At least once a week a client will ask me a question that I answer with “If I could do X, I’d have people lined up down the hall.” There are things that neither I, nor any attorney, can either accomplish or guarantee. Here are some of those instances:
If I could make someone be a better person, I’d have them lined up down the hall– When you come to me with a situation that involves another person, no matter how eloquent you are or how knowledgeable or experienced I am, I cannot change the person. The best I can do is help set up rules for people to follow, whether in an agreement or by Court Order.
If I could make someone follow every agreement or court order, I’d have them lined up down the hall– You now have a great decision or agreement, can I guarantee it will be followed? Unfortunately, the best I can do is provide for ramifications. For example, if money is not paid by a certain day, there is a penalty.
If I knew what a court would decide, I’d have them lined up down the hall– In family and matrimonial cases there are laws and precedent that need to be followed, but there is interpretation and discretion from judge to judge. When I am asked “how will the judge rule?” my best answer is an educated guess.
If I knew how long a case would take, I’d have them lined up down the hall- There are many reasons that a case may proceed more or less quickly, and I generally do not know that in advance. While courts in New York have “standards and goals”, which requires cases to proceed to trial within six (6) months of the first appearance, there are many reasons a case could be delayed- cooperation (or lack thereof); complexity; court calendar; and pandemic! With the courts having closed or slowed down for several months, most cases came to a halt. If we are required to shut down again, it will put the courts even further back.
If I knew how much it would cost, I’d have them lined up down the hall– This goes hand in hand with “how long will it take”? The longer it takes, generally the more expensive a case is. While you may be fully cooperative, if the other person makes obtaining information difficult or does not negotiate in good faith and your lawyer needs to put in more time to make things happen, it will cost more. It is also difficult to know the costs until your lawyer knows enough about a particular case to know its complexities.
It is important to have realistic goals about results, timelines, and expense. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking your attorney what steps you and/or she can take to save money and move matters along. Just know that even the best of us don’t have all the answers!