In praise of opinionated lawyers

Posted Sunday, June 11th, 2017 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Attorney-Client Relations, Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to Family Court Litigants

Folks who know me well–and even some who don’t–consider me the most opinionated person they know. I accept their judgment. Given something I’ve thought about, I have an opinion on it. Who makes better queso fundido: Minero or Pancito & Lefty? Having finally eaten a both, I now have an opinion. Which beach is better: Sullivan’s Island or Folly Beach? I have an opinion. Jay-Z or Kanye? Opinion (actually multiple opinions).

When my daughters began dating, I would try to put their dates at ease (and learn a bit about them) by asking random preference questions: Baseball or Football? Clemson or Carolina? Pizza or Burgers? There were no right answers [Gamecock and Tiger fans can pipe down] but the intent was to learn what they liked–and, admittedly, see if they were so easily intimated they couldn’t express preferences.

There is no way that any of these opinions can be objectively correct–they are merely a measure of preference. I had a different opinion on Sullivan’s Island versus Isle of Palm at age 30 than I do pushing 55 (and suspect most under 30’s would agree with my prior opinion and most over 50’s would agree with my current one). Opinions change as one changes and gains new experience.  However, without an opinion I could never decide what beach to go to–even if the opinion is that a coin flip is the best way to choose the beach. I’m frankly shocked that others can claim they don’t have strong opinions on everything they care about.

Which brings me to law–specifically family law. Good attorneys have opinions on every recurring issue in family law. What belongs in a domestic agreement? Opinion. What’s the method and order of preparation for a temporary hearing? Opinion. When should one file a temporary relief motion with the initial complaint? Opinion. Call the client as the first witness at trial, last, or somewhere in-between? Opinion. These opinions aren’t right or wrong–they are simply what works for that attorney. Good attorneys learn from experience and their opinions should evolve accordingly. But beware the attorney who has doesn’t have opinions on practically every aspect of that attorney’s practice area(s). He or she has no method of structuring work or separating the trivial from the essential.

Want to change my opinion: beat me in a hearing employing a strategy I wouldn’t normally employ–teach me something (i.e., school me). I’ll still have an opinion–it will simply be a different opinion (one doesn’t wed opinions for life).  I enjoy attorneys whose opinions differ from mine. I find attorneys with no strong opinions unfathomable.  An opinionated attorney takes action to move the case forward. An unopinionated attorney merely reacts when prompted by some outside force (opposing counsel; the court).

Who would you rather have representing you?

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