Do the More Successful Divorce Attorneys Choose Their Clients?
Interviewer: It sounds like the types of clients you work with are different from the clients of other divorce attorneys.
Mark Kezy: One of the tricks that you learn as you get a little bit older is that not only do the clients pick the attorneys, but the more successful attorneys will also pick their clients. There are some people, after I sit down with them and I talk to them, I just know that they’re the type of person that they’re out there to extract their ounce of flesh. They’re out there to hurt the other side and to punish the other side.
Clients That Are Looking to Exact Revenge on Their Spouse Are Not Apt to Be Satisfied with the Outcome of the Case
Here’s the bottom line. Even if I wanted to conduct my practice like that, the bottom line is that they’re not the client for me. I don’t want to handle their divorce because there’s no way that I could do enough to hurt the other side to make that person happy. They’re never going to be happy, so why try? Why try to do that?
A realistic client is one that understands the process and uses common sense, such as listening to what I have to say. Ultimately, they’re going to be the good clients because you’re going to be able to do what they want you to do. They have reasonable expectations and, if you use your head, you’re going to be able to fulfill those expectations. Yes, it is very different.
Two Spouses, Two Attorneys: In a Divorce Action, Each Party’s Attorney Can Have Very Different Approaches
Interviewer: When you represent someone in a divorce case, you’re almost stepping into their shoes. The other side will have an attorney. You seem very calm and collected and those are the clients you want. What about the attorney for the other side? What if the attorney is very emotional and they want to tear your client to pieces? How do you deal with the other attorney and the other side and make a resolution?
Mark Kezy: That’s true. When I see a new client, many times I will ask him or her who the other attorney is. Frequently, I’m the second or even the third attorney who is hired in the case. This is because somebody will come into a case and they will hire an attorney and they’re frustrated because now the case is 2 or 3 sometimes even 4 years old.
They’ve spent thousands dollars and they’re no closer to being done then the day they first started. When they come to me, they’re really looking for somebody to say “Okay, look, I’ve got to get this done. I want to be reasonable. I want to know what I really should expect, what I should really be doing, and get this case resolved.”
In Chicago, Most of the Attorneys That Specialize in Divorce Have Worked Together Previously
In those circumstances, I’ll ask the other side who the attorney is. I’ve been practicing long enough. Chicago may be a big city, but it’s really not because you eventually come into contact with other attorneys that specialize in divorce. You’ve either had cases with that person or you know what their reputation is.
If I know the other attorney I can very quickly say, “We can probably settle this case very quickly or handle this very reasonably because the other side is very reasonable.” In the type of situation where the other attorney is very unreasonable, there’s a number of ways of short circuiting that. One of the most effective is money.
In a Contentious Divorce, Typically One of the Parties Comes to the Realization That Much Money Has Been Spent with Very Little Result
I’ll tell clients, “Any type of litigation is like Economics 101. You’ve got to ask yourself what I’m getting for what I’m spending.” Money has a way of making people be reasonable with each other when they don’t want to be reasonable.
Most of my clients are businessmen. They understand money. They understand that the more these attorneys delay the process, the more it’s carving up the pie and the less that we get. Some people come to that realization faster than the others.
Some of those people, even when they are very angry like that, at some point they get frustrated and angry because they’re looking at how much they spent and where they’re at with resolving the divorce. They come to that realization sometimes a little bit slower than your client does.
In Those Cases, the Practical Divorce Attorney Will Find a Way to Facilitate a Resolution
How do you bring to them table? There’s a lot of ways of doing that. I sit down with clients and say “What exactly do you want out of this divorce, why do you want it and how much are you willing to spend to get it?”
This is because first of all one of the biggest mistakes that people make in divorces is they come rushing in. They’re mad. They run from one fire to the next, without any understanding of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. When a client comes to me, I create a list of what they really want and their expectations and why they want it. Now you can sit down with that client and say “If this is what you want” or “If you want to do something, how is that going to bring you closer to getting the things done that you want?”
I am more than willing to negotiate on my client’s behalf but there are times when the other side is not willing to budge. Even if they don’t get the idea, then you know what? Then you’re going to go to trial and you’re going to get this divorce resolved because whether you set the trial date for 6 months from now or 2 or 3 years later, the outcome is not going to be any different.