An accountant is helping one of our clients with some of the required financial documents for the divorce. “I don’t want to ruin your strategy,” he says, “but I really think the [other party] ought to know about this.”
Strategy? How’s this for “strategy?” How’s about you do whatever is necessary to help people reach an agreement?
Strategy. It’s such an interesting concept in divorce. I told him that my strategy was to tell the truth and share all the financial documentation so that the couple could make good decisions for themselves, and for the two of them as a whole (even if the whole is separating).
Even when I think back to my days as a divorce litigation attorney at Noyes & Mercer in New Haven, Connecticut, did I really have a strategy? If you consider being prepared and doing your homework a “strategy” then yes, I definitely had a strategy.
Early on, my mentor and boss, Carl Porto at Parrett Porto Parese, told me, “You will lose very few of these [divorce litigation cases] if you are prepared.”
He was absolutely right.
And it rings true today, even if I’m prepared in a different way.
In the olden days, I’d have a trial notebook, pre-marked exhibits and copies, a draft of my direct examination questions and a bunch of ideas about what I’d do on cross-examination. I’d script out my offers of proof for evidence objections. And much to Carl’s, and my, delight, I didn’t lose any of my litigation cases. Just once I got a Judgment that wasn’t as good as I thought I’d get. Once in 12 years.
These days, my preparation is both different and the same. We take detailed notes using worksheets and checklists that we’ve developed over time. We review client files after the mediation sessions and write short memos to the clients about what’s next even though we’ve already given them copies of our notes.
Each mediation team de-briefs after each session and anticipates what might happen at the next session and what we will do to help clients get through it.
We even work on analogies, like “just because the plane flight (mediation) has gotten a little turbulent and bumpy (the mediation is tense) doesn’t mean we’re going to crash (and you’ll get through this).”
Such an interesting concept.