iCelebrating 25 years of practicing law in SoCal
Wow. I can't believe I'm actually a 'senior' attorney, having been sworn in as a lawyer on December 9, 1994 in downtown San Diego. Like many other baby boomers--in my head and heart, I'm still in my early twenties. These 25 years have passed by remarkably fast.
I have always been the square peg lawyer with my Midwestern values of integrity and hard work, in a round hole legal system which is often anything but fair or just. Yet, it's not as simple as people think. The bad guys aren't just corrupt judges or greedy attorneys. It's a system of ineffective laws, protracted delays and continuances, undersupported judges, and burned out lawyers. Divorcing people have no idea who they can trust for good counsel nor do they understand how their emotions and habits impact the bottom line of divorce orders.
While this scenario might sound grim, it's changing rapidly. As a country, our legal system has been evolving toward a much more family-friendly system with mediation, Collaborative Law, and other systems to help divorcing families. Over these 25 years, I have been blessed with incredible mentors and have worked with extremely talented and professional lawyers. And I've been amazed and inspired by the wisdom and sensitivity of judges who made orders in high conflict cases.
My interest in the connection between psychology and law
In law school, my law review article, Scientific Reliability of Psychiatric Expert Witness Testimony Involving the Use of Classifications from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published. I was fascinated by the intersection between psychology (behavior) and law (order). I've continued my 'research' as a practicing divorce lawyer by observing the behaviors of clients, their spouses, judges, opposing counsel and others. Questions that need answering are as simple as, What makes a divorce successful? How do divorcing peoples' emotions impact their decision making? Why are so many lawyers addicted to drugs and alcohol? How can divorcing people protect themselves from hiring the wrong lawyer?
From 1994 through 2015, my practice was primarily litigation. In 2015 I 'retired' from litigation, except for my Bitcoin Belle case (representing a woman whose husband is trying to defraud her of her share of over $1.5M in cryptocurrency profits). (See more about this case in future blogs.) Currently, I am working mostly as a mediator and consulting attorney for high net worth cases--marital estates with more than $3M. I am very excited about the practices that I have been developing with other senior level divorce professionals, including psychologists, Certified Divorce Financials Analysts (CDFAs) and forensic professionals. These cases are exciting to work on because we have the resources to customize divorce in a way that protects the emotional and financial well being of the entire family, not just the divorcing couple.
Over the years I have had the privilege of working with many different types of mental health professionals. Therapists, counselors, psychologists and evaluators help lawyers in judges in all phases of divorce--serving both as helpful resources or court ordered professionals. A significant percentage of my clients have been highly functioning drug addicts and alcoholics who are in recovery for their illnesses. These are professional individuals such as physicians, lawyers, executive and scientists. It is critical that these people are supported in their recovery, as well as acknowledging the demands and difficulties their actions have created for their families. Using the practices that I've seen work in these scenarios with families who are challenged with addiction, I've put together a mediation program--that similar to Collaborative Law, allows couples to mediate with integrity. LINK?
The practice of law has been a very gratifying experience for me, despite its occasional bouts of frustration. In 2007, I developed a system of approaching divorce through a divorcing person's strengths--as opposed to the usual focus which is on weakness and fear. You in Control of Your Divorce (to be released in Spring 2020) shows divorcing people how to build their SELF Core strengths--their Social, Emotional, Legal and Financial abilities to obtain successful results. It's basically a collection of the successful behaviors in divorce. This book is a labor of love and has taken quite a bit more time to write and develop than anticipated. The biggest sacrifice is that I've had to cut back on my practice.