Mar 8, 2022
Do You Need a Shark for an Attorney?
“I need a shark lawyer for my custody case ASAP!” is something I hear from time to time. I often wonder why some people say this. Furthermore, does it really matter?
Christine Lombardo-Zaun, Esq., an attorney-mediator at Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation, discusses if individuals really should seek a shark attorney as well as highlights the code of civility to which lawyers must adhere.
When someone is going through a divorce or a custody action, almost always, emotions are running high. No one is at their best when going through these difficult situations. People do and say things that they do not mean or will later regret. Social media has not helped these folks either. Parties are typically scared of losing their children, or even their real or personal property. Few people can remain composed and focused when coming from a place of fear (whether they admit it or not).
So, naturally, it would make sense that this person would want the best lawyer they can afford. I still wonder, though, what does it mean to be a shark lawyer? After asking some people going through divorce and custody actions, here is what they said when asked what being a shark lawyer means to them. A shark lawyer is one who will win every case. A shark lawyer is one who will take everything from the other side and give them “what is coming to them”. A shark lawyer “does not take any shi@#” from anyone. A shark lawyer knows the judges and has a special “in” with them. A shark lawyer is simply better. A shark lawyer dresses better, acts better, looks better. They charge more so they are better.
Our perception is our reality and that will not change. However, I have to respectfully disagree with some of the generalizations made about shark lawyers. First, I have litigated divorces and custody actions and have seen my fair share of attorneys. Fortunately, for me, and my clients, my experiences with opposing counsel have been professional and objective. Sure, there are some heated moments, but I do not believe that how you dress directly corresponds to an attorney’s courtroom behavior and performance. As a matter of fact, I have seen more effective attorneys that have been more modest and even more quiet. To top it off, those attorneys are not the highest charging attorneys either!
A rule that most people might not be aware of is the code of civility to which lawyers must adhere. It is outlined in 204 Pa. Code § 99.3 with enumerated factors detailing how lawyers should behave. Nowhere in this code does it refer to or does it permit attorneys to act like “sharks”. More importantly, most judges will not tolerate that kind of behavior. I guess the television has done a nice job of misrepresenting true courtroom behaviors.
So, if you are going through a divorce, or a custody action, you do not have to request a shark attorney. Sometimes just asking for a shark attorney could backfire on you as it sends a message that your expectations might be something the attorney cannot deliver. It could mean that you might be searching for an attorney for a longer period than most others. However, if you hear from an attorney or other people that the attorney is a shark, it might just mean that they will aggressively advocate for your rights. Most attorneys are going to give you rigorous advocacy without having to tell you that they will do it aggressively or assertively.
What you should look for is a competent attorney, one who is knowledgeable and skilled in family law. Have a consultation with them. Get to know them. Ask questions. If you go to trial, you will be spending a lot of time with your attorney, so it only makes sense to make sure there is a connection between you and your attorney. Most attorneys can get you the results you want without having to be a shark. In fact, a civil, decent, well-respected attorney could probably get you more than you expect.
Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation