Divorce – What the Lawyers Don’t Tell You

The statistics on divorce in South Africa are frightening. It appears that divorce in our sunny land is on the upswing along with the recession.

Determine what you already know

The first port of call for most would be divorcees is a good lawyer. What they tell you however, is based on what you tell them. In short, it’s not much good going to see a lawyer and spending all that money on hourly fees just to have them regurgitate what you already know.

You need to sit down and analyse your situation. Are you in agreement with your spouse about the divorce? Will he/she contest the action? Do you have property to split? Do you have children from the marriage?

If you answered yes to the first question you’re home dry, if not, well you need to look carefully at the situation before you appoint an attorney.

Agreement means low legal fees

If you and your current spouse are in total agreement that the divorce take place then you are part of the way. I say part because although you may agree you would both like the divorce you also need to agree on who raises the children and how the property and assets (if you have any) are to be divided before you enter the divorce court.

If you are not in agreement about all of those issues the court will not grant the divorce.

How to determine agreement

My divorce was drawn out for almost two years. Why? Because I didn’t sit down with my spouse and agree the terms for the divorce upfront. Ours was a heated marriage and conversing sanely was proving impossible. Our options included seeking counselling, retaining an attorney or seeking arbitration to settle terms for the divorce. I, wrongly, retained an attorney.

What I should have done was seek arbitration to settle terms. That would have meant that a marriage guidance counsellor or a lawyer would have arranged a neutral territory meeting and assisted us in drawing up an agreement regarding the children, the maintenance and the property and assets. Sensible!

The reality of the situation

What actually happened is that my retained attorney arranged a meeting with my husband’s attorney with both of us present too and proceeded to argue. In this manner they provoked us both into dispute; the meeting fell apart and needed to be rescheduled. My husband came to loathe my attorney and subsequently refused to meet. I became annoyed with the process and alarmed at the rate my costs escalated.

I was billed for every minute of every argument in my attorneys offices. Even those between my attorney and my husbands attorney when we were not present and had not requested said meeting. I was also billed for the times my enraged husband strode into my attorneys office and engaged in ranting at him.

A year and four months and R375 000 later I could ill afford, I fired my attorney.

What happened next?

I sat down and wrote to my husband and offered him everything, the children, the houses, the savings account and the engagement ring. He refused. After his refusal I engaged an empathic female lawyer at a much reduced rate and asked her to approach him directly with an offer.

Hiring a female lawyer was definitely the right approach. He warmed to her empathic nature and wasn’t threatened by her approach. A few days later he agreed to the following terms:

1. That no cause would be cited for the divorce

2. That he could be named as plaintiff

3. That he would have unlimited access to the children to suit his work schedule

4. That I would accept 35% of the assets and award him 65%.

5. That maintenance would be 50:50 for the children and no alimony would be requested.

An unfair settlement?

People close to me thought I was nuts. However, through the drama I had learnt that divorce is not about the assets or the money. It’s about the principle, the pride and the loss of face. If you really want an amicable divorce and a reasonably healthy friendship afterwards you need to remember that.

What was important to me was maintaining the relationship with my children’s father, being well off enough to start again and allowing him to retain his pride.

I achieved what I needed and now am happily remarried watching my two sons grow up with a wonderful new career ahead of me.

In conclusion

Before you even begin the process write down three of the most important things you wish to achieve by divorcing your spouse and work out how best to attain them and how to approach him/her about those items on your list.

Make your spouse a co-conspirator in the process instead of your enemy and whilst your settlement may not be all you dream, you will achieve an amicable divorce and easier settlement.

6 More Alternative Jobs For Lawyers

After repeated requests for more alternative jobs for lawyers, I have decided to add to the previous article 6 Alternative jobs for Lawyers Jobs. These are merely some thoughts which can perhaps get those brain cells working to help you to discover your talents and give some direction as to where you may concentrate your efforts.

o Motivational Speaker

This was motivated by a comment left by an anonymous reader. There could very well be something in the suggestion that lawyers should try public speaking. Look at some of the well known motivational speakers like Les Brown and John Dmytryszyn. What skills do these guys possess? They are comfortable speaking to a large audience, they can tell personal stories of their own unhappiness or discontent, they can speak of overcoming adversity and they can convince you to make the choices they recommend. So they are usually eloquent, persuasive, engaging and perhaps flamboyant raconteurs. I would say that pretty much sums up a fine trial lawyer. Francine Ward is one lawyer who did it.

o Poker Player

Interestingly this was also inspired by a lawyer/commenter who was quite likely speaking tongue in cheek. Now don’t laugh and don’t end up like the compulsive lawyer/gambler Arelia Taveras. The point of this suggestion however is to stress that you can make a living out of something you love and it has been done as evidenced by the story of Greg Fossilman Raymer who rose from relative obscurity as a Patent lawyer to achieve notoriety as the 2004 World Series Poker champion. As Greg himself states on his website, he took from the strengths he gained as a lawyer and applied them to poker.

