Are There Common Reasons for Wanting a Divorce?
Interviewer: What are the top reasons people tell you why they want to divorce?
Mark Kezy: That really depends. As I mentioned earlier, particularly when people get a little bit older, is that they don’t necessarily hate each other. They just stop being a couple. Many people I see have been so busy raising their families, running their businesses or their professions or their practices, that at some point they just stop being a couple. It’s not that they have a girlfriend or a boyfriend; it’s just again that they’ve kind of stopped being a couple. If you’re looking for a generic explanation, they’ve just really kind of grown apart.
What Are Reasonable Expectations to Have in a Divorce?
Interviewer: In terms of expectations, do those people have pretty reasonable expectations? What’s a reasonable expectation and what’s not, when somebody comes to you?
Mark Kezy: Again, it kind of goes back to the attorneys that they hire. Most of the clients that I get understand that when they pick an attorney, they’re looking for somebody with not only experience, but they’re looking for somebody who has common sense. The attorney does have experience, and knows what they’re talking about and is going to be very straightforward with them. Based on that, then they decide what they’re looking for, what their expectations are.
The Right Attorney Helps Clients Manage Their Expectations
Interviewer: So most of your clients do not have outlandish demands. They don’t want everything.
Mark Kezy: They come in, not that they don’t come in with unreasonable expectations, but they come in with the understanding that “I’m going to listen to what my attorney tells me because he’s a professional, he’s the expert.” My clients, once they sit down with me and ask, “What can I expect? What’s going to happen here?” and I tell them, they create their expectations from that.
It’s the job of a good attorney not only to help people create their expectations, but to manage their expectations. A good attorney will sit down and help people understand what they should expect out of it.
Some of the attorneys, like I told you, will let people come in and say “This is what I want. These are what my expectations are.” But they never really sit down with them and say, “Your expectations are unreasonable and this is what you should expect.”
How Important Is Empathy? Can Your Attorney See and Understand Your Perspective?
Interviewer: Since you get a lot of referrals, how do other people describe you or how would want them to describe you when they say “You should talk to this attorney; here’s why”?
Mark Kezy: I am very common sense, and I have a very practical approach to issues. I promote resolution. I don’t want to go too far off the subject, but I remember years ago I saw a movie with William Hurt. He was a doctor. When he was a doctor, he was very detached from his clients. He treated them almost like a number, just like a figure there, until he got sick, until he was diagnosed with cancer.
Now he was on the other side of the desk and learned what it was actually like for somebody to be sick and surrendering themselves to the doctor and saying “Look, I need your help. I need you to help me.”
One of the hardest things about divorce is that when people come into it with the intention of reaching agreements and that is good. But if they can’t, now it’s kind of a big black hole. They don’t know what’s going to happen to them, which is a very different thing.
To add to that, it’s that now they have two attorneys, sometimes three, and a judge talking about them sometimes if they were not even there. I guess one of the things that makes myself different from a lot of attorneys is I put myself in that place of the client. I know it may sound a little corny, but I treat my clients and I talk to my clients like I would want to be dealt with.
A Well-Informed Client Is Able to Make Intelligent Decisions
If I was going through a divorce, I would want an attorney to be very realistic with me. I would want an attorney to be incredibly honest with me about everything including what’s going to happen, and what should I expect? Don’t soft sell it to me. Tell me what’s going to happen. This way, I can make intelligent decisions about what’s going to happen or what I’m going to do.
How Often Do You Hear from Your Attorney?
I also treat clients like I would want to be treated by an attorney. One of the biggest complaints you have about attorney is that he doesn’t return my phone calls. Whatever communication I receive on behalf of my clients, I send to my clients. If I get a letter from another attorney, I send it to my clients. They know I got that letter, they know what was said in that letter.
If I send a letter to somebody, I immediately send a copy to my clients, so they know what was filed. They know what I sent to another attorney. I try to return my telephone calls within a couple of hours.
I remember years ago, an attorney told me, “Mark, be careful.” The best advice I received when I first started is be careful of the clients that you take on. This is because he said “If you take on crummy clients when you first start out, you’re going to end up 10 or 20 years later with a bunch of crummy clients. If you’re careful about the clients you take and you take clients that you like, that you think you can help—then guess what? You’re going to end up with those types of clients because those are the people that are going to refer other people to you.
Interviewer: What common mistakes, if any, do you see people making once they’ve retained you and they’re going through the process of the divorce?
Mark Kezy: I don’t necessarily know that they make a lot of mistakes during the process. When I sit down with a client, I try to sit down with them and come up with goals about what they want to achieve out of the divorce. As I mentioned and this certainly bears repeating, a well-informed client is able to make intelligent decisions.