William Frederic Johnson
Divorce Law - Sausalito, CA

Probably the biggest mistake I've seen committed by any family lawyer is applying a "One Size Fits All" in divorce. It makes no sense - in fact it's unconscionable - to think that way. For starters, everyone comes into a case with differing perceptions and expectations, and it's our job to understand the psychological currents and motivations of everyone involved, including those of the other side. I think that understanding, that skill separates the good lawyers from the not-as-good lawyers.

Another reason One Size Doesn't Fit All in a divorce case: Every matter has its own cost-benefit equation. As lawyers we must be very cognizant of how much money is being spent - so an ongoing cost assessment is really central to what we do.

People talk about excessive expectations coming into divorce, but I've seen plenty of people who've been really beaten down, whose self-esteem is low, who've often had little role in financial matters. Sometimes you have to raise initial expectations.

Affluence can create a sense of self-entitlement, not simply in adults but even in children. And there can be a sense of moral entitlement as well - "I've been through hell, and I deserve something." That sense can be quite different from what the law will award. One of the best quotes I've seen on the subject is from Ken Venturi, the golfer: "Money talks but it doesn't always say the right thing."

Then, too, for a divorce lawyer there is what you could call "Hairdresser Advice." I know that's probably unfair to any professional hairdresser - especially mine. It's really all the people, caring and well-intentioned, who are whispering into your client's ear, giving advice, telling them what to expect and what they believe they are entitled to. A lot of my job, initially at least, can be to debunk much of what my clients are told before they even see me.

It sounds old fashioned, but pride has a lot to do with our work. We're responsible for the important business of other people. I do not want to be judged unfavorably by peers, much less a judge. So I always try to be, if anything, over-prepared. Better to anticipate too much than too little.

I know the Internet has changed every lawyer's practice. Most day-to-day legal advice is now being sent by email, and I think that's worked quite well. It's certainly more efficient. The client is in closer touch with us. I've learned to be effective as an advisor to my clients using email.

I've never been a very goal-oriented person but I've never been complacent either. An old friend once said, 'the next client who walks through the door may be the last one you ever have.' That's true, and it has a way of keeping your standards consistently high. I think most independent practitioners feel that way.

In our work we have high highs, and low lows. The best part perhaps is that I've gained a lot of great, lifelong friendships along the way. It's not easy - but when I achieve a very good result for someone who is a good person, well, that's as good as it gets.

William Frederic Johnson
"It's not easy - but when I achieve a very good result for someone who is a good person, well, that's as good as it gets."
Phone: (415) 332-0222
Fax: (415) 332-1192
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, B.A., Honors College
University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law, J.D.
2016-09-15 08:33:34