“If you’re a litigator or do a lot of negotiation, then you have to be able to read people well, and determine when they’re bluffing or lying, and when they’re not. As such, lawyers who have that type of practice, and who do well at it, are probably in a position to quickly become very good poker players.”

o Career Coach

Who better than someone who has been through the rigors of law school and the legal profession to guide attorneys both inside and outside the law. I already mentioned Monica Parker who helps unhappy lawyers careers outside of the law. Julie Fleming-Brown is also a trained lawyer who provides professional and personal coaching for lawyers. You may be very organized or perhaps you notice aspects of the practice that you feel strongly could do with improvement but your firm gives little or no value to your ideas, you may have a gift for organizational or human resource management or you may be an excellent motivator. Instead of holding your head over a stack of files for hours or butting heads with other lawyers in the court room you may be happier helping them to achieve better work/life balance inside or outside the law.

o Legal Recruiter

A legal recruiter with a legal background is often viewed as an asset. Here is a person who understands how the legal profession works, how lawyers think and interact and the needs of law firms. Some of the talents for a career coach may be applied here as well and a legal recruiter with excellent coaching skills will probably gain an excellent reputation and build a great business. Here are two examples of lawyers turned legal recruiters Felig/Lindy Legal and Abacus Legal Jobs. Note they both reject the notion that they just offer employment service. The former emphasizes the breadth of their offerings and the latter relies on the reach of their expertise across the globe with their slogan run by lawyers for lawyers.

o Legal Correspondent

You have seen them haven’t you? Star Jones and Cynthia McFadden come to mind. You take the inside knowledge you have of the law and with your excellent communicating skills you explain the wranglings and machinations of a civil suit, a criminal case or issues concerning judges, lawyers and the esoteric legal community as a whole to the public. Who knows you may even step up and get your own show or an anchor position on primetime TV.

o Private Investigator

Oh yes. I am sure you have read novels where the protagonist is the lawyer turned private eye. They always seem to be down and broke however. So it is likely that most lawyers would view this as a step down but some of us are more than snoops we have strong investigative talents and are quite competent at intelligence gathering with some business savyy to back it up. We are also masters at reading between the lines or seeing through the scam so why not consider this field. You won’t be limited to checking out whether Mr. R and his colleague are spending their lunch hour at the colleague’s apartment but the range is wide encompassing Business Intelligence Gathering, Database Investigations, IP investigations, Civil and Criminal Investigations and more. Michael D. Rothman and Todd A. Carozza both qualified attorneys established their own investigative firm.

Greg the poker player discusses the contribution of both his science and legal background. This is enlightening. Most lawyers already have at least two degrees. If you can harness and leverage the sets of skills you gained and developed in those areas you most likely could find a way to find the job which is ideal for you.

Paralegal Career: Working Like a Lawyer on a Paralegal’s Salary

What is a Paralegal?

Paralegals or legal assistants are the backbone of law firms and corporate legal offices; they practically perform a lawyer’s job – save for the handshaking with clients and the word-sparring in court. This article details a paralegal’s scope of work, compensation, and education and training options to start a career in the legal services.

Paralegal Job Description

Paralegal job duties include the following routine duties that are traditionally part of a lawyer’s responsibilities:

– Assist lawyers in preparing for trials, hearings, closings, corporate meetings, etc.;

– Check facts for verification and complete all necessary research work to ensure the correctness and accuracy of all data that lawyers use in their cases;

– Assist lawyers in preparing legal arguments, in drafting motions and pleadings, and in obtaining affidavits; – Assist lawyers in the actual court trials;

– And other administrative and clerical duties as seen fit by the employer. This may include coordination of the activities of law office employees, maintaining financial records, maintaining legal archives and records, preparing tax returns, etc.

Paralegals basically perform many of the duties of a lawyer, but with certain limitations. Paralegals are prohibited by law to perform any of the following:

– Dispense legal advice to clients;

– Appear in court in the capacity of a lawyer or present a case before the court;

– Set legal fees, etc.

Paralegal Earnings

Average paralegal salary is currently pegged at $46,120 per year, according to the Occupational Employment Statistics’ latest data, with the top earning legal assistants bagging as much as $73,450 annually. The differences in earnings is directly related to training and education, experience on the job, and the size and type of employer. Employment can be found in federal, state, and local government offices, as well as courts of law, and insurance companies; according to OES data, legal offices hire the most number of paralegals, owning 71% of the employment opportunities for trained paralegals.

Paralegal Training Options

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently 260 American Bar Association (ABA)-approved programs for paralegal studies. If you are seriously considering a career in the paralegal, here are some options you can take to start on this path:

Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies

Look for community colleges that offer paralegal programs which can be expanded into an associate degree given that you have completed all the necessary coursework for an associate degree certificate.

Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies

You can take your associate degree a notch further by enrolling in a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies. If you are a bachelor’s degree-holder in a different field and wish to jump overboard, you can sign up for graduate studies in paralegal studies.

