According to the ABA, there are about 1 million licensed and actively practicing attorneys in the U.S. So not only is there true confirmation that we are a rare breed, but it also helps explain why so many people don’t fully understand us. We are trained to see things quite differently, and early on we are taught that time is money. In some ways, this is great– in my personal life, I don’t waste my time on fruitless efforts. With relationships, if I don’t see a return on my investment of time, I get out fast. When you think of your time as something truly precious, you simply don’t waste it. While I happen to think this is a great strength, I can see how it might be a source of conflict with others.
The fact is most private-sector attorneys are trained early on to track their time for billing. We bill for emails, calls, letters, document review, drafting agreements, meetings, etc. This can all add up very quickly, and many of us joke that if we ever got in trouble we could not afford our own services. Sad thing is that joke is really true. It is not many that can afford $300/hr or more for someone’s legal services. So here is the truly sad part that I see in the divorce world- the more people want to fight, the more they incur in fees, and those attorneys that care more about themselves than their client’s best interest will not do much to promote peace.
Attorneys that have truly embraced their role as counselors will go out of their way to keep things calm. Those of us that are dedicated to mediation, Collaborative Law and promoting settlements out of court will do everything possible to de-escalate situations and avoid antagonizing the other side. We realize that regardless of the process we are in, the goal should always be the same: to gather the relevant information, generate options, and find a solution as quickly as possible so that families can move on with their lives, while still having some money for their future.
Not all of my colleagues share this goal, and I know some fail to understand why I go out of my way to keep things amicable. The fact is I’ve seen enough anger and vindictiveness to last me a lifetime. I only want to fight the good fight, and I hope more of my colleagues will see the light soon. In the meantime, it is up to clients to monitor the situation– they need to embrace the notion that time is money and spend it wisely. Not only do you need to pick your battles carefully, but also make sure you pick your allies well. I think we all can agree that it would be a bad idea to go to war with some trigger-happy fool, especially with your family’s future on the line. So, try your best to rein in those emotions (including those of your attorney) and don’t lose sight of the fact that time is money.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.