Thursday, May 24, 2018

Five Traits of Great Lawyers

lawyer balancing five traits of greatness
What makes a great lawyer? Is it intelligence, good people skills, effective writing? Of course, we must have a certain level of intelligence and motivation, along with experience and opportunities. But the truth is, the traits that transform a good lawyer into a great lawyer may not be the ones you think.
Here are five traits that make a lawyer — or any person — stand above the rest. Cultivating these traits provides the opportunity to really understand the issues and offer effective solutions.

1. Compassion

Compassion is an emotional response whereby one perceives another’s problem and authentically, genuinely wants to help resolve the problem. This is part of what lawyers do: People come to us with their problems, or to avoid future problems, and we help resolve or avoid the issues, whichever the case may be. If you practice business law, tax law or in any area that is not particularly “emotional,” you may not think that compassion is important to your practice. But it is. The compassionate lawyer focuses on how others feel and is accepting of their perspective, whether or not he ultimately agrees with it.
Compassion is the foundation for good people skills. Without compassion, you cannot put yourself in your client’s shoes or fully understand the issues your client faces. Without compassion, you cannot understand your adversary’s position, anticipate what she will do, and take pre-emptive steps to benefit your client. Without it, you cannot provide the best solutions.

2. Ability to Listen

Effective communication skills are essential to good lawyering. One of the most important aspects of communication is listening. Of course, what we say, how we say it and when we say it are important. But we can only do it right if we listen first. Listen to your clients. Listen to your adversaries, your colleagues and the judges. As lawyers, we must take in much information, analyze and synthesize it, and exercise good judgment to provide advice to our clients. It starts with listening.

3. Assertiveness, Not Aggressiveness

I often hear people say, “She’s not aggressive enough to be an effective lawyer.” That’s not right. You don’t need to be aggressive — though you must be assertive. Assertive lawyers state their opinions and make themselves heard, while remaining respectful of others. Aggressive lawyers attack or ignore others’ opinions in favor of their own.
Much like those who lack compassion, overly aggressive lawyers cannot understand another’s position when it varies from their client’s position. That makes them ineffective at understanding the problem and thus incapable of providing an effective solution. Even more detrimental, overly aggressive lawyers act without respect for others. This damages interpersonal relationships, ultimately leading to an uncooperative environment that makes  resolution or agreement impossible.

4. Creativity

We need to be creative to find real solutions to the issues our clients face. Each matter is unique; each client must be handled differently, and each solution carefully crafted. While on the whole we lawyers are a rather risk-averse group, we must learn to think outside the box. The best way to create unique solutions is to approach each situation with compassionate listening, which enables you to really understand the issues and what the client and the adversary need. That level of understanding can lead to long-lasting solutions that work for all interested parties. Stalemates often arise when opposing counsel fails to approach the matter with compassionate listening and, instead, becomes unnecessarily aggressive. Don’t be that deal-breaker.

5. Perseverance

Success is achieved with perseverance. We must keep working, keep trying and keep going. We must be able to walk away when things are not working, take a break and come back fresh and ready to “fight,” negotiate or whatever the matter requires.
Now go out there and be great! (published by attorneyatwork)

Thursday, June 22, 2017



The verdict now is read -

But wait! What's that they said?

Can you believe your ears?

Your laughter turns to tears.

How could the jury do it?

It couldn't be right! You blew it!

Well, that's the way it goes,

As everybody knows.

There's just one way around it.

The Secret? I have found it.

I'll make it sweet and short:

You've gotta settle out of court!

Eddie Siegel
"Just Like A Lawyer"

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


This is a GREAT story to feel during your divorce. It is about a boy and a Zen master.

          “On his sixteenth birthday the boy gets a horse as a present. All of the people in the village say, ‘Oh, how wonderful?’

          The Zen master says, ‘We’ll see.’

          One day, the boy is riding and gets thrown off the horse and hurts his leg. He is no longer able to walk, so all of the villagers say, ‘How terrible!’

          The Zen master says, ‘We’ll see.’

          Some time passes and the village goes to war. All of the other young men get sent off to fight, but this boy can’t fight because his leg is messed up. All of the villagers say, ‘How wonderful!’

          The Zen master say, ‘We’ll see.’”

          Stop believing whether something is “good” or “bad.”  It is neither. Good/bad is merely a “spectrum.” Reality is your perception. As the Buddha stated, “live joyfully in a world of sorrow!”

