A little while ago a client came to me stating that he wanted a “Rottweiler” of a solicitor and I found this approach very strange indeed. As someone who was attacked when riding my bike home from work one night by a vicious Doberman (that looked like a Rottweiler) and ending up in A&E and permanently scarred, the concept of wanting to instruct someone that had the potential of causing you and your former partner pain and expense was a mystery to me. What made it even worse in this case there were children involved. Surely not the best environment for children at what is already a traumatic time.
Thankfully the days of the family solicitor “Rottweiler” are fast becoming a thing of the past. There is a significant shift by practitioners, the courts and society generally towards mediation, conciliation and collaboration. They are still out there though, like sharks off a South African beach. Occasionally we have divorce cases where they crop up “on the other side” and each time I have been involved - thankfully these cases are few and far between - the opposing party’s costs have been considerably higher, if not double, those of my own client.
What does this tell us? Being aggressive, belligerent and confrontational does not make you a good family lawyer, though it can make you a rich one. Inevitably, if a lawyer is going to be provocative, argue every point and grasp for more than is reasonable, the time it takes to go through the process will spin out and the time it takes them to “perform” will extend, as will their bills. And there is no guarantee of a better result.
Also, as I tried to explain to my client recently, family law is family law however you choose to approach it. It has its limitations and generally speaking becomes narrower in the options open to you the further up the court process you go, which can be hastened by the Rottweiler approach. However creative judges may like to be in resolving a party’s dispute, their hands are somewhat tied by the legal orders they can make. On the other hand, if a couple going through a relationship breakdown opt for a conciliatory approach, such as mediation or collaborative divorce, not only do they remain more fully in control of the process and the decisions made about their future family arrangements, but also, with the help of their solicitors, can come up with alternative and creative solutions to their particular problems.
Going back to the gentleman I mentioned at the start. He did instruct me briefly but then moved his instructions elsewhere as I practise what I preach and was not prepared to send inflammatory and provocative correspondence to his wife’s solicitors as he demanded. Although no one likes to lose a client, in this particular case I wished him well and was frankly glad to see the back of him.