Since writing Filling in the Gaps, Gavel Babble received an outpouring of divorce related questions from several individuals that are clearly struggling and looking for “inner peace” during this difficult time. Whether you are going through a life-changing event like divorce or a break up, a difficult friendship, loss of a loved one or work /career obstacles, I encourage you to think about your situation like a lawyer would when accepting or disposing of an assignment. The fee structure of every case determines its “profitability” or potential for “profitability” from the outset of each case.

Unless the work is considered “pro bono” (i.e. free or charitable) lawyers will typically accept cases one of three ways: flat fee, hourly fee or contingency fee. Let’s start with flat fee. Flat fee is when the lawyer accepts your case for an amount (i.e. $5,000) and agrees to work to resolve your case for that amount of money and only that figure. Hourly fee is precisely what it means … that the lawyer will be paid for every moment that they spend working on that case from the inception until it closes. Contingency fee is basically an agreement between the lawyer and the client where the lawyer agrees to provide his/her services and will absorb the litigation costs. However, if the lawyer “wins” he/she will get a percentage of the fees and will be reimbursed for all of his/her costs.

So when analyzing your case, the first order of business is to determine “what type of fee structure is your case currently on”? For example, my children are always on an “hourly fee” basis. Every moment that I spend with my children, I am earning/gaining from the situation. In contrast, every moment that I’m away from my children I feel like I am “losing” invaluable time and memories. While “hourly fee” relationships are clearly the most “profitable” and enriching types of relationships you could have with another individual, this is even more reason to focus on using your time wisely. Think about it, why wouldn’t you want to be handsomely rewarded for every moment you spend on a “profitable” relationship, business or venture?

For these “flat fee” situations, you, as your lawyer, need to make a decision on how you’re going to handle these “flat fee” cases once they start losing money. (Side bar: To be clear, “flat fee” situations/individuals are time/energy suckers and despite your best efforts to either resolve your issue with them—it’s dead end after dead end.) So I ask you this, why would you want to take time and energy away from your “hourly fee” cases, to focus on a “flat fee” situation that is losing money for you every moment that you spend on it?! Not only are you getting nothing more from the flat fee situation once you have hit the maximum payout, but now you are actually losing time and money on your other cases! Flat fee cases are only “profitable” when litigated stealth fully and strategically with a clear and concise game plan from the inception of each case. Most importantly, if you cannot resolve the case on your own, consider getting a fresh set of eyes on your case or enlist an advocate to fight for you to allow you to focus on your “hourly fee” cases.

In my opinion, contingency basis relationships are the riskiest ones to engage in. You, the lawyer, bear all the risk and costs. It’s much like Vegas … you could win big or lose the shirt off of your back! Remember, in a contingency fee relationship you are putting everything you have into the relationship with no guarantee that you will get anything in return. (Side bar: there are some relationships that are worth the investment. You just need to pick and choose wisely.) If you are an impatient or worrisome person or have difficulties with seeing or making long term plans—stay clear of these relationships! Again, contingency fee relationships only work in rare situations. If you are involved in a contingency fee relationship that is “going nowhere” there is nothing wrong with grabbing your chips, pushing away from the poker table and cashing out the chips that remain left from that relationship.

For all of my friends and loyal readers that seek to have all of their burning questions answered—my advice to you is this: You already have the best lawyer money can buy … which is the one inside YOU! You hold all of the answers and solutions to every obstacle and challenge that comes into your path. You also have the power to “withdraw” from relationships that are clearly not as “profitable” as YOU deserve! One of my favorite quotes from Eckhart Tolle’s Practicing the Power of Now is “[d]issolution is needed for new growth to happen. One cycle cannot exist without the other.” Simple stated, resolve the “flat fee” cases as quickly as possible and start focusing on building up the “hourly fee” relationships so you can expand and grow into the person you were always intended to be.

Court is adjourned.

~ The Counselor

Share This Post


Filling in the Gaps

by The Counselor on January 7, 2013

in Love Advice

About a year ago, someone pulled one side of the toilet roll holder clean off of the wall in the downstairs guest bathroom.   Not knowing the first thing about repairing dry wall or fixing toilet roll holders, I did what any non-handy person would do—I tried to super glue it back into the wall!  That “solved” the problem for a short while, however; before long I was back to the same place where I started out but now there was a huge spot where the paint was torn off the wall from the super glue.  Then I thought I was really clever when I tried to affix the holder back on with some sort of heavy duty, double sided tape.  Well, we all know how that turned out.  So for almost a year, my toilet paper and fixture was either hanging on by a thread or lying on the ground.  In my mind, it was irreparably broken.

On November 23, 2012, irreparably broken were the two words that I never expected to utter especially not in front of a courtroom of complete strangers.  The hearing only took about 5 minutes  with some paper shuffling and formulaic questioning which resulted in a marriage of almost 9 nine years bearing two beautiful, perfect angels being dissolved.  We received our Final Orders as the next couple was called to end their journey as once husband and wife.  Then all that was left was a simple, cordial goodbye and a parting of two individuals embarking in two totally, different directions.

