The number one has been on my mind a lot lately, because I learned a very valuable lesson this week. It is a lesson that you may think is common sense. I would agree but I also will say that the situation in which I learned this lesson was definitely a situation rife with a lack of common sense.
One little word can make the world of difference. The inclusion or exclusion of one little word can have enormous, life-changing consequences in any type of case. But it seems to me that this is especially true in family law cases. Words like primary, or shall, or exclusive, or may, or joint, or sole.
It can mean people not doing things they clearly agreed to do, or doing things they clearly agreed not to do. It can mean the difference between making ends meet or getting your home foreclosed on or your car repossessed. It can mean a drastic change in legal custody or physical care of children that was not intended. It can mean another attorney seizing on that inclusion or omission and running with it no matter the clear spirit of an agreement or decree, and no matter how ethical that behavior may or may not be.
I’ve always known that the legal world is one of technicalities, and accuracy is paramount when you are constantly in that kind of domain. I would say that I look for those same inclusions or omissions to protect my client’s interests just like any other lawyer would. But I know the difference between protecting my client’s interests and taking advantage of a situation when it is clear to everyone involved that my argument is absurd to begin with. I would never give the kind of advice that was given in the case I’ve dealt with this week, because I know that it is wrong.
I know where to draw the line. I guess that is one difference between this other attorney and me.
And I like that one difference.