Don’t Mistake Truth for Weakness; It’s Strength
Here’s what you want that you may not know you want. You want a lawyer with the courage to tell it to you like it is, and the courage to leave it all on the mat for you regardless of what you decide.
Most people don’t work with lawyers all the time – so they’re unfamiliar with one of the major concepts you need to know about your attorney during a litigated divorce: attorneys wear two hats. This can lead to a major misunderstanding between clients and lawyers, which is terrible, so let’s take it head-on.
What do I mean? Well, think of an old-fashioned sign outside a lawyer’s office. It probably said two things: “Attorney” and “Counselor at Law.” The “Attorney” piece is what they show on TV. It’s what we say to your ex’s lawyer when we are negotiating for you, and what we do when arguing in Court. It’s the “I want the truth/you can’t handle the truth!” part. Not really, but you catch my drift.
The Counselor at Law hat is what you don’t see. It’s what a great lawyer says to you in private. This includes her candid, experienced opinion about your likelihood of success in front of a Judge. Sometimes, one of your goals just isn’t a likely outcome. A great attorney tells you that truth, even when you don’t want to hear it – frankly especially when you don’t want to hear it.
“Counselor at Law” part is the harder, rarer, and more important part of a lawyer’s job.
Why? You should hire a lawyer you trust to give you the information and insights you need to make your own decisions. You will have to make a lot of choices during your divorce, and you deserve to have a lawyer with the courage to tell you the truth you need to know to make those decisions, not a lawyer who will indulge your misconception, avoid an uncomfortable conversation, and tell you what you want to hear. Sometimes, you decide to modify your goals based upon what your attorney shared. Other times you’ll decide to go for it, knowing a 100% positive outcome is uncertain or even unlikely – but you’ll do so with eyes wide open, fully informed.
The trick is, when you’re the client, you usually encounter the “Counselor at Law” part of your lawyer way before you see her advocating for you in Court. In other words, your lawyer often tells you what you don’t want to hear before you get to see her in action going for it anyway. As a result, some people assume that their lawyers won’t fight for them. “He isn’t tough enough,” or “she won’t go to the mat for me,” or “he didn’t have my back” are some of the ways people express it. It’s an understandable assumption, but it’s a false one.
Here’s what I want you to know. Giving a client the potential cons doesn’t mean that your attorney won’t leave it all on the floor for you in Court. There is an ocean between what we say to you (Counselor at Law hat) and what we say to others when advocating for you (Attorney hat). You pay us to have the courage to tell you what you need to know to make your own, fully informed decisions. You also pay us to advocate for what you want when we are arguing before a judge or negotiating with your spouse’s lawyer. Excellent attorneys do both — it’s part of their DNA.
In fact, part of the Connecticut Lawyers’ Principles of Professionalism is “While I must consider my client’s decision concerning the objectives of the representation, I nevertheless will counsel my client that a willingness to initiate or engage in settlement discussions is consistent with zealous and effective representation.”
Don’t make the mistake of not hiring a great lawyer who knows you deserve the truth in favor of a lawyer who tells you what you want to hear.