          “WE’LL SEE”

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


You have made your decision to separate (escape) from your spouse or you have made your decision with your Attorney to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  Unfortunately, based on economics today, many married couples must co-habitate in the same residence during the divorce (and for reasons advised by their Attorney other than economic) which I assure you is hell as a contested divorce, due to the financial crisis in the Judiciary creating a shortage of judges, may take 3 to 36 months. However, if you are able to move out from the residence based on your decision or the advice of your Attorney (because the other spouse is refusing to vacate the residence and you do not have the ability to obtain an immediate Court Order for their removal), PLEASE be acutely aware as follows:

1.       Until you vacate the residence,  your spouse will search every square inch of the house, your personal belongings, your automobile, your computer (beware of keystroke programs), your cell phone, your social media (Facebook, etc.) to ascertain notes, messages, texts, emails, money, etc. for many different reasons;

2.       You should obtain a replacement garage door opener and program it to the code of your opener to have access through the garage door as future entry into the garage and/or residence after you vacate. Your spouse may change the locks on the residence but often he/she does not remember to change the code on the garage door opener. If the residence is in joint names, you may obtain a locksmith to let you in at any time, but this is usually childish and dangerous. If possible, you should make copies of all keys to automobiles, residence, storage units, locks, etc.

3.        You should remove any item that is sentimental to you, i.e., grandmother's dish, photographs, gold coin from father, etc., in that any items that are sentimental that you leave behind may disappear and your spouse will allege that you took them with you and that you are the one who lost them. Because they are sentimental, your Attorney cannot obtain replacement items or compensation for fair market value versus if a television is missing, it is easy to ascertain the fair market value and obtain money for replacement. There is no way to replace sentimental items;

4.       You should remove all small items of high value, i.e., jewelry, watches, coins, stock certificates, bonds, etc. as again, if they disappear, your spouse will state that you have them and at this time there is conflicting testimony and the Court, unless the Judge makes a decision based on one person's credibility substantially outweighing the other person's creditability, the assets may not be distributed to either party;

5.       You should remove (or copy) all important documents, safe deposit key(s) and copy or upload to a secure Cloud all important information contained on any stationary computer hard drives (CPU) and any other music or social content;

6.       You should photograph or electronically record all items remaining in the residence and garage and create a master index of all tangible property left at the residence. Therefore, if any of the property is damaged or disappears, you may seek replacement fair market value of the property. Furthermore, you will need a master inventory for division of all tangible property during your dissolution of marriage, and this is a perfect time to make the inventory, or if you don't have time, you will have the pictures to prepare the inventory at a later time;

7.       If you have decided to take bedroom furniture and other furniture, please be aware the Judge will be reviewing the situation to determine if it was done in a fair manner.  If a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage has been filed by you or your spouse, there is a Standing Family Law Court Order and it more likely than not prevents you from removing property from the house. Always discuss removal of furniture and other large items from the house/garage with your Attorney before doing so. If you decide to do so either on your own or per permission of your Attorney, please be extremely careful in removing said items as if you are doing it without knowledge of your spouse and your spouse returns home during your move, it is an extremely dangerous situation. If you must move the items out without knowledge or notice to your spouse, make sure you do it during a time when you know your spouse will not be present for hours in the residence and that you have several adult witnesses with you to observe the removal and moving of the items. You may also notify your local police prior to the removal of items that you may need an officer to do a "keep the peace" check. I do not advise removing any large items that do not have sentimental value and have easy replacement value as the shock and trauma alone of removal of property to your spouse may cause unforeseen reactions from your spouse, as a spouse often reacts versus responds when confronted with relationship issues. Therefore, please do not do so unless you have discussed it with your Attorney and he/she has granted permission to do so or if it is absolutely necessary for you to do so;

8.       If you have a child, before you vacate the marital residence (assuming with the child) you must discuss the matter with your Attorney to make sure your moving out of the residence with the child does not harm any of your goals with regard to a proper parenting plan and time sharing schedule between you and your spouse;

9.       Removing any pets (dog, cat, spider, lizard, fish, etc.) must be pre-planned with regard to whether your landlord allows a pet. You will need the veterinarian records for upcoming shots, etc.  An appropriate message must be left for your spouse notifying your spouse that the pet was removed so that your spouse does not believe the pet has simply disappeared. Be very careful which pet(s) to remove as if your spouse is emotionally dependent on that pet, even though you are affectionate toward the pet, the pet should be with the person who has a greater emotional dependence on the pet;

10.   You should discuss with your Attorney which financial accounts to remove and transfer money. There are many reasons to remove sometimes less than one-half and sometimes greater than one-half of the money in checking/savings accounts. Financial institutions may need to be notified to put a "hold" on the account so your spouse cannot take any additional funds. Any cash should be removed from the residence, as again, if it disappears, your spouse will allege that you have it;

11.   You should discuss with your Attorney which credit cards, equityline and other debt accounts to cease your spouse's authorized use of or to terminate if in joint names, or if in joint names and you cannot terminate, a decision must be made whether to withdraw the remaining funds available to safeguard during the dissolution process.  Generally, if your spouse is not financially responsible you should remove your spouse as an authorized user on all your credit cards and notify the financial institution with an equityline, whether secured to real property or not, to "freeze" the equityline so that it is not maxed out by your spouse. This is a delicate decision as your spouse may be dependent upon certain credit cards and if their dependence on the credit cards is of essence for the day to day survival or raising of your child, then it may be wise not to cancel those credit cards;

12.   After you have vacated the residence, you should notify your neighbors that you trust (be very careful who you trust) that you are no longer living in the neighborhood and you would appreciate if they would keep an eye out on the residence as that way you will be able to receive updates on what is going on at your residence. If the residence is in joint names, you are welcome to stop by any time to review the caretaking of the residence as long as you are confident there will not be any domestic violence with your spouse when you are in the process of a "walk-through".

