In this first episode of Legal Lingo, MN Divorce Lawyer Rob Gadtke, and his friend, Lester Leslie, discuss how some lawyers mix up their roles, claiming to only care about what’s best for the children instead of their client’s stated wishes.
[Rob] Do you know what time it is? I have to call Lester!
[Rob] Welcome to another episode of Legal Lingo with Rob and Lester. I'm so glad you're here for the ride.
So, if you don't know the deal, here it is:
I'm forced by the Bar Association to mentor Lester because every time he touches a divorce case, he mucks it up. So, I must waste five minutes every week talking with him to make sure it isn't completely gone off the rails. And the only way I can stomach it these days is by videoconference.
So, let's get him on the line. You should know last night he sent me an email claiming to have found a new line, that he's going to use on people in custody and parenting time cases in order to get them to trust him.
So, we'll see how that goes.
[Lester] Hello, darling!
[Rob] Lester! We're recording.
[Lester] Bloody hell. You're supposed to remind me. I haven't done my hair.
[Rob] Just tell them already so that we can do the clip.
[Lester] So, I'm at this mediation. Sitting at a cheap conference room table. When my client says that she'd like to have the kids live with her most of the time. And I'm like, "Fine with me. Are we ordering lunch soon?"
Then the mediator, this old battle-ax, who looks like she might have got the last perm before they were outlawed, leans forward, puts her giant elbows on the table, and says, "Honestly, I don't care about you or your spouse. All I care about is the kids."
And I think to myself: Hell. Maybe that's a line I could use. I don't much care about anyone.
[Rob] You can't say that. You can't say that.
[Lester] Thanks for the advice, Rob. But these are serious folks. Not YouTube lawyers.
[Rob] Are you done?
[Lester] I think so. I just want to remind everyone that you can find me at LesterTheLawyer.com. We're having our Labor Day sale right now. Divorce papers half-price, if you bring a friend.
[Rob] Goodbye, Lester. Goodbye. Bye-bye, Lester. Bye...
[Rob] It seems like every week he gets crazier. It's like he goes out into the world and mingles with more divorced people, and comes back with these ridiculous ideas.
And you really are hearing more people talk like this these days.
But here's the deal.
Lawyers owe duties to their clients. And in a divorce, the client is the parent. Not the child.
So, the lawyer should be advocating for the parents stated wishes, not what the lawyer believes is best for the client’s children based on the lawyer's personal preferences.
Which is why Lester should never be saying it.
What gets confusing, though, is that there are so many professionals in divorce cases and they all have different duties.
Take the judges for example. Judges are legally required, by law, to do what they think is best for the children, regardless of the parents’ preferences.
Guardian ad Litems have similar duties.
Custody evaluators slightly different ones.
And some mediators or arbitrators, depending upon the context, might have that sort of duty. Although far fewer than will lead you to believe it.
So, if that's true, why are so many lawyers going beyond their roles?
I think it's because it sounds good. And it masks what's a really hard conversation. A conversation they should be having, which goes something like this:
"Client, thanks for being here. And for giving me all of your hard-earned money. And I really will support you. But that idea you have about custody and parenting time... Sheer lunacy. Stupidest idea I've heard anybody say in the last 30 years. No judge in hell is ever gonna order that for these kids. So give it up.”
If a lawyer said that to you, in my opinion, they'd be one of the good ones, and you should hold on to him.
Yeah. It'd piss you off.
But you know what it would tell you?
That they're being honest with you. And let me assure you that in today's society, almost the best you can hope for -- in fact all you really need --- is for someone to tell you the truth.
It would be better if they didn't stumble through a court hearing and they were a good public speaker and they didn't write a letter filled with spelling errors.
But guess what?
If you knew they sucked at all those things, you could get through.
And you know why?
Because when they eventually looked you in the eye and said, "This is the best settlement you're ever gonna get." Or, "Oh, my gosh. We need to go to trial. I mean, it's a risk, but this is our best shot." You would know that you could trust them.
So, that's it.
That's the Legal Lingo for this week.
Now you know why Lester should never be saying those things.
If you liked it, please comment below. Subscribe. Check out one of my other courses in the online universe.
Until next time: Stay strong. Be brave. And for goodness sake. Stay away from Lester.