Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC
I am often asked: “Why are you a divorce lawyer?” The answer – I get great satisfaction from seeing how well my clients are doing at the end of their case versus when we first met. Facilitating that transition and growth, while challenging, is the most gratifying part of my job. The follow-up question is often: “What prepared you most to be a Family Law attorney?” Ironically, the answer lies not in court but rather on a court – a tennis court!
Besides being a highly competitive tennis player throughout my life, I worked in various capacities as a tennis pro and in clay court maintenance. Little did I know that over thirty-five years ago, as a teenager and through college, spending my spring and summer days waking up at 5:00 a.m., rolling and sweeping har-tru tennis courts, carrying 50-pound bags of calcium chloride and clay, providing instruction to adults and children, and training for upcoming tournaments, that I would actually be learning how to become a Family Law attorney.
There are many similarities between a Family Law attorney and a competitive tennis player. First, preparation is key. Just as I endlessly practiced to hone and analyze every last minute detail of my strokes, it is necessary as a Family Law attorney to understand the details regarding my client’s wishes and desires, his/her unique situation, his/her spouse’s personality, and attitude, the strengths and weaknesses in positions, and the ramifications of the foregoing in light of the law. Second, being able to change strategies if your initial plan is faltering is the key to achieving a most favorable outcome. While preparing and counseling my client, I know that the other side is strategizing and preparing to take advantage of and expose weaknesses in my case. Accordingly, I prepare as though I represent the other side. Since I represent all different types of people, I have a tremendous advantage – as I often represent the “other side,” which provides me with a unique perspective, allowing me to effectively counsel my client best on how to proceed. Put simply, no one will outwork or outlast me.
Understanding conditions that impact a tennis match, such as weather, wind, and outside distractions, and managing to stay focused when there are other interruptions is crucial. This is why my tennis coach always made us practice in the most difficult of conditions, including on a court that was located off a busy street that shared a fence with a pool filled with children and an outdoor bar and grill. I had to stay focused and block out distractions, especially during swim meets and happy hour.
Similarly, the conditions in a courtroom can change at a moment’s notice. Notably, you often are not assigned a judge until the day of your trial. Further, there are always disruptions. People constantly coming in and out of the courtroom. Ten minutes recesses become forty minutes. Witnesses are taken out of order. Exhibits are not admitted into evidence. To be effective, you must adjust and stay disciplined, all while keeping the judge focused.
Having been involved in some of the most challenging and notable cases in Connecticut, I have learned how important it is to consult with other professionals to assist in the process. I have worked successfully with many therapists, accountants, business valuators, and attorneys in other practice areas (tax, real estate, criminal, and trust and estates) when it becomes necessary. As a Past-President of the Fairfield County Bar Association, I have had the opportunity to get to know the leading lawyers in each practice area.
Having significant experience as a trial lawyer has strengthened my belief that every divorce case should be settled. What people do not realize is that less than 5% of divorce cases go to trial. Of course, it is far more interesting to hear about the gory and gossipy details of a contested divorce in a social setting. However, that is, to great relief, the exception. The only time a case should go to trial is if the offer on the table from the other side represents something beyond the worst-case scenario. This is why it is absolutely necessary to honestly counsel my clients and cultivate their expectations based on my over twenty-five years of experience. I believe in being direct and honest with my clients. While I will always be supportive, I am not a cheerleader.
Most importantly, there is one major difference between a divorce court and a tennis court. If you are successful, you win your tennis match. There is no winning in divorce – at least not on the day of the divorce. You can judge how well you did in your divorce by looking at where you are personally, professionally, and most importantly, if relevant, how well your children are doing one to two years after the divorce is finalized. Is everyone adjusting well to the new schedule? Are you settled professionally? Have you rediscovered who you were before your marriage deteriorated? This all leads back to the most gratifying part of my job, hearing from clients a couple of years after the divorce where they share the success they have had in moving on – thanking my team and me for being there during one of the darkest, insecure and difficult periods in their lives.