David’s Divorce Dictionary: C is for Cocktail Party
Definition: a cocktail party is the worst place to seek or receive advice about your divorce.
Information received in an attorney’s office often serves up a sobering, painful reality. Too many times, I’ve given clients my perspective on the outcome of a legal issue and then listened as they recount contradictory advice they received…at a party…or in a bar. Or from friends over a glass or two of wine. In the recounting is often a subtle, sometimes overt, questioning of my professional experience or competence.
It can be tricky to convince clients that advice received at a bar is not nearly as reliable as advice received from a member of the bar.
Irrelevant, incorrect, and damaging advice is everywhere. Here are some tips to help clients stay grounded:
Advice from non-professionals is usually unreliable. Keep in mind that relatives and acquaintances, even those who have been through a divorce, aren’t likely to know the intricacies of applicable laws or the full facts of your case. Divorce cases are nuanced and complex. It takes education and experience to decipher convoluted statutes and to decode the principles of case law. Applying those cases and laws to the circumstances of a particular case is a practiced art. Predicting how a particular judge will rule on a particular day is, at best, an act of educated guesswork.
Each divorce case is unique. It is helpful for clients to educate themselves about divorce in a general way by reading online or talking with people who have been through the process. However, every case is different. The end result depends on each family’s particular circumstances. It takes careful consideration of myriad facts and details to develop the best legal strategy for a client and to set expectations for a realistic outcome.
Question lawyers respectfully. Clients should feel free to question why an attorney recommends a particular strategy. It is fine to ask about conflicting information received from outside sources. But clients should not assume they are getting bad advice from their own attorney. When clients question legal advice respectfully, lawyers tend to be less guarded in their responses and just may admit that the client gave them an idea or strategy worth considering.
The Takeaway: When ordering a margarita, preparation of the rim of the glass is a matter of personal taste. When consuming legal advice at a cocktail party, always be sure to take it with a grain of salt!
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