How to Find the Best New York City Divorce Lawyer
All Lawyers Are Not the Same
It is a mistake to think that all lawyers are the same, that any one is as good as the next. Each lawyer is an individual and brings his and her own skills, competencies, knowledge, and training and brings a different level of insight, understanding, care, and dedication to your matter. Each provides a different kind and level of support. So how can you find the best New York City divorce lawyer or the best divorce lawyer in your area? What are the things you should look for and evaluate so that you recognize “the best of the best” when you meet them? Here are the skills and qualities you should pay attention to:
To demonstrate this principle, I will tell you the story of Tony:
Tony was a 45-year old man with six children, running a cash business. His wife claimed that he walked out on her and the family– abandoned them with no money to pay for their basic utilities–left them in a cold, dank winter home, fending for themselves with no source of support. The judge was angry at him, I mean who wouldn’t be. Believing he hadn’t turned over all of his business records, the Judge referred the matter to a referee for trial and sanctioned Tony by precluding him from introducing any evidence in his own behalf. The referee conducted the trial at which Tony’s lawyer could only cross-examine witnesses, but could not introduce any exculpatory evidence. The referee sided with the wife not only on the financial issues, but also concluded that Tony was in willful contempt of the Court’s child support orders and recommended that Tony should be incarcerated. The matter was returned to the judge who then confirmed the referee’s report and recommendation. The wife then moved to have Tony jailed. Tony’s lawyer (his fourth, at that time) had a heart attack and died.
Tony then retained Chaim to represent him. When Chaim appeared in Court to ask for an adjournment the Court told him, “Counselor, you know your client’s got one foot in Rikers?”
“Yes, I know,” Chaim responded. “I just need a brief adjournment to prepare reply papers and return to deal with the motion.”
Chaim spent the next several weeks preparing Tony’s defense. When Tony asked what Chaim was going to argue and heard his response he complained, “But my four prior lawyers tried making those same arguments and the Court dismissed them.”
“Yes, I know,” Chaim replied. “I will make those same arguments, but I’ll make them differently.”
A month later, Chaim appeared in Court for what was to be a full-two-hour oral argument before the presiding judge. The judge asked all of her questions. Chaim gave her satisfactory answers. The judge raised the same issues she’d raised to the prior lawyers. Chaim dealt with them.
Through the diligent and comprehensive preparation, Chaim was not only able to rebut all of the arguments the wife’s lawyer had used to persuade the Court, but to also show the Court that the husband was being forthright and it was the wife who had been deceiving the Court all along.
The judge left the bench shaking her head, muttering to herself, “This case just gets more and more complicated.
Tony left the Courthouse very satisfied.
In those two hours, Chaim was able to turn the judge’s head around. To allow her to realize that the party she thought was the “good” one was really the “bad” one, and the one she thought was the “bad” one was really the “good” one. What a turn of events.
What surprises many, however, is that even though Chaim made the same arguments four prior lawyers had tried making, he made those arguments differently. He made them in a way that they were accepted by the Court. He made them in a way that the Court could hear and consider them. And, ultimately, he made them in a way that allowed Tony to go home that night instead of to Rikers Island.
Divorce, A Troubling Time
Divorce can be one of the most traumatic, confusing, and out-of-control experiences for most people. It is often a time when your former best friend and confidante behaves like a heartless adversary. Your future well-being and financial security, and that of your children, might for the first time be in jeopardy. You could feel angry, confused, embarrassed, and fearful–all at the same time. You might have hundreds of “what ifs . . .” and “why couldn’t s/he just . . .” running through your mind on an endless loop leaving you no respite.
It can be hard if not impossible at such a time to imagine what your future life can and should be like. You are justified to feel overwhelmed by the complexity of the situation and the looming need to start all over to cultivate a new, loving relationship. Moreover, most people realize that they are no longer in full control of their situation and that the law and legal system can dramatically affect it. To survive and move forward, you must first navigate our complicated and antiquated legal system with its myriad and antiquated laws, rules, processes, and procedures, and all of its complicated and even foreign terms. It’s enough to make even the smartest, most powerful person feel helpless and adrift.
Luckily, however, a good lawyer can guide and empower you, and give you the information you need to navigate these perilous shoals. Most people, however, don’t know how to find such a lawyer and don’t even know what to look for when considering or interviewing lawyers.
Obviously it is important to find a lawyer who knows the relevant law thoroughly. However, there are other qualities that might be just as, or more, important in determining your outcome in a divorce.
Other important qualities for your lawyer to have include: (i) creativity to find a way to use the existing law to your advantage; (ii) advocacy skills to sway the judge to see the justice in your position; (iii) an understanding of people to realizes how you hurt and what you want and need; (iv) wisdom, foresight, and insight to help and guide you so that you make the decisions that not only seem right at this time, but will be right for you in the future as well; (v) the skill and ability to make you feel heard, respected, and empowered; (vi) dedication and zeal to devote the time and energy required to prepare your case thoroughly; (vii) foresight and strategic skills to make the strategic decisions that will foster an early settlement instead of a protracted battle; (viii) negotiation skills to induce the other party and lawyer to settle the case on favorable terms instead of risking a worse decision at trial; (ix) integrity, decency, honor, and generosity who won’t just spray lighter fluid over the hot embers of your relationship and will instead put your critical interests ahead of their own.
It is, therefore, crucial to choose a lawyer who has the skills, experience, care and dedication to shepherd you safely through these perilous shoals. How can you find such an exceptional lawyer to represent you?
