Attorney’s Fees in the Millions

I just finished reading an article from D Magazine about a $7.4 million divorce that went nowhere.  After a year and a half, and innumerable visits to the courthouse, the case involving a marital estate of nearly $100 million was about to go to trial, when one of the attorneys brought up an issue that the court had ordered should not be raised in front of the jury.  The court declared a mistrial, which would have involved another trial setting, and the addition of more attorneys fees.  After a discussion with his estranged wife, the husband fired his trial attorney (who he had paid $3.6 million — his wife had paid her attorney $3.8 million) and hired an attorney trained in collaborative divorce; and then convinced his wife to do the same.  For about $80,000 the collaborative attorneys, with the assistance of a psychologist who served as a communications facilitator, were able to help the couple reach an agreement and get divorced.

To me, litigation is like brain surgery.  You don’t hire a neurosurgeon at the first sign of a headache, and in most cases (there are exceptions, of course) you don’t hire a litigator before you’ve explored approaches to solving your legal issues that are less expensive and less polarizing, especially when there are children involved in the divorce.  If the lawyer you consult doesn’t tell you about all of the various approaches to resolving your differences but immediately recommends litigation, my advice would be to see another lawyer, preferably one who has been trained in collaborative divorce.  As the article from D Magazine implies, a good portion of your marital estate can be unnecessarily spent on attorneys, rather than split between you and your spouse.

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