Often I get requests from colleagues via e-mail for “an aggressive attorney”. Clients also frequently ask “Are you aggressive”?. This question, however, is not the most important question. The most important question is, in my opinion, “Do you know when to be aggressive”?
Aggressive v. Zealous
The mark of a good attorney/advocate is not necessarily aggression. Two of the definitions for “aggressive” are 1) characterized by or tending toward unprovoked offensives, attacks, invasions, or the like; militantly forward or menacing: aggressive acts against a neighboring country. And 2) making an all-out effort to win or succeed; competitive.
Frankly, in a family law litigation setting, neither, in my opinion, serves the client’s needs. I don’t believe, given the high level of emotions already present, a client needs an attorney who is subject to “unprovoked offenses, attacks, invasions or the like”, nor does he/she need someone who is competitive.
Rather, as we are charged with the task of being a “zealous advocate” for our client’s position. Zealous is commonly defined as “full of, characterized by, or due to zeal (fervor for a person, cause, or object; eager desire or endeavor; enthusiastic diligence; ardor); ardently active, devoted, or diligent.”
It would seem, by the above definitions, that what one should be seeking is a zealous advocate. One who is loyal to the cause, not the fight. One who is diligent, not competitive. One who is enthusiastic, not looking to fight.
I remember a particular case where Opposing Attorney was coming at us (my client and I) with a guns blazing, no holds barred approach. Initially, my client dug in her heels and said, “If he wants a fight, lets give him a fight”. We were constantly being called into court for every little dispute when in reality; a letter from Opposing Counsel would have elicited the same result from us. At the end of the day, her husband racked up a tremendous legal bill with his attorney and had to pay for some of my client’s legal fees because of conduct the court determined was unwarranted and unreasonable. This is truly a case of “slow and steady” winning the race.
There are some times, however, when aggression is warranted. The key is to find an attorney who can successfully make that call and serve the client’s best interests.
If you need (or think you need) such an advocate, I’m available to discuss your legal needs, and can be reached at 818-888-1144.