Sunday, October 14, 2012

Abraham Lincoln, Esq.

I'm reading a book about the legal career of Abraham Lincoln. The book, Abraham Lincoln, Esq. edited by Roger Billings and Frank J. Williams, consists of a series of essays about particular aspects of his practice. In some ways very little has changed about the practice of law. I was surprised to learn that he did quite a bit of family law, but his primary core practice was  debtor/creditor law. Here is a quote that I appreciated:

" Day in and day out, Lincoln stared at the heat and friction created by the failings of human beings at war with one another. In a sense, he witnessed over five thousand little civil wars before he got to the big one in 1861. Lincoln was for all these people a lubricant: he allowed business relationships, families, friendships  and so forth to function without overheating, without seizing and locking up." (From Chapter entitled A. Lincoln, Respectable "Prairie Lawyer." by  Brian Dirck)

The author goes on to discuss how Mr. Lincoln and the law allowed the Illinois economy to grow because the law as the "grease" of the developing Illinois economy. Dirck continues:

"Heavens knows this probably was not a pleasant way to earn a living, though to his credit there is no record of Lincoln's ever grumbling about his lot in life as 'grease.' Bit pleasant or not, it was great education into the ways people interacted with each other."

How the practice of law influenced Lincoln and made history fascinates me.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Successful Divorce

Is there any such thing as a successful divorce? The expression itself is a bit incongruous. But I think its possible. While the notion of divorce  inherently suggests failure, at the point that a couple decides to dissolve their marriage, they can achieve a successful divorce by treating each other respectfully and staying focused on their children's need for security and sanity.  Even if there are hard feelings or they don't agree on everything, people need to keep looking forward. Couples, while decoupling, need to leave themselves in a place that will allow them to someday dance at their children's wedding. That is a successful divorce.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Teaching Business Valuation to Ohio Judges

Anita Ventrelli and I will be speaking tomorrow to judges at the Supreme Court of Ohio Judicial College in Columbus, Ohio. The topic of our presentation is Trial Tactics: How to Make Trials Less Trying. We will cover the basics of business valuation in divorce from a judicial perspective, refereeing evidentiary issues, and how judges can better manage their cases and the lawyers that come before them. My presentation partner, Anita Ventrelli is a very accomplished trial lawyer and partner at Schiller DuCanto and Fleck, who like me, limits her practice to divorce and family law cases. I am looking forward to presenting with her tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Congratulations To Those Lawyers Who Just Passed the Bar Exam!

Here are some words of wisdom for those joining me in the hurly burly practice of divorce law:

  •  Credibility is everything.  Never lie to the court, your client, or your opponent.  Once you lose your credibility, your ability to advocate is forever tarnished.

  • Balance being aggressive and being courteous.  It’s okay to disagree without being disagreeable.

  • Your client may not know the level of your legal skill but if you look sharp and act professional their perceptions will be positive.

  • Always strive to be the most prepared lawyer in the courtroom.  Your opponent may be smarter or more experienced but they can never outwork you.

  • Don’t ever be afraid of trying cases or having hearings.  Learn how to try cases. Good trial lawyers don’t have to settle short because of fear of the courtroom.

  • Don’t threaten or argue.  This connotes fear.  Quietly prepare and take it to the judge for resolution.

  • Don’t become paralyzed by a fear of losing.  Concentrate on performance not outcome.  Remember – it’s not your life!

  • Don’t be a slacker.  Speed and diligence make you more effective and let you negotiate from a position of strength.

  • Nobody ever said it’s supposed to be easy!

  • All economic rewards from the law derive from productivity, efficiency and effectiveness. Make it happen. Don't push paper.

  • Your goal should be excellence in all endeavors.

  • Don’t let it get personal!

  • At all times among your regular reading read books on trial advocacy, legal writing and legal biography.

  • Don’t be a wimp.  Wimps don’t belong in this business.

  • Be a meticulous proofreader. Sloppy mistakes cost time, money and most importantly credibility.

  • For every minute you spend planning you will save 3 minutes.

  • We are a service business.  Treat all clients with respect. 

  •  Keep current with the law, substantive, procedural and evidentiary.

  • Don’t argue with judges.  You will lose.

  •  Keep a journal of legal aphorisms and personal experience, as a learning tool.  Review it often.

  • Write down professional and productivity goals.

  • Watch and learn from the greats in our profession.  Ask them questions. Trial lawyers love to talk about themselves.

  • Learn how to appreciate martinis.

  • Fear no one.

  • Maintain physical, mental, and spiritual balance.

  • Return all calls within 24 hours.

  • Nobody ever got into trouble listening.  Sometimes silence is indeed golden.