EP 152: 4 Reasons You Don't Want "The Most Aggressive" Attorney

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In this episode, we will discuss a common misconception. Sometimes, people will have an urge to punish their soon-to-be-ex-spouse in the divorce, so they look for the most aggressive attorney that they can find. Attorneys know that many people have that mentality, so some of them are marketing heavily to you in search engines. They may be paying $25 or $50 per click when you search for aggressive divorce attorneys, just for you to just visit their website. They want to persuade you to hire a tough attorney, especially when you are angry, so they can convince you that you need a fighter.

However, that might not be in your best interests. In some circumstances, an aggressive attorney may make sense, but for most people, it does not. Let’s face it – most people want to get divorce over as quickly as possible, with a fair result, and at a reasonable cost. Most of you just want to get what is fair, without bankrupting yourself in the process. Even if you hate your ex-spouse, you probably just want a reasonable result and to move on with the rest of your life.

Here are four reasons why you might want to avoid an aggressive attorney:

1) The divorce will be much more expensive. An aggressive attorney is going to be a lot more expensive because every issue becomes a big fight. You will always be on the offensive, submitting motions, and hiring experts. The attorney’s billable hours will pile up. What could have been a $5,000 - $10,000 divorce can become a $100,000 divorce very quickly. Your attorney will goad you into more fights, creating more expense. You may end up spending $5,000 fighting over a $200 set of silverware.

On top of that, you will not be able to get to a settlement very easily. Aggressive attorneys want to fight it out, drag your ex through the mud, and punish them. That punishment comes at your expense – selling your cars, emptying your retirement accounts, and double-mortgaging your home.

2) Judges hate aggressive attorneys. The probability that you will be settling your divorce is lower with an aggressive attorney, so you will end up spending more time in front of a judge. Judges have a good sense of the local attorneys, an over-stuffed docket, and they don’t want to spend a lot of time on any one case. This is why many judges don’t like aggressive attorneys, and find them an annoyance.

Picture a yappy chihuahua barking at a stranger – all bite and no bark – versus a relaxed chocolate lab. An aggressive attorney is like a chihuahua, making lots of noise about small things that don’t really matter. This is how many judges feel about aggressive attorneys. Every little thing becomes a big issue and a waste of time. It frustrates judges, and they often treat the client as an extension of that attorney. If you have an attorney that the judge likes, you can end up with a more favorable outcome.

3) Aggressive does not mean effective, and it does not mean tough. My favorite attorneys are pretty low-key, but they are experienced, sharp, and devastatingly effective. They may never raise their voice or show much emotion, but they crush some of the more aggressive attorneys with their tenacity. You do not need an aggressive attorney to get a good result. One of my favorite sayings is, “An empty can rattles the loudest.” There’s nothing actually in the can. Many aggressive attorneys are all bark and no bite, and don’t have a lot of substance to them. A skilled attorney who doesn’t have an aggressive style usually wins the day.

4) It is emotionally draining. Divorce is already tough enough, but when you add an aggressive attorney or two to the mix, it creates an all-out war. Aggressive attorneys have a tendency to misconstrue the truth. They sometimes come out with wild accusations, adding conflict to the process, and it ultimately is not helpful to their case. It may feel good at first to get fired up and try to punish your spouse, but this is ultimately a business deal – splitting up your assets, debt and property. Adding emotion to the process is not helpful. Your objective should be to put yourself in the best position possible for the rest of your life after the divorce.

For most people, aggressive attorneys are not a good choice. They are expensive, judges don’t like them, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you will end up in a better place. To be fair, some situations can call for an aggressive attorney. For example, if you have a custody dispute and there is a serious mental issue, a history of abuse, or an alcoholic spouse, then an aggressive attorney might be worth considering. However, for most people, it is not the best choice.

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Thank you for listening!

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA

Dallas, Texas

Shawn C. H. Leamon is Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, a firm that helps successful families manage large financial transitions like divorce, inheritance and selling a business.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College, double majoring in Economics and Philosophy, and his Masters in Business Administration at Spain’s IE Business School.

Before founding LaGrande Global, Shawn helped manage $1.1 billion in client assets at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He also worked as a credit research analyst at J.P. Morgan. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and he has been an advisor to numerous high-stakes divorce cases.

Shawn is the author of two well-received finance books: Managing Private Wealth: Principles, and Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide, both published in 2016.

In his spare time, Shawn is an ultra-endurance athlete and has competed in events as long as 24 hours. He is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Alumni Board of Greenhill School.