Finding the Best Lawyer
Good lawyering is complicated and difficult. Unlike other fields where only limited skills might be necessary, a superior lawyer must have a wide range of diverse – even opposing, conflicting – skills.
A superior lawyer must be a people-person, understanding people’s emotions and motivations and how to sway and convince others, while at the same time being a book-smart, master of technicalities.
She must be a master strategist and tactician who will coldly analyze all of the possible choices and their likely outcomes, but who will also be warm, caring and supportive and make you feel safe.
He must be a brilliant lawyer who will see aspects of the case others have missed, but who can also explain things simply so that the judge and other attorneys will understand.
She must have mastered the myriad, endless technicalities who, at the same time, is a people-person and persuasive raconteur.
He must be a fearless warrior who will champion your case, who is also a master salesman and negotiator, open to resolving your case and even adept at creating openings and convincing others to settle.
You will want a warrior, fierce, ready, and willing to fight the injustice against you, who is at the same time honest and trustworthy, one who will evoke trust and confidence not only in you, but in opposing counsel and the judge before whom you will appear.
You want a creative lawyer who sees angles and loopholes others don’t, but who is also stable and cautious, who recognizes when an argument is too much of a stretch and too far from the mainstream to realistically win.
You want a lawyer who is rock solid, steady, and reliable who is also flexible and nimble, able to change as the sands of litigation instantly shift the battle-lines.
How can you find just such a superior lawyer, the best lawyer in your region with all these opposing traits and characteristics? How can you recognize such a best lawyer if you were to meet them?
Unfortunately, if you are not schooled in the law, it will be hard to evaluate the legal competencies of a lawyer. Even an exceptional lawyer in one practice area can find it difficult to evaluate a lawyer in another practice lawyer and be able to tell whether a bombastic one has the substance and competence to back up their rhetoric.
To make matters even more difficult, many lawyers are familiar and experienced with the day-to-day aspects of lawyering but are not qualified to take a case to trial. That is because trying cases requires several other skills. (Indeed in some areas of the law, practitioners farm out trials to special trial counsel. Though that typically doesn’t happen in family law, there are too many lawyers who don’t have sufficient trial competence. Indeed the late-Chief Justice Warren Berger is reputed to have concluded that only 25% of the lawyers who appeared in Courts were competent to do so!)
Trying cases requires many additional competencies. It requires the mastery of:
1. The Rules of Evidence that control what evidence is admissible and can be introduced at trial and what evidence can be objected to and properly excluded from trial;
2. The substantive law controlling the issues involved in your matter;
3. The procedural law controlling how litigation and trials proceed;
4. The skills of how to effectively examine and cross-examine witnesses, and make opening and closing arguments;
Exceptional results in litigation, therefore, require both the skill and knowledge in the controlling law (substantive and procedural), the psychological skills (interpersonal dynamics and motivations), advocacy and negotiation skills (the arts of persuasion), creativity, and flexibility (nimbleness and the ability to shift as the “sands of litigation” change the contours of the battlefield), and the dedication, willingness, and ability to work hard, along with perseverance to get difficult jobs done.
Some of these traits you might see and recognize. Others you can only sense. A lot can depend on your gut and instinct. To recognize a superior divorce lawyer, consider:
★ How does the lawyer make you feel?
- Do you feel safe and protected with the lawyer?
- Do you feel cared for by the lawyer?
- Does the lawyer give you their undivided attention?
- Are you, your well-being, and your success a priority for this lawyer?
★ Will I enjoy working with this lawyer?
★ Does the lawyer explain the law clearly and cleanly?
★ Do you have the sense that the lawyer is a master of the law and of the field in which s/he operates?
★ Will this lawyer put in hard work, if that becomes necessary, for you to win or will they shy away from it and do less than everything that is necessary?
★ Is the lawyer giving you simplistic answers or giving you the best, truthful, answers for your situation?
★ What do others (clients and other lawyers) say about this lawyer, their ability, ethics, work ethic, and commitment to clients?
★ How did the lawyer do in law school? Do the lawyer’s grades demonstrate a commitment and willingness to do hard work when it’s necessary?
At CHAIM STEINBERGER, P.C., we are committed to giving every client as much (or as little) service as they require. While we are not the least expensive lawyers in town, we strive to be the best. We dedicate a lot of time and effort to stay on top of all of the above disciplines (and many others). As a mediator for more than twenty-five years, Chaim has honed his negotiation and problem-resolution skills to such a fine art that it’s been dubbed “The Chaim’lich maneuver.” Clients report feeling safe and protected when they are represented by Chaim and lawyers say that he is “one of the best” and “the best of the best.” Chaim has won results when others have failed and settled cases others thought were impossible to settle.
As one client reports, “With Chaim on your team, you can sleep well at night knowing you can’t be beat!”
Watch an exposition of Chaim’s c.v. here:
Read or download the Qualities of a Superior Lawyer: https://www.manhattan-law.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/17-Superior-Lawyer.pdf
To learn more about this or another topic relating to divorce and family law, check out our free New York Divorce Guides or call us today at (212) 964-6100!
Contact A Superior Manhattan Divorce and Family-law Attorney Today
Of course, you will need a superior lawyer to protect and defend you and your rights. Call our offices for a free telephone consultation and to learn how we can help you. A Manhattan Family Law Attorney at Chaim Steinberger, P.C. can give you a solid foundation for meeting your goals during divorce, legal separation, annulment, and more.