One size does not fit all.
It’s easy to think that all lawyers approach cases the same way and embark upon litigation when necessary. The reality is that some lawyers have an approach that is more skewed towards negotiations and mediated settlements versus the adversarial litigation process. Within that adversarial litigation process there are also lawyers that are more open to negotiate once litigation has begun.
Not all clients are the same… Not all lawyers are the same and clearly not all judges or mediators approach matters the same way.
Finding the right fit for you is critical in family law, contrary to, for example, using a real estate lawyer to buy or sell your home.
A skillful lawyer takes time at the beginning getting all of the relevant facts and truly understanding the nature of the scenario with your particular family. That lawyer also knows what questions to ask in terms of financial disclosure, both of yourself and those questions to pose to the other side.
The knowledgeable lawyer understands the need for certain evaluations and whether expert evidence is needed to determine an issue. For example, determining the annual income of someone who is self-employed is a difficult process and is not simply based on the income tax return. Self-employed people often write off expenses that are truly not related to the operation of the business and are therefore personal, which needs to be added back into their income and grossed up accordingly because no tax is paid on this amount.
The good lawyer needs to know not only about your finances, assets and liabilities and sources of income, but also about the needs of your children and how to find a solution that is in their best interest which may include protecting them from another spouse.
Any lawyer can write letters and simply listen to you and do as you wish them to do (the cheerleader), but that is not a real lawyer who is going to make a meaningful difference in your case.
There are also small things that are easy to notice when you meet a lawyer, namely:
- Are they on time?
- The appearance of their office and how they communicate with their staff.
- How promptly they get back to you.
- The manner in which they communicate, not only to you but to the other lawyer.
- Finding the right fit is not easy and at times people need to shop around to find the right advocate for them.
- Choose the lawyer who will provide you with a thorough and honest opinion and properly advise you on issues where you as the client may be overreaching.
Finally, it is oftentimes appropriate for you to bring a second set of eyes and ears, particularly to the first few interviews, and that includes either a relative or friend joining you to seek their opinion on the respective lawyer.
This is not a simple exercise and making sure that you have the right fit takes time and effort.
Paul S. Pellman
Paul S. Pelman
Paul has practiced family law for the past 36 years and is the head of our family law department. He has sat as a Dispute Resolution Officer in the Superior Court of Ontario and has served as a member of the Children’s Rights Panel through the Office of the Children’s Lawyer. He is a certified specialist in family law.
Paul’s practice includes not only negotiations and preparation of marriage contracts and separation agreements but litigation, mediation and arbitration. He acts for a variety of individuals, both men and women, and has a special interest in grandparents’ rights.
Paul is extremely involved in his community through Ted Reeve Arena where he operates their house league in the tyke division. Paul has worked in the disabled community for many years.
Paul has always been of the opinion that an effective advocate needs to be a chameleon, being reasonable when the events suggest such, yet dogged and determined when the actions of parties require that level of conduct. He is extremely experienced as an advocate, having appeared in many courts and participated in many trials and appeals. He is a detail-oriented individual who takes client’s concerns seriously.
He is energetic, enthusiastic and always wishing to take on a new challenge.