I worked for a powerful lawyer once.  He was well educated and well connected.  He moved in White House circles.  He was very wealthy.

He was an old time lawyer – the kind they don’t’ make anymore.  He would bang out his pleadings on a typewriter and give them to his secretary to put on the word processor.  He was a fearsome litigator and would take an appeal as high and as long as the client was willing.  He won some big cases and was written up in the newspapers.

Despite all this, he was unfailingly polite to everyone.  He never failed to say good morning to the doorman at his office building.  He always recited the beginning of the postman’s creed, “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night,” to the person who delivered the mail.

I was astounded by an incident at a deposition in a hard-fought case.  Opposing counsel was a smartly-dressed, well-groomed whiz kid from big law.  My lawyer introduced himself and put out his hand to shake hands with the whiz kid.  It hung there in the air.  The whiz-kid would not shake hands.  Rude behavior may pass for aggressive lawyering these days, but to my mind, there was more power in the courteous gesture.

If you think it’s easy being a lawyer, listen to this.  We have to be aware of a multitude of laws, cases, rules and regulations.  And they keep changing.

If you want a hearing on a motion or response to a motion, Md. Rule 2-311(f) requires  you to request it in the motion or response under the heading “Request for Hearing”.   The court can decide whether or not to hold a hearing, but it cannot dispose of a claim or defense without a hearing if one was requested.

However, in 2011, the Rules Committee added another sentence to the rule.  The new sentence says, “The title of the motion or response shall state that a hearing is requested.”  So now you have to put the request for a hearing in the body of the motion or response under the proper heading, and in the title as well – or you might not get your hearing!

Lawyers are usually pretty good story tellers.  My mother gave me a big book about myths to read when I was growing up and I’ve given a big book of myths to my kids.  There are a lot of good stories in mythology.

Last night, I was watching Shark Tank, one of my favorite tv shows.  Kevin O’Leary used a story about the mythical goddess, Persephone, to make a point.

She was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, the harvest goddess.  She was garthering flowers when she was abducted by Pluto and taken to Hades.  Persephone became queen of  the underworld and the goddess who brings us Spring and vegetation.

Only O’Leary pronounced her name as “PERS-a-phone”.  Which does not sound nearly as good as the correct pronunciation, “Per-SEPH-a-nee”.

Greta Van Susteren has an idea for breaking the political deadlock in Congress.  She writes that every day of the year divorce lawyers sit down with warring spouses (who HATE each other) and manage to hammer out agreements.

She says it is not that hard to get people to work out solutions. All it takes is effort and perseverance.  She says divorce lawyers can do it so why can’t politicians.

Van Suteren’s message to Congress?  “Get to work!  Sit down and talk…figure it out!”  Maybe we should send some divorce lawyers to help Congress figure it out.

 

 

 

The morning of the divorce trial, lawyer Fred Holmes, woke up at 5:00 am without an alarm clock.

He stumbled downstairs to feed the cat and the fish.

He put away the dishes from the dishwasher, fixed himself a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, and added some fresh blueberries and skim milk.  He made a fresh cup of coffee with the Netpresso machine and poured in some Amaretto flavored cream.

He flicked on the tv to watch the morning news while he ate his breakfast.  The international situation was desperate as usual.

Then he did 15 minutes of P90X Plyometrics and 100 pushups in sets of 25 with a few minutes rest between each set.

After a shower and shave, he picked out a white shirt, red power tie, and his best grey suit.

He drove to the office.  He polished his shoes to a high black gloss.  He threw his pen, phone, yellow legal pad and files into his litigation bag.  Then he drove to the courthouse.

The judge asked, “Is Counsel ready for trial?”

Fred said, “Ready, Your Honor.”

My son is too cool to be in the chess club at middle school. He thinks it is too nerdy. What can I say? I was a nerd.  I joined the chess club when I was in middle school. Only it was called junior high back then.

I played a lot of chess in my youth. I thought I was pretty good. That is until I met Marc. I met Marc in the army. He was a chess master. While waiting for the Viet Nam war to wind down, we had a lot of time on our hands. So Marc taught me chess.

I already knew how the pieces moved and how to checkmate. I thought that was all there was to know about chess. Marc opened my eyes.

I learned about power, time and space. I learned that each piece had a value and some pieces changed value depending on what stage of the game you were in. I learned that there was an open, middle and end game. I learned tactics with names like pin, fork and x-ray attack. There was a whole new level of complexity to the game I had played for years unaware.

I think this is true in practicing law as well, and divorce law in particular. When I started practicing, I knew the law (how the pieces moved) and how to win a trial (checkmate). But over the years, I have learned that my cases and clients have many more levels of complexity than I had first supposed.

