What is Aggressive in a Lawyer?

Do you want an aggressive lawyer? A lot of potential clients have a pretty clear idea that they either want an aggressive lawyer or a lawyer who focuses on compromise and negotiation. Fortunately, most clients have at least some understanding compromise and negotiation are at the heart of the vast majority of “winning” family law situations. Both parties are usually the losers in litigation.

Truthfully, most aggressive tactics are usually less than ideal for most clients. It is easy to slip into the temptation of recommending those courses of action of course because almost all aggressive tactics are time consuming. I would generally break aggressive tactics into the following categories.

  1. If we went to court you’d get at least x.
  2. We need to terminate his rights.
  3. Let’s run the other side out of money.
  4. Judge, he/she’s a lying manipulative evildoer.
  5. Selective memory and faking hearing impediments.
  6. I just got this brand new form book that I want to try out. (I have to admit to falling into this one myself).

The problem with the 1st tactic is it often ignores what you will spend on legal bills and the stress of collecting. Of course everyone should get approximately what they are entitled too. Limiting the other parent’s visitation is sure to lead to problems down the road and give the prevailing party a sense of power. Running the other side out of money is a risky strategy, you never know what their lawyer’s credit policy is. Trying to paint the other side as evil usually backfires by making the other side look reasonable. Selective memory and accusations also don’t frequently work and opposing counsel will usually just stay focused. I’ve seen “aggressive” counsel convince themselves of some pretty far-fetched positions of their clients.

Then there is trying longshot motions. Again, each time you try a motion and fail you dilute creditability.

The best strategy is to pick your battles and win. The one time when aggressive tactics are clearly implicated is getting an abusive spouse out of the house. That’s about it in family law, especially in Memphis which has a very conservative judicial climate for aggressive tactics. Making sure your client’s conduct is clean and waiting for the other side to make an error is perhaps the best strategy for a reasonable lawyer.

Remember if your lawyer is friendly and congenial then that’s a good sign. A lawyer’s job is to be an advocate and convince people. Being nasty and bulldoggish might have a slim chance of intimidating a new or underpaid attorney. Then usually a lawyer who realizes compromise and negotiation is the way to go will just sigh inwardly and get to work resolving the situation in court where the bulldog usually lacks real skills having come to rely on bluff and bluster.

The most effective way of going to court is to try to see the truth and then argue the most favorable application of that truth to your client. It’s a puzzle, not a fight. The best way to go about it is Zen like. There’s the way and its neither passive or aggressive. Sometimes the way is aggressive and I’ve certainly gotten chewed out by judges on that score, but I’ve always tried to work things out before trying those legal tactics. Sometime the way is quite passive waiting for the other side to make mistakes, which leads to being chewed out by clients. However, I’ve generally been extremely pleased with the results I’ve gotten as have been my clients which is the ultimate test.

That’s my philosophy on being aggressive in the practice of law.

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