I had wonderful mentors when I first started practicing law. I was taught early on that, when it came to contested legal matters and the zealous advocacy of clients, a lawyer should always try the “honey and sugar” approach before going for a more “blood and guts” style.
Essentially, this meant that often (but not always) you could accomplish quite a bit by being nice, establishing the core facts, and finding the root of each party’s disagreement. Sometimes you can even gain enough momentum this way that you minimize the conflict to such an extent that the entire case can be resolved. Don’t belittle or bemoan. Don’t degrade or make assumptions. At least not yet.
You don’t have to come out swinging to make an impression.
If that doesn’t work then you can always do things the hard way – and you could tell yourself (and the judge) that, hey, you tried to do things the nice way. The beauty of this approach is that the party you are so hard on deserved it. Simple.
Since then I have developed my own approach to advocacy, which I call The Mirror Method.
A lawyer operating under The Mirror Method simply reflects and returns the style of the opposing party.
Here’s how it works in practice:
1. In a child custody case, if I represent Father, and Mother is reasonable, then I will be reasonable with her. And I will continue to be reasonable no matter what Father says!
2. In a divorce action, if I represent the Wife and Husband is being underhanded or impossible, than I am underhanded and impossible too.
3. In a restraining order action, if I represent the victim Mother, who hired me from the hospital, and Father tells me that she is just bipolar then don’t expect me to make your life easy.
It’s not for every Family Court attorney. If you cannot genuinely play both Good Cop and Bad Cop then choose another approach. It is most important that you work with what is best for your personality. But being a bit of a chameleon, I find this approach to cases to be equitable. If you don’t treat my clients like dirt, then I won’t treat you like dirt. No matter what mood I am in. Promise!