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One of my first tasks as a chemical engineer at the Procter & Gamble Company was to design a tank to hold a chemical called Toluene.  I had to calculate the parameters, like pressure, volume, and flammable temperature.  I was lucky to stumble upon an unused tank on the property that would work and save the company some money.

If someone asked me at a cocktail party what I did for a living, and I said I was a chemical engineer, they would inevitably ask, “What’s a chemical engineer?”

I explained it like this.  When a chemist makes an aspirin tablet in his laboratory, he mixes some chemicals in a beaker, heats it over a Bunsen burner, and dries it in a centrifuge.   If a company wants to manufacture 10.000 aspirin, they hire a chemical engineer to scale up the beaker to a tank, the Bunsen burner to an industrial heater, the centrifuge to a bigger centrifuge.  He will also spec some conveyor belts to move the chemicals through the equipment.

This all changed when I became a divorce lawyer. Now if I’m at a party and mention that I’m a divorce lawyer, I soon have 20 people around me saying, “Let me tell you about my divorce.”

I never been able to reconcile my engineering degree with my law practice, although I feel there is a connection.  But yesterday, on the news, some pundant referred to lawyers as legal engineers.  Yes, that’s it.  When someone comes to me with a divorce, I calculate the parameters, and design a solution that works. I am a legal engineer.

“Being a surgeon is stressful, for instance — but not in the same way. It would be like having another surgeon across the table from you trying to undo your operation.” — Wil Milner

Lawyers came in dead last in popularity in a recent survey by Special Counsel.

They asked people which of the professions would you most want to date?

The results:

  • Doctor (30%)
  • Teacher  (27%)
  • Firefighter (12%)
  • Police Officer (10%)
  • Lawyer (8%)

The survey sample was 1,007 people.

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.”

Lawyers know that the Season of Joy is followed by the Season of Divorce.

There are more separations and divorce filings between January and March of each year.

“People somehow expect the joy of the season is going to correct a troubled marriage and it never does,” Ginita Wall, who runs a divorce workshop, told NBC.

by guest blogger, B. Lyttle, who has over five years experience in law and finance writing, and is a contributor for the Santa Barbara divorce attorney firm.

Getting a divorce is a tough situation for the married couple especially if issues like child custody and money matters are involved. Hiring a divorce lawyer is an important part of this process and requires good thought before you hire a lawyer for yourself.

A good divorce attorney will solve your case at a proper pace and by following proper procedure. On the other hand, an unnecessarily adversarial lawyer may make the things even harder and cause more conflicts to arise between you and your spouse.

Unfortunately, if you’ve picked the wrong divorce lawyer who is only increasing the rift between the two parties, here are five tips for you to handle an unnecessarily adversarial divorce lawyer:

1.  Be reasonable instead of being angry

Having a fight is not the solution to divorce. Some lawyers do think that indulging in the fight would end the entire conflict and successfully bring about a divorce. This is seldom correct. Follow your reasons instead of your anger.   Fights between the spouses are created sometimes because of adversarial lawyers.   Tell your attorney that you need a divorce and not a fight. Tell him or her to reach to the solution by following a proper path or it will only increase your stress and nothing else.

2.  Follow a collaborative approach

This is a good way to solve the problems in a bad marriage situation. Both you and your spouse decide to consult with collaborative lawyers to solve your disputes because of different point of views. This is known as the collaborative approach. Tell your lawyer that you want this type of divorce. He or she will work out the major issues on which the case rests. If at any point of time, he or she does not work according to your desires, you can hire another lawyer.

3.  Involve yourself proactively

This will ensure that the lawyer is not acting in an unnecessarily adversarial manner. Know about the position of your case in the court of law and inquire about the communications of lawyer to the court. If any kind of objectionable or conflict causing language is used at any time in the documents, you can get it removed. Follow the systematic steps to file the divorce petition and the process that follows. This will help in getting you the divorce as soon as possible and avoid any type of delay.

4.  Make your lawyer follow your instructions

You should make sure that you are giving instructions to your lawyer. Otherwise the divorce can not only be delayed but also you face the consequences in your divorce of the unnecessarily adversarial nature of the lawyer.  You want to get divorced but you do not need to destroy family relationships forever.   A divorce does not mean end of everything. You should opt for a peaceful separation and not participate in tactics that are misguided by an unnecessarily adversarial lawyer.

5.  Solve issues with minimum conflict

Try to solve all the major issues like property division, child custody etc without getting involved in excessive fights and conflicts. These are sensitive issues that must be handled with care.

In a nutshell, divorce can be painful situation for both the partners. Try to reduce this pain by being reasonable and get out of it without getting involved in the conflicts.

