In the end, what is a lawyer and what is the job of an attorney? It is to lobby his or her client's position or positions so that a judge will agree and sign a court order. And like lobbying, the best salesmen know that you should "always be closing" or always pushing the client's agenda at the right time.....How do you determine who the best divorce lawyer is? How do you determine Who is the best football coach? The coach that knows every play, every formation, every players speed, every players stats? or the coach that knows enough or knows it all but also knows how to use the data he or she has learned. This same idea applies to the best divorce and personal injury lawyers in New Jersey or elsewhere. It is rarely the case that the lawyer that knows every procedural rule to be the best lawyer, especially the best litigator. Knowing those rules may be the most important factors for writing appellate briefs and the like but not to be a litigator arguing day in and day out trying to convince a jury or a Judge.
One key to being a great divorce lawyer in New Jersey or elsewhere is the ability to counsel clients as to what to expect, what to look out for, to avoid the traps, the prepare your case and control the case narrative. What do you mean by a case narrative? The case narrative is what you want the Judge to remember when the Judge thinks of your case. Who controls that? It is up for grabs. It is up for grabs and it is the lawyer who is the better lobbyist to sell your client's position over the other attorney who only thinks the courtroom and pleadings is where you win your case. You want the Judge to remember "oh this is the case where mom does not let dad see the kids for any reason." Not, dad does not show up on time so he should not see the kids.
While it is up for grabs, that does not mean he who speaks first controls the narrative, it is he who knows when to add his educated opinion at the right time. Frankly, he or she who speaks first often shows his or her cards first which can be a major mistake. Where does this case narrative take place? You won't believe where it takes place, it can be in open court, can be over the phone, can be through the clerk, can be in chambers, you name it, it is a chance to lobby for your client's case.
When I first started I handled a case that the previous lawyer was fired days before trial. I had the guts but not the full knowledge of trial procedure and I let the client know this, she didn't care. As I went into court the first day on this case to set trial dates, my adversary, a major Hudson County politician and attorney of 35 years asked the Judge, "Judge, Can we go into chambers?" So as I follow the law clerk and my adversary into the Judge's relatively huge office (chambers) with pictures of her family, politicians, Yankee players, awards, etc all around, we sit down casually in front of the judge who is typing away about another case and is interrupted by her law clerk for another matter. When the Judge has a second to brief, she states, "So what are we doing here?" My experienced adversary looked at me and said, " Yes, what are we doing here, sir?" I didn't say anything to see where he or they were headed and he then went on to say, " This is an easy one Judge, there is one major asset blew up the day of the first trial, child support is child support and that's it, case over." The first words that came out of my mouth, even though I was thinking about a property being blown up for insurance money or just so burnt down that day of the house sale, etc and who I was dealing with, a major New Jersey Contractor who was divorcing his wife of 16 years, was "ALIMONY." My adversary looked and essentially said give me a break and then the Judge looked up and said, "Mr. Artusa! you have a point! we do have a case here! See you in the courtroom." When I went into the courtroom and the Judge greeted my client and I, my client said, " What did you say to the Judge? She never looked at me before or was ever nice." It seemed that my lost in space attitude but willing to fight for my client started to change the narrative of the case.
Alimony was the first legal relief I thought of when I met with the client on that Friday night before trial set for Monday. I could not understand why her lawyer didn't seek it or why it wasn't on the table. I knew I had to go into court on Monday, tap dance to the judge that I was just hired and convince her to let me into the case and to give me enough time to prepare. The good news was that my client was the defendant but still I needed to prepare my exhibits, witnesses, questions and the like. The other legal issues were a but complex because of various investment properties secured by other properties that were then burnt down or that just went on fire the day of trial. Nevertheless, as an Italian I did not have to think too deep as to what may have led to properties burning down nor did I have time to waste.
The trial came and went and even though I didn't know every fact, I was still learning civil procedure, I had the ability to maneuver and think quickly for my client with enthusiasm. Did my client obtain all she wanted when she started the case? No. Did she get more than she realistically thought she would? Yes she did. She thanked me and thanked me for years with new clients. The point is that your attorney is your personal lobbyist and you need to find the best lobbyist for your case, someone that believes in your case. Law is not a play, law is real and you can't fake giving it your all for your client. You have to leave it all on the field for your client, that's what the best lawyers, like soldiers, like athletes do.
When the time comes that you seek the best divorce lawyer or best injury attorney, pick the attorney you think will go all the way for your cause and if not, let him or her explain why they would approach the case differently so you can then decide. Until then, good luck and happy holidays.