FORESTER PURCELL STOWELL attorneys reveal examples of lawyers behaving badly with answers to the question:


What makes opposing counsel easy to work with vs. a nightmare to work with during family law litigation?



Whether an opposing counsel is easy to work with or impossible to work with comes down to one fundamental question – is their role in the case to solve problems, or to be a “zealous advocate”? Family law is a thorny and complicated field littered with all kinds of little minor problems and a handful of big complicated problems. We lawyers juggle many things simultaneously for our clients. An opposing counsel who focuses on problem solving through negotiation (or just understanding what a court would likely do with an issue and working from that knowledge) can really streamline the process. But a lawyer who wants to dig his or her heels in and fight – either to appear “competent” to the client or because they want to bill out as much as they can before the case resolves – can drive costs through the roof overnight. I recently worked with a lawyer of that ilk, and they turned what should have been an easy 15-minute negotiation into months of pointless litigation that got the client to exactly where I had suggested they agree to be before all the back and forth. My client spent tens of thousands of dollars that would not have been spent if not for the antics of opposing counsel. So what makes opposing counsel a nightmare? When they care more about themselves than they care about the client.


matthew-purcellMATT PURCELL

There are no “winners” in family court.  If litigation must occur and continue in a case, the people who “win” are the attorneys. An opposing counsel who knows the law and uses that knowledge to solve problems rather than create them is the best case scenario in any family law situation. Even if the opposing counsel doesn’t share my view of the case (which is to be expected as we take in different sets of information from our respective clients), the key is having someone on the other side who has an open mind and a desire to resolve the issues of the case as efficiently as possible.

The nightmare scenario comes up when an opposing counsel uses the emotions of their client to enflame the situation rather than de-escalate it. For example: Emergency hearings without an attempt to resolve the issues, or settlement negotiations where the only acceptable offer is to capitulate to his or her demands.  These actions seem like progress, or vindication, to their client but are simply exercises in running up the bill. When an opposing counsel chooses to take this path, a case can drag on far longer than it should, and cost far more, because every issue is magnified, rather than immediately addressed.


Jenny Bain 220 x 220 Website 386JENNY BAIN

I’m always on the look-out for attorneys who soundly understand and respect court and legal procedure. Without this, attorneys have a higher likelihood of engaging in pointless and counter-productive antics, such as running to court, poor communication, and difficulty coming up with creative and settlement-minded resolutions. They take losing positions, which ends up really costing clients. Having a comprehensive knowledge of the court system helps attorneys give their clients the best advice about the most efficient resolution, whether that be settlement outside of court or the necessity of court intervention. Court appearances and preparation for those appearances is extraordinarily costly. Advice on whether it’s the best option needs to be sound.


Based in Folsom, California, Forester Purcell Stowell PC can be reached at or 916 293 4000. This information is general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice.

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