Guest post by Evelyn Crowther

It’s rare that the process of divorce doesn’t bring conflict. Even the most embittered among us can hardly fail to be impressed by those who manage to go their separate ways without resorting to arguments about property, children or finances; and have somehow managed their separation in a minimally destructive way. It’s all too easy to get caught up in angry exchanges, both verbal and legal as we fight for our rights. There’s often a desire to prove ourselves the victim of terrible injustices, and have our spouse seen as the perpetrator of all wrongs, but the way we go about the process can be extremely self-sabotaging.

Amid the haranguing about who did what to whom, who gets the house, the car and the blame, there’s one highly underrated trophy; worth more than money or property, or even the need to be right. It’s our dignity.

Coping with the process of divorce will likely be one of the most emotionally draining and stressful periods of a lifetime, with survivors are often left feeling as though we’ve been put through the hot wash cycle and hung out to dry. We can find that we’re left with a loss of self-respect and a great deal of embarrassment, when we realize that far too many aspects of our conflict have been made public and there is literally, nowhere to hide.

If we can resist the strong pull of self-disclosure we are more likely to maintain a sense of self-worth and come away with our heads held a little higher. We all need a trustworthy friend with whom to share our deepest worries, but do we really need ten and their hairdressers? Gossip can easily get out of hand, and before we know it, that comment we made in the heat of the moment, has resulted in previously supportive friends now taking the other side. It takes courage and integrity not to escalate a situation where we feel we are being wronged, but by engaging in public warfare we lose more than we bargain for. If we can resist the urge to bad mouth our partner, we maintain dignity and greater long term privacy, when we are starting to rebuild our lives. Don’t shout from the rooftops – leave the shouting to the lawyers.

A documentary, “Divorce Corp.”, narrated by Dr. Drew Pinksky, opens in 16 cities this month.

The movie exposes some unethical and corrupt practices in the $50 billion divorce industry.

Some women’s rights organizations have called for a boycott of the film because they say it dwells too heavily on father’s rights.

Guest post by Alfred Jacobs who writes on behalf of Jarmanlaw about divorce laws, Oklahoma City family law attorneys, and more.

There are 50 states and the District of Columbia in the US. Each jurisdiction has a unique way of considering marriage and divorces. State divorce laws vary widely on the matter of dissolution of marriage bonds, child custody, visitation rights, support, property distribution and alimony. In almost all states, for the separation to be legal, it must be certified by a court. The path to a court decree may be through mutual, pre-agreed terms or a highly contested, acrimonious legal battle.

It helps to have a legal attorney by your side conversant with the specific state divorce laws applicable to your case and to where you are living and filing for divorce. Complicating the issue is the matter of child custody and visitation rights factored into the state divorce laws. State divorce laws of the state where you reside apply to divorce proceedings, not where you were married and there is a minimum residence time required as well, with each state specifying different periods. State divorce laws allow for divorce petitions on grounds of a fault, on no fault basis or mutual consent. Some states require a suitable time interval after separation before a divorce petition can be filed.

Should you proceed on grounds of a fault, on a no-fault basis or seek mutual consent for a divorce? Which method would yield the maximum benefit for you out of dissolution of the marriage and safeguard your interest as well as that of your children?

These are matters your attorney can help you decide based on his expertise, depth of knowledge of state divorce laws and the merits of your case. A caring, compassionate lawyer knows all that is involved in divorces and does his best to resolve differences in the first stage. That failing, he will get both parties together to arrive at a mutual understanding on the terms of separation and institute divorce proceedings only as a last resort should neither side be willing to compromise.

Justin Steen, a divorce lawyer, woke up without an alarm every morning at exactly 5:00 am.  After his workout routine, he arrived at his office at 7:00 am and start organizing his day.  The phone rang at 9:00 a.m.

“Mr. Steen, it’s Julie Palmer,” said the caller, “You’ll never believe what my husband did now.”

“What did he do, Julie?”

“He booked our twelve year old on a ski trip without even telling me!”

“That’s outrageous.  I’ll call his attorney right now and follow up with a strong letter.  Don’t worry.  This will work against him when we get to trial.”

As soon as Justin hung up with Julie, the phone rang again.

“Hello, Mr. Steen, this is Ken Stevens,” said the caller.  “My wife has our daughter stuck in a day care center which is boring and just a glorified baby sitter.  I want to enroll her in a horseback riding program for the summer and my wife is against it.

“Why that’s outrageous.  I’ll call her lawyer right now and follow up with a strong letter.  Don’t worry.  This will work against her when we get to trial.”