When I am meeting with a potential client during an initial consultation I am sometimes asked, “What is your style?” Or more to the point, they may simply say, “I want an aggressive lawyer. Are you aggressive?”
My answer to that question is that I adapt my style to the particular needs of that case. But, I have observed that family law litigants often equate “aggressive lawyer” with “good lawyer.” That’s usually not true. Not every case requires the lawyer to be “aggressive.” And one thing that clients usually don’t understand is that an aggressive lawyer can be a sign of a client with a weak case. If a lawyer is making bold claims, pounding their chest, and generally grandstanding for the client, the other lawyer and/or the Court are more likely to roll their eyes at you than they are to be intimidated by you or fear you in any way. If the client truly has a winning argument, the lawyer does not need to behave that way.
Acting “aggressively” can also have a detrimental effect on settlement. Let’s say my client and I are in need of the opposing party’s pay stubs so that I can perform a child support calculation. That’s really all we need. I could serve all sorts of “formal discovery” (Interrogatories, Request for Production of Documents, Request for Admissions, Notice of Deposition, etc…) seeking this information (and likely lots of information I don’t really need, either). That would be the aggressive move. Or, I could write the opposing lawyer a short email asking for his/her client’s paystubs and offer to provide my client’s paystubs as well. This might be perceived as the less aggressive move, but it’s much more likely to get the information sought in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Further, a client who wants an aggressive lawyer is usually a sign to the lawyer that the client really isn’t really interested in settling their case anyway. They are more interested in fighting with their spouse, and they want to make sure that their lawyer is, too. But, that’s just how some contentious cases are. Maybe the client does truly want and need an aggressive lawyer. More “aggressive” tactics might be appropriate in those circumstances.
If you are truly interested in achieving an amicable resolution to your divorce with your spouse, though, don’t expect to get that by being “aggressive” just for the sake of it. Your spouse and their attorney are more likely to get defensive and respond in kind and will not be particularly interested in cooperatively working with you to resolve your case. That’s what you should really want.
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