Would You Hire Harvey Specter to Handle Your Divorce?
Confession time – my wife made me watch last year’s royal wedding (Meghan Markle & Prince Harry), and I was curious enough about the Duchess of Sussex to join my wife in binge-watching Suits from the very beginning on Amazon Prime.
For those unfamiliar with the show, it’s a legal comedy/drama set at a corporate law firm in New York City. Its star “closer” is Harvey Specter, a determined lawyer who will do almost anything to win, including at times tactics which are ethically dubious. Harvey is ruthless and cold, and is a sharp dresser (presumably the origin of the title of the series).
In a season 5 episode, No Puedo Hacerlo, Harvey is asked to represent Esther Edelstein, the sister of fellow partner Louis Litt, in her divorce. Esther wanted Harvey because he was the “best lawyer in the city”. Harvey’s first instinct was to decline the case, telling Louis “I’m not a divorce attorney.”
Louis baited him, responding: “When has a sh—y detail like that ever stopped you before?” When indeed? After all, Harvey is a corporate attorney who has never litigated a divorce case – what could go wrong? Harvey should have trusted his instinct. In the end, he took the case. And got an okay settlement, then slept with his client as soon as the case was over.
Competence to Handle Family Law
But I digress. Was it a good idea for Harvey to take a divorce case? While I’m not a New York attorney, let’s look at Rule 1.1: Competence, of the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which reads:
“A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.”
The problem is that Harvey, a $1000/hr lawyer, has never practiced family law, doesn’t know divorce law, domestic relations judges, nor how to counsel his client about realistic expectations. Is he smart enough to muddle through it? Sure. But does a client really want to pay top dollar for someone to “wing it” in their divorce?
Divorce Attorneys Are Specialists
Most family law attorneys have encountered on the other side a corporate attorney who is representing a long-time business client in a dissolution of marriage matter as a “courtesy” to the client. And more frequently, we come across attorneys who “dabble” in family law, and practice it part-time, as just one of their practice areas, along with bankruptcy, criminal defense, and maybe even personal injury. In both situations, the lawyers tend to do okay jobs, but not knowing the law hurts their clients.
Family law professionals take their jobs seriously – we don’t just figure we can do a divorce case because we saw one on TV, but we attend hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) each year. We read up on new cases (or even write about them, as pretty much most random posts in this blog show). We know and talk to other family law attorneys. We’ve litigated more divorces than you can count in front of the judge who will preside over the case. In short, it doesn’t matter how much of a shark Harvey Specter is in his corporate law world, in the family law world, he’s a fish out of water. Or a guppy waiting for the bigger fish to eat him.
Hiring an attorney who does not know family law is a mistake – for both the lawyer, who risks violating Rule 1.1, as well as for the client, who pays for inferior service from someone who may well be a superior attorney in another field of law. There are lots of advantages to hiring a family law specialist, and hiring a smart lawyer who does not know family law is invariably a mistake, as that lawyer will not be able to identify issues important to you, or how best to litigate your case.
Just being a lawyer is not good enough – like most professionals, we specialize. While having Harvey Specter negotiate a divorce case makes for good drama on TV, it is lousy lawyering. Oh, and so is sleeping with a client while the ink is still wet on the decree!
Award-Winning Divorce Law Firm in Colorado Springs
U.S. News & World Report calls Graham.Law one of the Best Law Firms in America, and our managing partner is a Colorado Super Lawyer. Our family law attorneys have years of experience helping clients navigate the Colorado legal system. We know Colorado divorce & family law inside and out, from complex multi-million dollar property or child custody cases to basic child support modifications.
For more information about our top-rated El Paso County family law firm, contact us by filling out our contact form, calling us at (719) 630-1123 to set up a free consult, or click on:
- Why Graham.Law for your Colorado Family Law Case. Learn about the benefits of hiring divorce specialists to help you.
- Our Colorado Springs Family Law Team. The great attorneys & paralegals at Graham.Law.
- Colorado Family Law Guide. The internet’s most comprehensive resource for attorneys and clients alike.
- Military Divorce Guide. Addresses specialized family law issues that arise when one spouse is in the military.
Colorado Family Law. Period.