Why would you want a “bulldog” lawyer?

Posted Friday, April 15th, 2022 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Attorney-Client Relations, Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to Family Court Litigants

I occasionally get calls from prospective family law clients wanting to know if I’m a “bulldog” (sometimes, it’s a “pitbull”). One can never be certain what attributes this person thinks would make one’s attorney a bulldog. However a better concern is why a family court client would ever want his or her attorney to be a bulldog.

Without insulting bulldogs–most of whom I’ve found to be gentle and slightly ridiculous–one assumes there are various attributes these potential clients associate with bulldogs: aggressive; tenacious; relentless. Again, not insulting bulldogs, but attributes I don’t associate with that breed are wise, strategic, or cunning. There are no situations in which an attorney being wise or strategic isn’t useful. Unless one is too clever, cunning is also useful. Aggressive, tenacious, and relentless can be useful but more often are counterproductive. The wise and strategic lawyer spots those rare circumstances when these attributes are useful.

An attorney being aggressive, tenacious, and relentless can be vital when a client is unjustly accused and needs an advocate to vindicate him or her. These attributes can be useful in countering a bullying opposing counsel or party but misdirection is often a more effective strategy. Most of the time, these tactics backfire. Aggression in the face of non-aggression comes off as bullying and family court judges don’t like bullying litigants or attorneys. Aggression when one’s position is weak is akin to punching a bigger, stronger person: it may feel good initially but….

Tenaciousness and relentlessness are fine attributes when the goals are reasonable and achievable and ridiculous when they are not. As I often tell my clients, it makes little sense to spend a dollar in fees in the hope of getting two dollars back but it makes no sense to spend two dollars in fees in the hope of getting one dollar back. A tenacious attorney will simply spend the client’s money chasing any goal the client can articulate. A wise and cunning lawyer will help a client determine which goals are worth spending time, money, and energy to pursue and which goals should be set aside.

Are the folks seeking a bulldog attorney really hoping to spend $100,000 on a custody case that was never winnable? Do they think that unrestrained aggression looks good to a family court judge? I’m not really sure. What I do know is that any potential client who thinks the primary quality he or she seeks is a lawyer is “bulldog” is a client worth avoiding.

3 thoughts on Why would you want a “bulldog” lawyer?

  1. Joe Mendelsohn says:

    Good article.

  2. Cassandra says:

    Thank you for sharing a very wise position.

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