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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Do you want an Attorney who FIGHTS for their Clients?

I am Attorney [INSERT NAME HERE] and I FIGHT for my clients!

This is a common description on an attorney's website.  They want you to know that they would be your champion!  If you hire them you won't have to worry about your problem anymore.  They'll take that monkey off your back.

But is that true?  Is it realistic?  Is it really what you want?

While the job of an attorney is often described as zealous advocacy, to equate that with fighting is to misunderstand the work of an effective attorney.  Zealous advocacy means that your attorney is working hard to accomplish your goals.  Unless your goal is to create conflict and start an expensive legal battle, then "fighting" is probably the last thing you want your attorney to start with.

Consider these two examples:

Example 1 - The Stolen Website Copy: You find out that one of your competitors has stolen copyrighted material from your website and reprinted it on their website.  You call your attorney.  Do you want an attorney whose first reaction is to:

A. File a lawsuit;

B. Write an angry cease and desist letter; or

C. Call the competitor and ask them to take down the content?

If your goal is to pay your attorney a lot of money for a fight then option A is probably your best bet.  If your goal is to look tough and make sure the other side starts on the defensive then option B is probably your best bet.  However, if your goal is to have the material taken down, then option C is the best way to start.  Just because you start with a phone call doesn't mean that you can't move to option B or A if necessary, but Hanlon's Razor suggests that you usually benefit by assuming incompetence before malice, and acting accordingly.

Often a phone call is enough, especially if they were unaware that their web designer has been lazy and bad at their job and just copied content from another site.  In many cases a phone call is enough for the competitor to take down the material (and hopefully hire a new web designer).

Example 2 - The Custody "Fight": You just found out your spouse wants a divorce and they want you to move out!  You don't really want to see them right now, but you are not going to give up time with your kids just because they want to get divorced.  You call your attorney.  Do you want an attorney whose first reaction is to:

A.  File a Complaint for Divorce and schedule a hearing date requesting that the Court give you Custody;

B.  Write a Letter telling your spouse that they've been hired and invite them to respond by a certain date or they will be served with a Complaint for Divorce; or

C.  Discuss all your options, which includes helping you decide if there is any opportunity for reconciliation, whether mediation or a collaborative setting could result in a better co-parenting relationship, or whether court is necessary for protection due to an issue that truly threatens the safety of you or the children.
Again, if your goal is to pay your attorney a lot of money for a fight then option A is probably your best bet.  If your goal is to have attorneys involved every time you and your spouse have a parenting disagreement in the future then option B is probably your best bet.  However, if your goal is to make sure that your children are okay and not hurt by your divorce, that both parents stay involved in their life, or that your voice is respected and heard throughout, then option C is the clear preference.  Court is the best process for some, but it should be a last resort for most, and the choice of process should be one that you make after being informed of all options.

In both examples, Option A and B are much more lucrative for the attorney so you should ask yourself why an attorney whose preference is "to fight first" has that preference?  Is it because it's best for you or because it's best for them?

You should also ask why an attorney would draft their advertising in a way that promotes their ability to "FIGHT"?  Is it because they approach every problem in that way?  Is that how you approach every problem, or do you try to resolve conflict before it turns into a fight?  Do you want to pay for a "fighter" or a "problem solver?"  Think about that when you read an attorney's website and choose wisely!

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