Bulldog... I hear this word at least once a week. If you're going through a divorce or facing a custody dispute, I'll bet you've heard from at least one of your been-there-done-that friends that you need to hire a "bulldog." But what exactly makes an attorney a bulldog? And, the question you should really ask yourself, "will a 'bulldog' get me what I want out of this litigation?"
For whatever reason, many clients and potential clients I see get really hung up on this idea of attorneys being "bulldogs" in court. They often throw in other adjectives, like "rude" or "aggressive" or "mean." Sometimes they'll come right out and say, "He's an ass in court." We frown upon these attributes in almost every other aspect of society, so I'm always puzzled by clients' fascination with and admiration of the "bulldog" stereotype.
Ultimately, whether or not you need a "bulldog" depends on your goals in the litigation. If you want to roll in the dirt for a year and drag your ex in and out of court as many times as possible, maybe you need a bulldog. If you want to use the legal system to exact sweet slow revenge on the mother of your child because you don't like her new boyfriend, maybe you need a bulldog. If it will bring you joy to sit through a three-day trial so you can call twenty witnesses to all tell the same story about what a bad guy your husband is, maybe you need a bulldog.
It all makes for quite the (costly) spectacle, but please do not confuse animus for advocacy. Fighting for you-- really fighting for you-- comes down to one thing: building your case. I don't care what you've been told... there are two things that no amount of grandstanding in court can ever change: (1) the facts, and (2) the law.
Cases are not won and lost in those few hours the attorneys spend examining witnesses and arguing before the court. Cases are won and lost in the months leading up to trial-- poring through thousands of pages of documents, tirelessly searching for any shred of evidence that helps the client's case, interviewing and preparing witnesses for trial, extensively researching the law to make legal arguments as airtight as possible-- good old fashioned homework. That's what wins cases.
In domestic cases, you don't hire an attorney to fight with your ex... you can do that yourself for free. You hire an attorney to get you something. Litigation is about moving you from point A to point B as efficiently as possible while accomplishing specific objectives. The longer you endeavor to inflict misery on someone else, the longer you'll live in misery with them.
So, what does all this mean? Is this a critique of attorneys who have earned the "bulldog" reputation? Absolutely not. This blog entry isn't about attorneys. It's about expectations. It's about thinking strategically instead of emotionally. Most of all, it's about defining true advocacy. Attorneys aren't weapons to be wielded against your adversary. Attorneys are vehicles to get you where you want to go, and the ride can be as bumpy or smooth as you want to make it.