he is seeking during the legal process.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.