On-the-job Paralegal Training

Yet another option is to look for a law firm that would hire to train their own paralegal. Make sure to take advantage of paralegal programs while you are on the job to ensure that your knife is sharp and you get to advance in this career.

To further advance your training, you can seek for paralegal certification through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). Certified Paralegals or Certified Legal Assistants enjoy better employment opportunities and advancement in the paralegal career.

Lawyer Salaries – Are They As High As Everyone Claims?

The legal profession has been around for a good many years and there has been a common notion that lawyering is a stable, lucrative profession. There may have been a time when that was the case, but is it still so now?

The United States has more lawyers than any other country in the world, turning out about 38,000 law graduates a year from the more than 200 law schools across the country. This has led a ranking member of the judiciary to comment that there are too many lawyers in the United States, that the number of legal professionals far outnumbers the jobs and clients available out there.

What are the determinants of lawyers’ salaries?

Several factors that determine the amount of professional fees that lawyers can demand, or the salaries they are entitled to as members or partners in law firms or as part of the public legal system.

• The kind of law being practiced influences lawyers’ salaries. For example, corporate lawyers, lawyers who handle mergers and acquisitions and have the opportunity to deal with clients who have more money will definitely receive more than public prosecutors or lawyers for nonprofit organizations.
• Geographical area of operation also has a bearing on lawyer salaries. The average salary for a lawyer is highest in Washington, San Francisco and New York. Incidentally, the most popular cities for lawyers, based on median salary charts, are New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, Chicago, Washington and San Francisco. This data can be accessed at http://www.payscale.com.
• Government as employer vs. private practice. Private practice, with profits in mind, often gives salaries that are higher that what the government, as an employer, gives.
• Stringent requirements for entry into big law forms. Large, firmly established law firms give higher salaries to their lawyers than smaller or medium-sized ones. While entry into a large law firm is not always easy, the salaries they get are worth the effort. The candidate for membership needs to be a graduate of a reputable, prestigious law school and higher than average grades. Still, graduates of law schools of less distinction can still make it into these big law firms, provided they are on top of their class, have articles published in law journals, and have participated in law evaluations and/or debates. Back door entry into a big law firm can be done if a lawyer can present a record of demonstrated success over years of legal practice.
• Experience in litigation is also a determining factor in the amount of salary to which a lawyer is entitled. A senior partner of a firm gets a higher salary than a junior partner, by virtue of his or her years of practice in the profession.

Because a law degree is a graduate degree, lawyers normally start with fairly high salaries. The average starting salary for a lawyer, based on the Lawyer Starting Salary register, is around $56,000. This average starting salary is just a jumping-off point. It is projected that in 20 years of practice, this amount should more than double.

The National Association for Legal Career Professionals (NALP), however, states that in 2008, the salary for entry level lawyers in public or civil jobs ranged from $40,000 to $47,435. Attorneys wages in private practice for 2007 ranged from $68,000 to $130,000, on the average.

Despite these high figures, there are those who contend that Law is an overrated career that is glamorized by television. It does not take into account such realities as debts accrued while attending law school, time and effort needed by lawyers to establish a client base, and the fact that lawyers put long working hours into honing their skills in their profession.

How to Become a Paralegal – Find Out How You Can Be a Lawyer’s Right Arm

Do you yearn for a fast past exciting career in the field of law? Then perhaps you should learn how to become a Paralegal.

A Paralegal is a legal assistant; he or she does not necessarily train and practice as a lawyer. However, he or she enjoys the thrill and the exhilaration of working in the same field. Yet, to be successful within this field, you must possess the passion as well as the patience to dedicate yourself to researching and preparing various cases.

Educational Requirements

Anyone interested in how to become a paralegal should put some effort into finding out about the training and education required for this job. First, you must first complete high school or pass the GED exams. Next, you should complete a two-year associate degree program in criminal justice from a community college or a vocational school. An alternative way to go about this is through an online program. Finally, you can choose enroll in an American Bar Association (ABA) approved program as it will enhance your opportunities later on. A word of advice though – whatever program or college you opt for, make sure that it is accredited by the National Federation of the Paralegal Association.

Duties and Responsibilities

In order to understand how to become a Paralegal, one must also have a detailed understanding of what he or she may be required to do.

The most basic and essential duty of a Paralegal is to assist lawyers in their preparations for hearings, trials, and closings. However, since a majority of paralegals work for law firms, corporate legal departments or even government agencies, they may have other responsibilities such as:

  • Collecting and organizing all the necessary data and records required by the lawyer for the concerned court cases
  • Drafting and writing legal reports and documents
  • Preparing for trials under the supervision of lawyers
  • Providing suggestions for the method in which the case can be litigated
  • Drafting documents for litigation, contracts, separation agreements and other such tasks
  • Running searches over properties along with various other tasks such as preparing for transaction closings for real estate.

Career Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is one field that is growing like wildfire. Compared to other careers in criminal justice, paralegals are expected to earn more by 28% by 2018 and an average yearly income of approximately $46,000 to $73,000.

So, now that you know everything there is to know about how to become a paralegal, perhaps you will start considering this career seriously.