Archive for the ‘Tips Hiring a Family Lawyer; a Psychological Approach’ Category

Tips Hiring a Family Lawyer; a Psychological Approach

Friday, August 31st, 2018

Let me first begin by saying that I have had tremendous pleasure being a long-time member of the Mississippi Bar. Even though there are always a few bad apples, by and large our Mississippi legal community is exceptional in so many ways. Many passionate and hard-working members of our state bar are truly a blessing to Mississippi and our great citizens. Also true is that not all domestic attorneys are created equal. And I have been against the most seasoned, skilled ones as well as newbie recent graduates that we middle aged, slightly greying practitioners refer to as the “baby lawyers”.

Although not all of the baby lawyers were terribly bad, few are even close to average when considering the full gamut of family law practitioners. I would like to outline a few non-traditional and overlooked thoughts about my unique perspective after taking several hundred divorces and custody cases to trial.

I recently read an exceptional article in Forbes magazine by Mark Cohen, the CEO of Legal Mosaic, a legal consulting firm, that addressed on an interesting question which brought me to the inspiration to write this piece. I will echo the basic spirit of that article with a slight twist. So, here goes nothing, as we used to say as kids.

  1. People skills, which Mr. Cohen refers to as “emotional quotient”, are vital to the success of attorneys. A good lawyer recognizes pretty quickly that our job is simply to persuade judge and jury. Our task is far from mathematical. It is highly theatrical. And the most applicable science to lawyering is more language arts/social science than the chemistry, physics, and biology I so dreaded in high-school at Jackson Prep. Formulas toward achieving legal goals are few and far between.
  1. Expertise is crucial for arbiters of dispute. Whether it requires an appreciable command of the facts or grasp of their relevance when filtered through mountains of precedent, the best lawyers have robust recognition of the minutiae that can make or break their case. My recent article called “Child Custody, the Devil is Always in the Detail” focuses on that dynamic in a more expansive and illustrative way.
  1. The best lawyers are able to present to court an argument that is; a. Concise, b. Linear, and, c. Cohesive. So what does this perfect legal argument look like? Funny that you asked. A strong legal argument avoids barely relevant information and has, what I would call, fluidity. It does not dart here or there and everywhere. It cuts through the fat and to the meat of legal substance. It is easily understood, even powerfully self-evident.
  1. Being observant and the skill in reading another person, whether your own client or the opposition, is absolutely critical. Many, many cases are won and lost because of simple oversight. I’ve always told my associates and law clerks to keep their head on a swivel; miss nothing. The value of observation is highly underrated. Paying close attention is as important to good lawyering as it is to a kindergarten student.
  1. Intelligence is important, though not valuable by way of comparison the the first 4 factors we discussed above. Surely, having high intelligence does help at the margins, but the variation in attorney intelligence is relatively small, even less than one standard deviation from the mean on a traditional bell-curve. That translates that over ninety percent of attorneys are within 10-12 i.q. points– not a large margin. Some of the worst lawyers I have faced did not lack intelligence, the effect of smarts is fairly minimal.

In sum, properly vetting an attorney is far more art than hard science. Child custody and divorce cases demand a well-rounded arbiter of your legal dispute. Look for an attorney who is easy to connect with, who understands the power of artful persuasion, and who cares about your case. Trust your instincts, they are God-given, and far too often ignored.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi domestic attorney and 2001 Second Century Merit Scholar focused on child custody dispute resolution. He lives in Northeast Jackson with his eight-year old son, Lucas.