A Q&A With Allison Maxim: Working with a Settlement-Oriented Lawyer
The phrase “settlement-oriented lawyer” confuses some people. So, I sat down with someone to explain what it means, why it’s important, and how using a settlement lawyer can benefit them in their divorce. The transcript of our Q-and-A looks into the many advantages of finding and using a settlement-oriented lawyer in St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Question: Let’s start with the obvious: Just what is a “settlement-oriented lawyer” like you?
Allison Maxim: I begin with the assumption that both spouses want to avoid a costly, emotionally wrenching and prolonged battle to end their marriage. So, after learning the goals of my client, I look for places where compromise and agreement can be easily reached. Occasionally, there are more difficult issues such as child custody, parenting time, and support payments. I work to understand what the other spouse is trying to accomplish and why, and then I work with my client to try and find middle ground. This approach is far more cost-effective and certainly less emotionally taxing.
Q: How is the process different if I work with a family law attorney such as you who is settlement-oriented as opposed to one who is a litigator?
AM: For one thing, it is much less adversarial. A couple may not want to be married any longer but that doesn’t mean they want to end up hating each other as a result of their divorce. Everybody loses when that happens, especially the children. For another, the process can be quicker. This means both people can move on with their lives. Finally, working with a settlement-oriented lawyer is often less expensive.
Q: Shouldn’t all divorcing couples try to settle rather than end up before a family court judge?
AM: Yes, definitely. Going to court should be the last resort. For the vast majority of the clients I represent, there is a basis for reaching an agreement that both spouses can accept and is in the best interests of the children.
Q: How would you characterize the opposite of a settlement-oriented attorney?
AM: I’m not sure there is an exact “opposite” per se. But there are some attorneys who impose their own negative and adversarial energy into the process, ramping up animosity between the parties, and making it impossible to settle the case. They handle the entire case from day one assuming they’ll be arguing before a judge. It can be difficult to reach a settlement with them but I work at it.
Q: Do I have to choose between a settlement-oriented lawyer and an attorney who sees their role as a family law litigation attorney?
AM: Not at all. In my case, I am both. My first goal with every client is to find the basis for agreement, a settlement with their spouse. But if necessary, I am fully prepared and willing to go into court to aggressively represent my client’s best interests, and that of their children.
Q: Will you as a settlement-oriented lawyer fight for me as hard as a litigation-driven attorney?
AM: I get asked that a lot. The answer is an unqualified ‘Yes.’ My ethical duty and responsibility as your family law attorney is to be your zealous advocate. That doesn’t mean I have to start out shouting at your spouse’s lawyer or pounding the table. What it means is that my goal is to make the entire process as painless and smooth as possible under the circumstances. This is why I begin by looking for areas of agreement and finding ways to compromise where there are differences. But at the end of the day, if we must go to court, I represent your interests strongly and without reservation or equivocation.
Q: This sounds like an ideal approach to a less-than-ideal situation. What tools do you make available to me and other clients who are interested in working with a settlement-oriented family law attorney?
AM: I have a few things you can use. For openers, I have a collaborative practice which means I am committed to being settlement-oriented. A few additional tools include:
- My Divorce Matrix, so you can easily see where a settlement-oriented lawyer will cost you less money and produce far less stress.
- My “micro site,” Mindful Family Law. This is a guide to help you minimize the stress as you go through your divorce.
- “Friendly Divorce,” where we are retained by one spouse, gather the necessary information and agreement, and then we draft the Divorce Decree and file all of the divorce paperwork for our client.
Q: Thanks so much for this, Allison. It really helps me grasp the idea of working with a “settlement-oriented” family law attorney.
AM: You’re welcome. If you have any more questions, please give me a call!