Since this is the final article in this series, I am finally going to share the answer I gave the attorney colleague of mine who asked me the following question: "Any thoughts on how to make money as a family lawyer when you're not prepared to screw the other side?"
My response was as follows:
"You are most welcome and thank you for your email.
I don't believe you understand the severity of the situation. A great many family law attorneys are clueless at best and deliberately destructive at worst. Some attorneys are a combination of the two.
They honestly don't want to learn the type of information I am trying to hand feed them. In order to disregard me, they badmouth me to one another and refer to me as "polarizing," "a self-promoter," and even as "mentally ill." Oh yes - let me share with you portions of an email someone sent to a colleague on the listserv about me after I wrote the comment to which you responded:
'As to Baer's contributions, however, I am beginning to think the Family Law Bar would benefit more if, instead of encouraging him to write more about his evil parents, we chipped in for him to start undergoing long-term treatment with one of our talented LA psychoanalysts/psychiatrists. There is great value to mental health treatment by appropriate providers. Baer sounds as if he has PTSD, in addition to having no shame. I don't think presenting ourselves as victims throughout our lives is part of any solution. I don't think it's healthy for us. I don't think it's healthy for others either when we do that.' This attorney also referred to what I am doing as 'whining.'
I'm afraid that there is nothing you or I can do to help families and try and minimize the collateral damage, when a traditional family law attorney also gets involved in the case. I used to be naive enough to believe otherwise, but learned my lesson the hard way after YEARS of trying.
The only answer that I have found is to get the case BEFORE any of these attorneys gets involved and do everything possible to make sure that neither party brings them on-board. This is VERY difficult and requires reaching the couple BEFORE either of them has retained counsel."
As luck would have it, this same attorney attended a program I gave on June 23, 2015 on "How to Resolve Conflict." During the Question and Answer portion of the program, he asked me that same question.
I responded by telling him that I currently address the issue by attempting to have a joint consultation with both parties, wherein we only discuss the various processes available for handling family law matters in California and the strengths and weaknesses of each. We do not discuss any particulars of their situation at that consultation. I tell them that such a consultation is important because the biggest mistake soon-to-be ex-couples make is interviewing attorneys before understanding the various processes available. In so doing, they tend to consult with and retain traditional family law attorneys, who will give them their parents' divorce, so to speak.
If you have read this entire series, you will understand exactly what I meant by that statement. In any event, it only takes one person to sink the family ship and the lowest common denominator determines the direction the case will take. As I have been saying for a very long time, outcomes are typically determined by the way in which the "game" is designed. I am trying to assist people in designing the "game" so as to maximize the potential for a constructive divorce.
As for the reasons behind my sharing personal information are concerned, I want to reiterate what I said in Part IV of this series, which is that I share such information in an effort to enlighten my colleagues and others and for no other reason. As an aside, it also happens to explain my path to conflict resolution and why I am so passionate about it. As an aside, I would hardly say that the Family Law Bar has encouraged me to write anything at all, let alone the types of articles I tend to write.
Meanwhile, after reading my articles and comments, the take-away that some of my family law colleagues have had is that I don't like practicing family law and wondering why I don't just leave the field. In other words, they apparently believe that you cannot practice family law unless you want to litigate in the manner in which I have called into question in so many of my articles and comments.
Please note that social and emotional skills such as empathy are essential to conflict resolution. Therefore, those best suited to work in conflict resolution should have high EQs (Emotional Intelligence). It has long been known that while lawyers tend to be analytical because the field requires it, they generally score poorly in terms of their EQ level. This isn't a problem when their job is merely to assist in resolving disputes. However, problems ensue in situations in which interpersonal relationships are involved, including but not limited to disputes between family members, employer/employee, neighbors, and business partners. It doesn't help that people frequently confuse "conflict resolution or management" with "dispute resolution." People with low EQ levels can generally do one, but not the other.
I may not be playing by the traditional rules, but I was recently recognized by The Corporate America Legal Elite of 2015 as "Most Compassionate Family Mediator--California," among other things. It seems to me that the way I've designed my "game" is working perfectly fine.