“I’ve worked so long and so hard to be a successful businessman and I’ve made $3 million dollars. Now you’re telling me she gets half?” said Bill to his divorce lawyer, Elliot, in the hushed suite of offices. Elliot had table lamps that gave a calming glow because he hated the overhead florescent lights.

“Maryland is an equitable property state,” said Elliot. “That means the judge can do what he or she thinks is reasonable, taking into account certain factors. It doesn’t necessarily mean an equal division of property, but in most cases, it will be equal.”

“I want you to see to it that she doesn’t get half. It’s my property. All I want is what’s fair and just.”

“Then your expectations are too high and I can’t meet them. We don’t sell fairness here. There are laws and cases that have been tried before your case and the court must follow them.”

“So what do you sell here?” asked Bill.

“Our time, advice and experience. If you want a clear, honest division of property that is more or less equal, we can help you. But if you want more than that, then we cannot help you. Divorce is not fair.”

Spare me the shadow lawyer.  That’s the friend of my client who works in a big securities firm downtown and has lunch with him every week.  They discuss his divorce that I am handling.

The shadow lawyer has all the answers and nothing I do is right.  He is the Monday morning quarterback who has never set foot in a courthouse.  He goads my client who then insists I take actions that don’t help his case.

This lawyer is not on the field of play.  He does not know divorce law.  He is not trying the case and he is not facing the judge.  Talk is cheap and it is easy to give advice on someone else’s case when they are doing the work and you are having lunch.  I am dealing with the shadow lawyer indirectly through my client.  This is a very poor way to run a lawsuit.

The case is over.  My client has a good result.  He does not appreciate or even know that he has dodged a bullet.  It could have been much worse.  I present my final bill.  The shadow lawyer decides that I have overcharged on an easy case and he could have achieved much more for less.  I wonder to myself, if the shadow lawyer is so good, why didn’t my client hire him instead of me?

“Karma!” said Cullen, the firm’s senior lawyer.  “There’s a big pendulum up in the sky that eventually makes everything even.”

From experience, Frank knew Cullen’s habit of starting a conversation in the middle as if his thoughts to himself were part of the conversation.

“What do you mean?” Frank asked, and sat down in the client chair in front of Cullen’s desk, because he knew there was a story coming.

Cullen put his feet on the battered desk top and leaned back in his leather chair.  “I’ll tell you a tale of two different cases and you tell me if Karma was at work.  The first is the Cokely case.  Mr. Cokely built a successful career as a business broker.  But times were tough when he came to see me for his divorce.  His wife had lawyered up and pleadings were flying.”

“Mr. Cokely was a tough negotiator from his experience in buying and selling businesses.  His strategy for negotiations was to project strength and power. The problem was that Mr. Cokely viewed the world as a hostile place.  He was rude, insulting, and critical.”

“Halfway through the trial, it was clear that the judge didn’t like him.”

“Mr. Cokely blamed his lawyers for a bad result in his case (although the assets were divided about equally), and demanded a large discount on his unpaid legal fees.  The firm withdrew from representing him.”

“Now Mr. Cokely is an unemployed investment adviser with half the assets he had before, no friends, no wife, no lawyer and no customers.  Mr. Cokely may never recover from his divorce.  Karma caught up with him.”

Next: Karma and Mr. Shiply

I was wondering the other day what it would be like to come into my office as a client.  Many people have sat across the desk from me in the client chairs looking to me to solve their legal problems.  What are they thinking?  I got a view from the client’s chair myself when I had to hire my own attorney recently in connection with my mother’s estate.  The experience was eye opening, to say the least.

I called my attorney no fewer than five times over the past five months and never received a return telephone call.  I’d call his office, only to be put in touch with his trusty assistant, Janice, who sitting directly outside of his office would tell me in her oh-so-caring voice, “I’ll see if he’s in,” and promptly put me on hold.  As far as I know, the lawyer didn’t have a trap door under his desk from which he could escape.  And he only had one door to his office and there was no side door so he couldn’t sneak out without Janice noticing him.

Inevitably, Janice would return to the telephone and provide any one of a number of reasons why my lawyer, was unable to come to the telephone.  Depending on the day, he was (a) in a meeting, (b) on the telephone, (c) on a telephone conference call, (d) at breakfast, (e) at lunch or (f) simply not available.  Interestingly, Janice would alternate reasons that Alan couldn’t take the call in the same order each time I called.  I always wondered whether she kept a running list of excuses and ticked them off as she took various telephone calls.

At first I thought up various excuses as to why he wasn’t returning my calls.  But the more excuses I made for him, the worse I felt about him and wondered what horror had beset my case.  And the longer I went without hearing from him, the more I wanted to do something about it, like maybe refusing to pay his bill.  To be continued.