Potential divorce and family law clients want to know my “win/loss record.” Frankly, until just now, I’ve never thought to keep track of this information. Why? Not because I am lazy (far from it) but because until just recently I believed that a “win” was hard to define in family law. It is true that a “win” is hard to define and family law.
For example, if my client wants $1000 a month in alimony and is only awarded $750, is that a win or a loss? If my client wanted joint custody on an equal time-sharing basis, his/her spouse wanted sole custody, and my client ended up with the kids two thirds of the year instead of half, is that a win or a loss? So it was situations like this that led me to conclude it was very difficult, if not impossible, to keep win/loss statistics. But I was wrong.
First, I know that clients and potential clients crave win/loss information information, and for good reason. An attorney’s success rate is vital to know when making a choice of which attorney will represent you in your divorce or child custody case.
So today I sat down and asked myself a simple question: rather than tell people “I really can’t quantify that for you (which sounds like a dodge no matter how you explain yourself),” how could I devise a way to quantify “wins” in a way that potential clients understand and appreciate? Here is what I came up with.
For each hearing and trial, the client and I sit down and make a list of issues to be argued and fought over. We track now those issues were resolved (by court order or settlement, for example). Then we further refine the question by applying a “win” scale of 1 to 10 to the results reached for each issue as well.
For example: imagine that a temporary orders (pendente lite) hearing is coming up. The issues are: A) physical custody of the children; B) legal custody of the children; C) the amount of child support to be determined; D) whether to award temporary spousal support/alimony; E) to stay in the marital residence; and F) who will be responsible for certain household debts.
Assume that we want our hypothetical client to be awarded the primary physical custody of the children (at least 254 overnights per year); joint legal custody of the children; want child support to be awarded to our client in the amount of $1,000 per month; temporary spousal support/alimony of $1.200 per month, have the marital residence awarded to our client, and have our client pay the home mortgage and utilities, but have the other spouse pay everything else. Assume we have a reasonable argument for these positions, but not a slam dunk.
We go to court and here is the outcome:
A) physical custody – court awarded 50-50;
C) child support – $750 per month;
D) temporary spousal support/alimony – $1,200;
E) marital residence – our client gets to stay;
F) household debts – our client ordered to the mortgage and utilities, and car payment and insurance for the car our client drives.
And so the client and I subjectively (but with an eye to being fair and reasonable) rank this outcome (based upon what the client and I knew the strengths and weaknesses of our case to be) for each issue on a scale from 1 to 10 as follows:
A) physical custody – we didn’t get what was wanted, but the spouse didn’t get what he/she wanted, either, so let’s say that the client and I agree this gets a 6;
B) legal custody of the children – we did get what was wanted, so this rates a 10;
C) child support – 7;
D) temporary spousal support/alimony – 10;
E) marital residence – 10;
F) household debts – 8.
Out of a possible 60 perfect score (10 x 6 issues), we got a 51, or 85%. I bet future/potential clients would love to know about stats like these. What do you think?
If it makes one uncomfortable for the attorney to have a hand in rating his own performance, fine by me. Let the client and client alone rate performance. Note, however, that the problem there is that divorce clients as a group (I’m simply being honest here, folks) are notoriously hard to please, even when you’ve by all accounts hit a home run. But I digress.
My point is that where there’s a will to keep useful, yea even reliable, statistics (which potential clients crave), there is a way. I’m thinking I will start doing this. Would you find this helpful, if you were looking for a divorce and family law attorney?
If you would like to hear more about why I believe we are successful and can help you also be successful in your divorce proceedings, call us at 801-466-9277.