13.   You may want to install a "GPS" tracker on the automobile of your spouse if it is titled in your name, or your name and your spouse's name (joint names). Contact a private detective / "Spy" store or review the internet for devices and information. Tracking your spouse reveals many salient facts with regard to potential paramours, entertainment, etc.

These are several matters to consider when vacating your marital residence, but of course, these suggestions should be reviewed in detail with your Attorney as there are probably other issues to consider based on your particular facts of your marriage.

I wish you great adventure in your new experience, and I say


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"The greatest discovery of all time

is that a person can change his future

by merely changing his attitude."

Oprah Winfrey

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Parties involved in a high conflict divorce/paternity case quite often believe that if they could just talk to the Judge privately and explain to the Judge how they feel and how evil the other parent truly is, then the Judge would give them what they want.

Some misguided parties actually call the Judge's office and ask to speak with the Judge about their case, and they are surprised to find out that the Judge's assistant will not connect them with the Judge because the Judge does not communicate with parties except in a courtroom with both parties present. 

Other parties will try to send the Judge a letter hoping to secretly tell the Judge their version of the case without the other parent knowing. The letter will be sent back unread by the Judge or the Judge will file it with the Clerk of Court without reading it, and take note of the parent who tried to have an improper ex-parte communication.

If the Judge does communicate with a party or both parties in writing, it is always with a Court Order.

If a Judge ever sent a letter to the parties (this will never happen), the letter would look something like this:

Dear Parents:

I am the Judge assigned to your divorce / paternity case. 

I hope to never meet you.  I assure you I will never meet your children. 

The only reason I have been assigned to your case is in the event that you cannot make your own decisions together or in the event that one or both of you act inappropriately by violating the law. In those cases, I have the authority to issue Orders telling each of you when you are allowed to see your children, dictating the terms of child support, property division, etc.

If my Orders are not obeyed, I may hold you in Contempt of Court and you may be sent to jail. 

I am surprised every day by parents who proclaim to love their children and who insist they are only trying to do what is in the children's best interest but then they allow me, a total stranger, to set the rules of life for themselves and their children because they are too angry or stubborn to work together with the co-parent to finalize an agreement so that the parents make all the decisions and I make none.

If you insist upon me making decisions for you after a trial, I assure you that both parties will probably be disappointed because the reality is that parents together will make much better decisions for their children than a total stranger.

I will not allow you to use me to punish the other parent, and I promise you, I will NOT be fair.  A Judge's oath requires them to follow the law, not be "fair" to a party.

Do not make the mistake of calling the children as witnesses to testify against the other parent or to tell me what a great parent you are. Do not put the children in the middle of your war.

Many parents make the mistake of insisting upon a trial so they can tell me how they "feel". They seem to think it important that the Judge understand their perspective. Believe me, I already know and understand your perspective if you are working hard to minimize the time the children spend with the other parent.  You are emotionally in pain. Your dreams of happily ever after have been crushed. Your vision of the future has been altered by your co-parent and your need to hurt your co-parent has overwhelmed your good judgment.

·       You are hurt when the children spend time with your co-parent because you suffer separation anxiety and you fear the children will love the co-parent more than you if they spend too much time with them.

·       You are overlooking the fact that children need and love both parents and, unlike the romantic love once shared by their parents, the children's love will not fade or disappear over time. The romantic love that did not endure was destroyed by incompatibility and the children's love is not dependent upon that factor.

·       You will claim that your motives are pure and you are only thinking about what is in the best interests of the children, but you are forgetting the fact that I will be enforcing the right of the children to spend time with their parents - not the right of the parents to spend time with their children.

·       Your anger and pain and the need to strike back will inspire you to try to convince me that your co-parent is unworthy of spending as much time with the children as you, but the Judge does not punish a parent because of their failures as a spouse.
The litigation process ending with a trial will leave scars on both parents and add to any hostility that already exists. You and your children will pay a heavy price if you go down that road. And be aware that a trial and Final Judgment is not even final. There can be rehearings and it can be appealed and later modified under certain circumstances. So if you are looking for "Justice" and "Fairness" and "Finality", you will not find it in my courtroom. 

I look forward to receiving a signed agreement rather than a request for trial.


                                                  Your Circuit Judge

(This article was recently written by retired Attorney David Thomas.)