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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Family law solicitor says it’s good to be bad


Firm negotiation in divorce.

Gordon Gecko said in the film Wall Street “The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed - for lack of a better word - is good.” I’m not sure I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment but it does make me think about my role as a family law solicitor and the advice I give to clients.

Whilst I don’t think greed has a place in divorce proceedings, I do think there is a place for ambition and aspiration, set alongside fairness. Let me explain.

Woolley & Co lawyers are all members of Resolution and as such we are all committed to helping our clients reach an agreement, ideally without the need for court proceedings if we can. But very often we have to take a firm stance and say no to an agreement because it does not achieve what is best for our clients.

Firm negotiation can be necessary in divorce

Being a member of Resolution does not mean that we have to agree to everything because we just roll over and play nice when it comes to negotiations. It means advising our clients properly about the merits of a divorce settlement and advising them to accept an offer when it is in their best interests to do so. It also means making it very clear to the other party that if their proposal is completely inappropriate we tell them and explain why and how they could go about making their offer much more palatable.

There is nothing wrong with wanting what is best for you providing that what you want is achievable within the confines of the law. It is about managing expectations.  We cannot give you the moon on a stick and we will never claim to, that will be disingenuous and frankly wrong but we can certainly give you an indication of what we think we can get for you.

Don’t accept the first financial offer without taking advice

Very often clients come to me and say ‘my ex says I will get nothing if we go to court. They say they are entitled to keep the house and all our savings...there’s no point in me arguing this, they’re just going to win’. My response tends to be – well they would say that wouldn’t they. SunTzu said that the best war is the one you never fight and that’s great for your spouse. If you’re not prepared to argue your case they get to keep everything and avoid spending money on lawyers. 

By getting some professional advice at an early stage you will know whether what your spouse is telling you is correct and whether their offer is really fair or could be improved on with some negotiation or in a worst case scenario asking the court to make a decision.

If your children are living with you there is an even greater imperative to get advice and make sure you and the children can be housed and taken care of. Likewise if you’re approaching retirement, you need to know how you will be able to support yourself in the future. Sometimes you need to stand your ground to make sure you get what is best for you, and your future. And Woolley & Co will back you all the way.

Ian Giddings
Family Law Solicitor Coventry


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Gordon Gecko was a fictional character created to be clearly immoral and guilty of white collar crime, abusing and manipulating the system for personal gain regardless of the consequences of others. Such self serving sociopathic and destructive behaviour is illegal even in wall street, but has no place in family law, particularly divorce, where both sides need support to obtain financial resolution that addresses each sides needs and the needs of their children. Taking up a tough and uncompromisingly greedy line will result in lengthy legal proceedings, unnecessary legal fees and unsatisfactory or unworkable solutions.
Greed may appeal…if you are a lawyer keen to promote lengthy and destructive legal proceedings with no concern for people as human beings, with families and responsibilities to each other. For people in dispute greed can be very counter productive and destructive.
There is a reason why greed is considered a deadly sin.

Gordon Gecko didn’t think he was doing wrong, which makes him more likely psychopath than sociopath. Either way it is wise to steer well clear of such people.

By David Morgan on Tuesday May 15, 2018

I agree wholeheartedly that Gordon Gecko is entirely immoral and corrupt. I am not seeking to suggest that solicitors or clients should act in such a disgraceful manner. I am merely making reference to the comment that the character made rather than encouraging the behaviour he advocates. As I said in my blog “there is a place for ambition and aspiration, set alongside fairness.”

Sometimes you have to stand your ground and say there are certain things that you cannot agree to because your needs are such that you cannot compromise. This is very different to taking a hostile, aggressive approach which is certainly not how family law proceedings should be dealt with. 

Being a member of Resolution means that we explain why we are standing our ground and what we could do to reach agreement.

By Ian Giddings on Tuesday May 15, 2018

What does it mean to say that there is a place for “ambition and aspiration, set alongside fairness.”  It rather seems to me that you are attempting to justify why the principle of fairness (which would be difficult to argue against)  should be sidelined to make way for greed and a legal culture of “winning at all costs.”  The words “ambition and aspiration” sound so much nicer than “aggression and greed.”

Your approach seems heavily focused on financial disputes within divorce proceedings.  I believe Family lawyers should have a moral responsibility to consider the effects, particularly where children are involved, of aggressive litigation between parents.  I also believe that encouraging any ordinary person to appoint expensive, aggressive, adversarial legal representation is disproportionate and most likely financially ruinous for all parties other than their lawyers.

I would be prepared to bet you do not accept work on a no-win no fee basis.  In divorce proceedings, where peoples emotions are invariably running high, encouraging unnecessary and disproportionately costly litigation is nothing short of exploitation.

Family lawyers should encourage fairness to achieve an emotionally good result in which both parents put their children first.  If both parties are encouraged to be ambitious and aspirational in their financial expectations, and appoint lawyers accordingly, they will doubtless end up in the poorer for it.  More importantly they will be damaging the security (both financial and emotional) of their children.)

In response to Gorden Geko’s assertion that “greed is good,” I am mindful of a different film. In which the character Rippley steps between the children and the ravenous Alien and makes the following quite reasonable request:
“back away from the children… B**ch!”

By David morgan on Thursday September 27, 2018

Absolutely my comments are regarding financial matters. To have such an approach with children is plain wrong. Section 1 of the Children Act says the child is paramount and that is the exact approach we should take.

No I certainly would not take a case on a no-win, no-fee because what is a win? What we are trying to do is achieve the best for our client, sometimes a win is keeping what we have, other times it is getting a fair share of the assets. It is about achieving what is best for the client.

By Ian Giddings on Thursday September 27, 2018

So,  where there is a conflict, what should come first: The best interests of the children, or the best interest of your client?
For example, say your client has abandoned the children with the other partner but still wants all they can get in the financial settlement?  Do you encourage them to be aspirational or fair?

By David Morgan on Saturday September 29, 2018

It seems you may be thinking of a particular set of circumstances, in which case my advice is that you seek legal advice.

By Ian Giddings on Tuesday October 2, 2018

No. Your article is not about a particular set of circumstances. It makes some broad assertions about how lawyers behave. This is not a matter for me to seek legal advice over. It is a matter for me to express my view (as I would to Mr Gekko) that Greed is not good. This is about the ethics of legal institutions and practitioners. It is about the behaviour we seek to promote. In this case the behaviour we seek to promote in family lawyers.

We are having a debate. Nothing personal.

The question I restate to you is:

Should lawyers be aspiration or fair?

The sociopath Gordon Gekko did not say ‘aspiration is good.’ (at least he was being honest).

What do you consider is the difference between aspiration and greed?

By David Morgan on Thursday October 11, 2018

The difference between aspiration and greed is for example, wanting a house that comfortably meets your family’s needs rather that wanting a house that is the biggest you can possibly get because you want the biggest you can get even though it may be beyond your comfortable needs.

By Ian Giddings on Thursday October 11, 2018

So what do you consider the difference between aspiration and fair?
In family matters all the family members needs should be considered and a fair outcome sought by all. Sadly I feel that an adversarial process is unlikely to produce this if opposing family lawyers have differing aspirations.
My argument is that fairness should be a family lawyers yardstick in the long term interests of all parties.
What do you think?

By David Morgan on Monday November 5, 2018

Can I ask whether you mean fairness in the context of family law generally or would you differentiate between children’s cases and financial cases?

By Ian Giddings on Monday November 5, 2018

What do you think?

Have your say



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