We have done some advertising on social media this week and it has me thinking about the decision-making process a person goes through when employing a divorce attorney in Mississippi and the different personas we encompass. I am at peace with the reputation we family lawyers have for being considered the scum of the earth. After all, we feed on other people’s misfortune. We are scavengers, even vultures. However, if you have been served with papers or you have caught your spouse in a compromising situation, like us or not, you may just need us. (The American bald eagle is a scavenger, BTW.)
Divorce lawyers in Mississippi wear lots of different masks depending on our given objective in any particular case. We change these masks from time to time, adding to the complexity of our already shaky image. At my firm, our attorneys can be all of these things on any given day. Let’s spend a little time thinking about the personas of your friendly divorce barrister.
Gladiator: I love being the gladiator lawyer. It is how this old washed up baseball player gets to compete. I get to charge into court on emergency motions, serve people with process, issue subpoenas, cross-examine helpless witnesses, cuss, spit and throw stuff. You have been wronged and you need a soldier on your side to take care of business. Sometimes my missions are stealth operations with global positioning systems, private detectives, spyware and hidden cameras. Sometimes I am in someone’s face with deposition notices, drug test requests and alienation of affection lawsuits. The gladiator is within every divorce lawyer worth his or her salt, but we know this mask is not a sustainable model for peace, resolution, redemption and rebirth.
Prostitute: In many ways, we all prostitute our time, energy and resources for capital gain. If you work a job you don’t like for money, you feel this way all the time, even if your employer is gracious and provides you with as much love and support as possible. I am, on occasion, called upon to help people I don’t care for very much because it is how I earn a living. I help folks who make bad decisions, and even worse, who like the bad decisions they make. I have helped abusive husbands, drug addict wives and lots of folks who cheat. I have clients ask me to do things or take positions I don’t want to take. While I will not and do not lie or knowingly harbor mistruth, like every good lawyer, I will use court rules to my client’s advantage or drag my feet if it is necessary to accomplish my client’s goals. The prostitute lawyer embraces the complicated shades of gray.
Accountant: Divorces are always about money. Good divorce lawyers know their way around tax returns and financial statements. They have a knack for finding out what stuff is worth, what a reasonable monthly budget looks like for a particular walk of life, and very importantly, how to conserve precious resources when it comes to spending their client’s money in litigation related expenses. Knowing when the good money is chasing after the bad is like recognizing pornography –you know it when you see it.
Therapist: One of the things I love about being a divorce lawyer is I get to work with people in a transitional chapter of their life story. My clients have the opportunity to reinvent their lives and sometimes even their marriages. I need to know good people to come around them, good books that will speak into their paradigm, and to appropriately empathize with their journey with love, compassion and healthy perspective –the 10,000-foot view. Clients want you to tell them everything is going to be alright, and most of the time it will, just not as quickly as they may hope. The therapist lawyer prescribes poetry reading, long walks, introspective priority inventories, journaling and life groups.
Academic: Divorce is not art. There is a healthy amount of academic material your attorney has got to know. He needs to know about the rules of evidence, civil procedure, key judicial opinions and be studious and current in his understanding of national and local trends. Stuff he hears needs to ring bells and create itches they know how to silence, efficiently scratch and use to his client’s advantage.
Diplomat: The diplomat is the antithesis of the gladiator –the good cop to the bad. Hand him lemons, and he will make basil lemonade with a hint of St. Germaine. He is known, liked and most importantly, respected. When he talks, people listen. He knows when to send the one-sided settlement proposal in his client’s favor or to waive the white flag. He will get out of his office and have a cup of coffee with his opponent and seek to understand the hopes and dreams of the other side, looking for the places where they intersect or diverge from the hopes and dreams of those of his client. He embraces mediation, joint custody and differences of opinion. He speaks truth when it is hard to hear. He takes donuts to the courthouse and asks about his opponent’s kids. He shows up at funerals, shakes hands, and when he says good luck or God bless to the other side –he means it.