A short time after this hearing, I stumbled over the toilet roll fixture lying on the floor and took a good, long, hard look at the huge gap in the bathroom wall.  I decided that I was tired of gazing at the holes in my wall and the fixture on the floor.  So I did a little research like a good lawyer, went to Home Depot and bought everything I needed to “fix” the holes in my wall.  It was easy.  I took the other side of the fixture down, filled the holes with spackle, waited for the wall to dry, sanded it smooth and repainted.  Then, I decided that I wanted a different toilet roll holder—one that was new, shiny and free standing.  I didn’t want to put up old fixture even though I could have.

It’s amazing how much I learned from this drywall situation.  I realized that I could “fix” things that I was convinced were irreparably broken—not my marriage, but my life.  It occurred to me that I needed to figure out what my “new normal” was going to look like by filling in the gaps.  I’ve come to also realize that whenever we lose someone, be it through death, divorce or otherwise, it is so easy to step over the fixture on the floor or ignore the holes in the wall hoping that it will repair itself someday.  However, if you truly want to repair the problem, you must roll up your sleeves and do the work yourself.  Trust me, no one can “fix” your problems for you no matter how wonderful you think they are.

I’ve learned that in order to re-design your new life one must sometimes throw out the old fixture, repair the holes and clean up the mess after it’s all said and done.  Holding onto the old hurts and baggage only weighs us down and takes up unnecessary space.  When we “fix” what’s broken, we make room for infinite opportunities.  While there are good days and certainly bad days, I now make an effort to learn a new hobby or rediscover an old hobby but most importantly give myself the space and time to heal and figure out what I want to do with my new life.

Bottom line is this: if you look closely at my bathroom wall, you will always see where I repaired the wall—just like if you look closely at my heart you will see the scars that were left from my dissolved marriage.  The scars will always be there but it does not define who I am or what I am destined to become.  It’s only a scar from a hurt that has healed.

I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year filled with opportunities.

~ The Counselor


Share This Post

{ 1 comment }

Unlucky In Love

September 1, 2012

Dear Counselor: I’ve had one failed relationship after another.  Basically, I seem to be picking the same person over and over just in a different package.  Do you have any advice on how I can change my stars when it comes to love? Thanks, Unlucky in Love ___________________________________________________ Dear Lucky: Interestingly enough, your question reminded [...]

Read the full article →

Divorced and Dating …

August 18, 2012

Dear Counselor, I was married for 15 years and have been separated for a year. I filed divorce in April mainly because my ex-husband has anger issues.  I have two male friends that I used to work with ask me out recently. The first guy asked me out—I hesitated and finally said “yes.” I unfortunately [...]

Read the full article →

Garment of Love

April 30, 2012

  Almost a year ago, I purchased a cream colored, vintage, 1920s hand-made lace dress. Each stitch, button, hook and eye were perfectly sewn with such detail, love and devotion that calling this article of clothing a “dress” does not do it justice. It is a garment so artfully crafted that it, quite honestly, could [...]

Read the full article →

The Girl and the Red Balloon

March 27, 2012

Dear Counselor: I am looking to find a career that I am passionate about but I cannot seem to find the right fit.  It’s frustrating and sometimes seems rather hopeless.  Any advice? Thanks! Seeker ____________________________________ Dear Seeker: Last weekend, I watched my three year old chasing after a beautiful, big, red balloon as it danced [...]

Read the full article →

Latent Defects …

February 26, 2012

Recently, a good friend of mine told me how frustrated he was that, despite his best efforts, he could not “fix” what was broken in his failed relationship. It got me thinking about 1996 when my father, as an early graduation gift, bought me the most beautiful, hunter green car, right off the show room [...]

Read the full article →

Thinking “Inside” the Box

January 23, 2012

I had this amazing “ah ha” moment about a week or so ago that completely changed my frame of mind.  I have been pondering about how men can go through insurmountable challenges, like death of a loved one, divorce, financial problems, job loss etc and for the most part appear to come on the other [...]

Read the full article →

The Path Less Traveled…

December 11, 2011

As yet another year comes to an end, I sit back again in quiet reflection to analyze the choices I’ve made during the past 365 days.  I reflect on the relationships I’ve forged, ideas I’ve had and opportunities that came and went.  I ask myself—did the year come and go fast and furious?  Or did [...]

Read the full article →

And They Lived Happily Ever After … ?

November 10, 2011

Dear Counselor, I am not sure what to do about my situation. I got married on 2000. I got separated from my now ex-husband in 2004.  We have a beautiful daughter who is going to be 8 soon. Our divorced was finalized in 2009.  I started dating my boyfriend on 2007.  He is single, no kids, [...]

Read the full article →