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March 26, 2010

Getting Your "Divorce in a Day": No Way....

There is one local lawyer in San Diego County who specializes in bashing the legal profession, and bragging about the ability to handle a complete divorce in a day: Mediating a settlement, gathering the financial records, drafting all the documents, having an agreement signed, and the case ready for filing with the court. Sounds attractive - especially if you are rushing to get an agreement signed.

That attorney brags of a 100% success record. Unfortunately, the claims are not justified by experience. While that attorney may be able to claim to have talked the parties into a settlement and signed most of the documents in that day, not counted in those bragging rights are the many cases that have later been set aside by a judge or by stipulation because they were unfair, or entered into without sufficient understanding of the law or facts. The same person instills fear in potential clients by telling them that letting some other lawyer near their case will end up costing them tens of thousands of dollars, making outrageous claims of the cost of the average divorce.

And the saddest part is that the work is of low quality, and often could have been handled more competently at lower cost. Two mature, reasonable people, can mediate with a competent mediator inexpensively, and do it right: They don't need to pretend they can or should wrap it all up in a few hours. Typically in my practice, we meet 2 or 3 times over several months; by the time we are done, each knows his or her rights and feels comfortable with the agreement. And we strongly suggest they at least consult with an attorney before signing.

As a concept, it sounds nice that two reasonable people who know what they are doing can go to an attorney, polish the rough edges off their agreement, and have all the paperwork completed quickly, efficiently, and cheaply. Unfortunately, that isn't what happens in practice when they try to do it in a day. One of the things I complain about in this blog is people with insufficient education and training performing mediation in the guise of protecting people from the legal profession and their own inability to reach agreements on their own.

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