Of Dolphins and Sharks


A Firm Mission Statement

One of my clients left a five-star positive Google review that contained the following language amongst general praise: “If you are looking for an amoral shark to punish your not-yet-ex for sins both real and imagined, this isn’t the law firm for you, but I strongly recommend Carl Taylor Law to everyone else.”


I went home that evening and read those lines over and over again.  I read them to my wife and asked her input.  Although it was a positive review*, I was concerned.  Because of course lawyers have large egos and I am no exception.  You want to be moral, but you also want to be a shark, or at least viewed that you have some shark in you.  Moreover, it’s what many clients expect—even demand. They are paying good money and they think that’s what they should be paying for.

Somehow, despite being stubborn, occasionally ill-tempered, and appropriately aggressive in cases, this review was similar to other feedback I have received throughout my career. Often that feedback is positive: “You were a pleasure to work with,” clients may say. Or “You were tough when necessary but I appreciate your being logical and having a steady-hand during my divorce case.” Other times the comments have been a bit more pointed: “You do have it in you to be a real mean bastard, right?” at least three clients have asked me over the years in one form or another.  


Many divorce lawyers sell themselves on that very point: “I will be aggressive.”  The context is “I can be the shark.  I am the shark.”  Despite having good success throughout my career with extensive litigation experience including winning cases in federal courts, appellate courts, and state courts, certain clients simply do not see me as a “shark.”  I wondered if I was too down to earth.  I considered perhaps changing my approach to become more aggressive or to be perceived as more aggressive.  In short, I had a tough night’s sleep weighing these concerns in my head.  And then I had an epiphany…


In a divorce you may think you want a shark, but often what you really need is a dolphin.  It is said that dolphins can act as life-rafts and help distressed humans back to shore.  Moreover, it is said that dolphins can effectively fight and often defeat sharks when necessary.  Although dolphins may not go looking for unnecessary fights and may favor efficiency, when the stakes are high dolphins do what is necessary.  Sharks may be indiscriminate in what they eat, dolphins are calculated and precise.  Sharks may eat their own, dolphins do not.  That night I realized as a lawyer I may be more of a dolphin than a shark, and I further realized that is ok.  Besides, I am who I am. I can no more “will” myself to be a metaphorical shark than a real dolphin can “will” itself to be a shark.  


Family law attorneys may be the only type of lawyers that need to keep tissues in their conference room.  Some clients are sad about their divorce or custody situation, others are angry, and many are a mixture of negative emotions. There are exceptions but this is the rule. They say divorce is worse than suffering the death of a loved one and it is therefore only logical that the party’s emotions can sometimes take the reins of a divorce. 


In law school emotion is not something often spoken about.  We may hear about “emotional distress” as a type of claim in torts cases but dealing with strong emotions in clients is rarely if ever addressed.  As I often tell clients, the law is callous.  The law does not always make sense and the law is not always just, but for better (and sometimes) worse it does its best to utilize logic and reason rather than emotion.  This leads to a situation in family law where occasionally even judges are at a loss about how to proceed given the level of emotion involved in a case.  Duels remain illegal as of this writing and ultimately there is nothing a judge can order that will make up for how hurt or angry a divorcing party may feel at their ex. 

I keep a poster in my office of a couple in the 1990’s dividing a beanie baby collection in court under the assistance of a judge.  The point is simple: try to focus on the important issues!  Paying me to fight for a pension or for fair custody often makes sense, fighting over a jar of change often does not.  My background in civil litigation taught me to view every case through a cost-benefit analysis.  My client and I need to consider the costs for my services, the cost of experts, and the likelihood of success for a given course of action to determine if the return on investment is worthy of the action.  This is the way large, sophisticated clients like insurance companies, banks, and government entities view litigation.  I know because I have worked with such clients.  It’s often not the way individuals who are unfamiliar with litigation think—not when clouded with emotion.  Those seeking a divorce may find that their tempers cloud their reason.  The ultimate result may be a delayed divorce proceeding, hard feelings that may negatively impact their children, less personal satisfaction, and ultimately a smaller pie to carve up.

People want to play games, but divorce is not a game.  It’s serious business with serious consequences and real risks.


                                             Efficient Solutions


 At Carl Taylor Law, LLC we will work with you from the initial consultation through the end of the case to work towards ambitious but reasonable goals.  Like a college counselor we will be honest if a legal position sought is a reach.  Although most people would love to go to an Ivy League School, not everyone has a realistic chance.  If something is unattainable we’ll do our best to tell you before you spend money and time on a losing proposition.   Utilizing funds for ambitious but realistic results can be the difference between wasting time and money and moving the matter forward in a workmanlike manner.  I’ll go on record that we may not be sharks, but we’ll do the best we can to be honest with you and to embody the spirit of the dolphin.   


*Past success is no guarantee of future results. Reviews do not demonstrate every client’s opinion as not every client leaves a review.