Is your divorce attorney cut-throat enough?

I’ve just begun to read this, so far, engrossing book on the subject of divorce by Jessica Bram called Happily Ever After Divorce Notes of a Joyful Journey. Actually, Jessica’s press agent was kind enough to send us a complimentary copy and I am glad they did because, first of all, it’s quite an engrossing read, and second of all, it’s where I got the idea for this post. On page 214 Jessica states, “Our lawyers were two of the most expensive in New York City, renowned for being ‘cutthroat’ (the highest accolade anyone can give a matrimonial lawyer…)” and that just stopped me cold in my tracks. I thought, “really?” Are divorce lawyers really at the apex of their career when they are described as “cutthroat” by lay people? And should that really be a measure of success of a matrimonial lawyer? Go here for the New York Magazine list of best divorce lawyers in New York (I personally don’t know these folks so I do not know if any of them are “cutthroat” or not.)
I am a divorce lawyer. But I wouldn’t describe myself as “cutthroat.” I don’t ever want to be that. And maybe that is exactly why I have no money. Maybe that is what is missing in my calculus. I need to start cutting some throats! That is what lay people want. That is why they pay big bucks. They want some throats cut! I am sure there are many lawyers on the best lawyers list who are exactly as Ms. Bram described. That is why they are paid the big bucks. It’s all a show, an act. The worse they behave, the more they are paid. 
But the thing is, I think, the more cutthroat the lawyers, the more it tends to cost the client and in the end, they wind up with the same they would have gotten without all that blood and flesh spilled onto the streets. They are basically paying lawyers to put on a show.
I don’t necessarily think that should be the goal. I think in this area of the law, a more collaborative approach is almost always better than having two “expensive cutthroat lawyers” spilling blood on the streets. I just don’t think a lot of clients understand that the more cutthroat their lawyer is, the more money the divorce is going to cost them–and that it doesn’t have to be that way. And frankly, it shouldn’t be that way.  Unless, I guess, it absolutely has to be. I mean, it is an adversarial process and one has to get the best deal for one’s clients. But do throats have to be cut? I don’t know. I don’t think so. What do you think? Do you want your lawyer to be “cutthroat?”
Check out Jessica’s book, Happily Ever After Divorce It is quite an interesting read.
Originally published 4/22/09