Many people think that when they become involved in a lawsuit—including divorce—they need to find a lawyer who is a “fighter,” or “pit bull” (disclaimer: many of these dogs are lovable companions). By logical extension, a lawyer who is not ruthlessly aggressive would be a lesser choice.
However, strong, proactive, and even aggressive representation doesn’t necessarily equate with the “pit bull model.” Attorneys classified as pit bulls often tend to be belligerent, argumentative, and eager to fight.Just like your high conflict person.That’s why many judges don’t respect their attitude and the methods they use. Be forewarned that any biases the judge may have against your attorney could negatively impact the outcome of your case.
What the public doesn’t realize is that highly contentious individuals (attorneys included) usually place self-interest above all else. They know that the more hours they charge, the more money they will make. Attorneys who charge lower hourly rates could cost their client significantly more in legal fees by doing things that result in more billable time.
Keep in mind that the more issues one side fights over, the more the other side does as well. Therefore, even if only one attorney is a “pit bull,” the marital estate is being unnecessarily depleted because of the fees and costs incurred when one spouse is fighting unnecessarily and in the other spouse defending themselves.
If both attorneys are “pit bulls,” the rate of depletion of the marital estate is significantly accelerated. Besides the fact that those assets used to pay legal fees and costs are no longer available to either spouse, the party responsible may well find themselves paying significant sanctions to their spouse, thus ending up with an even smaller portion of an already substantially reduced marital estate.This doesn’t even take into consideration attorneys fees contributions that they may have to pay to their spouse or their lawyer in order to level the financial playing field.
Divorce Court Sets the Stage for Years to Come
Moreover, these attorneys derive a great deal of pleasure from the fight in and of itself. In fact, many attorneys enter the field precisely because they enjoy argumentative confrontation. They tend to be disagreeable and difficult people in general and attract that same type of client.
Keep in mind that it only takes one person to start a conflict, but it takes two to exacerbate it. Once a bell has been rung, it cannot be unrung. If you start off on the wrong foot by hiring an atorney who heightens conflict, you may not only find it far more difficult to co-parent together, but you may likely find yourself regularly returning to court as a result. This can result in financial hemorrhaging from which you may never recover.
Pit bull attorneys thus tend to delay the resolution of a case. They file motions that make no sense from a cost/benefit analysis, which can cause the other side to file motions or incur significant legal fees and costs because their client refuses to disclose required information and/or is hiding marital assets. So pit bulls drag things out forever and set up your soon-to-be-ex to get angrier and angrier. That can backfire on you for all the reasons already mentioned and more.
Pit bull attorneys don’t care about resolving a case in a fair and equitable manner– even though family law court is considered a court of equity, or fairness. They just want to win. So they take advantage of the imperfections in the legal system to make the case for the other side so costly that they’ll give up. [note from Randi Kreger: This is not the way you want to treat someone who has the potential to make your life a living hell through distortion campaigns. When they tell someone what you’re doing, you’ll have no defense.] This may well be grounds for sanctions, as well as biasing the judge against you.
Find an Attorney You Trust
Ultimately, the difficult client and difficult attorney won’t be able to treat each other any differently than they treat anyone else. These sorts of mismatching are why clients might go through several different attorneys in course of a single particular legal proceeding. Be thoughtful in your selection of an attorney.Replace a mismatched attorney sooner than later because otherwise, things will only get worse.
I have previously written about the supreme importance of trust, mutual respect, and good communication between a client and his or her attorney to have a successful working relationship and a positive legal outcome. Pit bull attorneys and their clients can rarely, if ever, maintain these crucial aspects of the relationship.
Originally published in Psychology Today