I recently read a very interesting article by Michael Zeytoonian, a Massachusetts lawyer and mediator, asking a very interesting question: Do you have your primary care lawyer?
Michael opines that while most people have a primary care physician to help direct them for their medical needs, most people at some point will have legal issues and do not know to whom to turn. He then cites an old adage: “The worst time to hire a lawyer is when you need one.”
Here are some excerpts:
Your primary care lawyer is probably not a litigator, just as most of our primary care physicians aren’t surgeons. Surgeons are trained and passionate about operating on patients; that is what they do. It is not their purpose to spend time on the patient’s health history and all the factors that go into making health decisions. That is the realm of a doctor who, above all else, knows his patients, their histories, family lives, job stress levels, habits and propensities. With that knowledge, the primary care physician is in a good position to quarterback his patients’ health care and help them make good, well-informed decisions.
I trust my primary care physician completely. He has taken the time to know me, my habits and goals, and what I can handle well enough to give me good options. He won’t be doing the procedure I need done. He is invaluable because he will advise me and suggest the right next steps. He may not have a surgeon’s gifted hands, but he is the most important doctor I have.
Likewise, when it comes to figuring out how to handle a dispute, you need a primary care lawyer to advise you and suggest the best options. You need “dispute resolution counsel” to look at your unique circumstances, assess the situation, consider the kind of person you are, the speed at which the dispute needs to be resolved, your financial and emotional bandwidth, your level of risk aversion, your priorities, your goals, etc. With that knowledge, he/she gives you a good recommendation on what to do, which process option to choose and tells you why. If you skip this step and go to a litigator first, the “legal surgeon” will likely take you down the litigation road. That is what he wants to do; it is what he believes in. That is what he is trained for, passionate about and good at doing.
Litigation, like surgery, can be very risky, and it can cause heavy trauma. In certain circumstances, it may be necessary, but usually litigation should be seen as an option of last resort rather than an option of first resort.
If you are looking for a primary care lawyer in the Tampa Bay area, you are welcome to schedule a consultation with us at Family Diplomacy: A Collaborative Law Firm at (813) 443-0615 or by filling out our contact form.
Adam B. Cordover is managing attorney of Family Diplomacy: A Collaborative Law Firm and practices exclusively in out-of-court dispute resolution with a focus on collaborative divorce and family law, mediation, direct negotiations, and unbundled legal services.