Fair Cadora Blog
Posted By Kevin L. Cadora, Esq.
This article addresses client expectations during a family law matter and the attorney’s job and duty to set those expectations in a way that is practical and reasonable. All to often, clients come to attorneys relying upon what is portrayed in TV Lawyer dramas when the reality of family court is quite different. The fact of the matter is no attorney, no matter how experienced or how good, can predict the outcome of any given case and any attorney who guarantees a client an outcome should be avoided at all costs.
Attorneys who guarantee to take the other side for everything they have or to obtain a certain level or support or obtain a certain custody arrangement are merely selling a future that may or may not come true because the only one who has control over the outcome is the judge. Attorneys are not fortune tellers and should avoid coming off as such because so many factors are considered on any given family law issue so to guarantee anything will almost always result in an unhappy client. Clients should always be told that they have a 50/50 chance of getting what they want if a matter is taken to trial because those are the appropriate odds when giving the decision making power to a judge.
There is good news, however, in that achieving an outcome the client can live with can be achieved if one thing is present – both parties’ willingness to come to the table and settle the case between themselves with the assistance of competent counsel. Only when parties have a willingness to settle is there a guaranteed outcome because the parties, not the judge, dictates the outcome of the case.
The question then becomes how to reconcile the parties’ highly charged emotions with a common ground settlement. That is where experienced unbiased family law attorneys play an integral role in the resolution of the case. Experienced family law attorneys are objective and unemotional so as to provide sound legal advice to a client, which serves both sides into reaching an agreement. This is not to say family law attorneys lack compassion because good family law attorneys are driven by their compassion to help people through their family law matter. A good family law attorney can have compassion for a client while detaching from the emotions the client is feeling so the parties can reach a settlement.
There are, however, certain cases that cannot be settled in which case the only alternative is to litigate such as when one of the parties has a mental health problem, substance abuse problem, anger management issues or cases involving domestic violence. Notwithstanding, good family law attorneys with good client control can still work out various agreements that benefit everyone and reduce litigation costs.
In closing, clients must be weary of attorneys who make guarantees and promises because most of the time, the outcome is different than what the attorney predicted giving rise to unhappy clients. Therefore, setting client expectations at the very beginning of a case and guaranteeing nothing is the very foundation of a good attorney/client relationship and should be how every family law attorney should approach their cases.
Posted By Kevin L. Cadora, Esq.
All too often parties and even lawyers have no civility in family court. While it is understood and appreciated that parties are highly charged in any type of family law proceeding and their conduct, to a degree, can be excused and tolerated, there is absolutely no excuse for family law lawyers to step into the shoes of their clients and engage in unprofessional conduct and personal attacks against the opposing side.
Like with any great profession such as doctors, athletes, CPA, etc., attorneys are professionals and we are paid to remain objective and professional no matter what the other side says or does even if the other side is an attorney who has taken on the personality of their client. A great mentor once said, kill them with kindness because the practice of law is our profession, not our lives.
All family law attorneys, be them seasoned or green, should also be acutely aware that you are in the wrong area of law if you cannot go have drinks with opposing counsel after a case has concluded because clients come and go but our reputation shall remain throughout your career. A good reputation can settle cases, allow for continuances, provide for a lower level of stress and an overall greater quality of life. This is not to say an attorney should compromise their client’s interests in anyway because we as attorneys can zealously advocate for our clients and be completely objective and professional at the same time.
To provide an excellent example of civility in family court, the following is an email to Attorney Cadora from a seasoned and respected San Diego family law attorney sent after several months of litigation and an extremely long trial:
I want to share with you that I enjoyed working with you on the case we completed yesterday. You are professional in all respects but also have an appropriate sense of humor where needed. It is that combination that will allow you to thrive doing family law. Without that combination, your sanity and your effectiveness as an attorney will both suffer.
In particular, I recognized and appreciated that you were superbly prepared for our hearing. Too many attorneys do not put the needed effort into the modest cases like we did yesterday. Fact is, our clients deserve the very best we can give them, no matter the issue, no matter the “size” of the case. It is clear to me that you are of the same mind.
As a more senior (i.e., old) member of the Bar, I experience all too many hearings with younger attorneys where it seems that they just do not “care” as much about our profession as I would like. Ours is a profession; not a job. I am pleased that you appear to be made of the right stuff to carry on our profession at a high level of expertise that will be a model for your generation of attorneys. All the best.
The foregoing email from an opposing counsel is exactly what Fair Cadora stands for in the sense that we are aggressive yet reasonable attorneys and we never compromise our ethics, civility or professionalism for any one case. The foregoing mission has served our clients well and hopefully served the San Diego Family Law Community as a whole because there is no need to depart from civility in family court.