John E. Byrnes
Divorce Law - Fairfax, VA

One of the things I'm careful about in my first meeting with a client is not to overload someone with information. At that moment - with all the overwhelming feelings - people generally are in no position to be recited a lot of information. Often the message will be simple: This is one of the most stressful experiences of your life, but you'll make it through the process. It may seem overwhelming to you now, but you'll get through it. Events do have a ways of cascading. A spouse can't stop someone from getting a divorce. And individuals can feel a swirl of indecision.

With all of that, the initial meeting is very important. What is there for the parties in a financial sense? We engage in an ongoing process to determine what the reasonable solutions are. It may take time to find assets that someone has hidden.

I explain what litigation entails, that there are some built-in risks. Decisions made by a judge are mostly discretionary, especially in how he or she applies the law. The judge is going to be a stranger to your case, and no one - no matter what any lawyer tells you - can predict how a judge is going to rule. We'll give a range of reasonable results before proceeding to trial. But no one can or should start making predictions.

Part of my approach is to make sure that I hear people out, whether I agree with them on a point or not. Some clients will at some point complain about the legal system - that it is unjust, too slow, too expensive, too arbitrary. And I explain that the legal system is not going to address all your wrongs. You are not going to feel vindicated at the end of all of it.

And I - like the client - want to make sure it's a good fit between us. As a lawyer handling your case, I need your participation and involvement. People will ask me, am I going to be aggressive for them? And I tell them this: I and my firm have handled some of the most complex, challenging and intricate cases ever seen, but I am not going to be aggressive just for the sake of being aggressive. I'm not going to be combative just to be combative. It's in no one's interests, especially my client's.

Obviously, settling is better, in virtually every case. And I think at our firm, we have a high rate of settling cases. I find myself in court only over the most difficult issues. Any lawyer has to be willing to litigate. But frankly, the mark of a good lawyer is his or her capacity to reach a settlement.

I think our firm really does have unique resources. We can walk down the hall to summon another experienced lawyer's judgment and expertise. That helps our clients immensely. And we have an excellent work environment as well. We want our lawyers to have lives that aren't entirely defined by their work. The fact is we don't have any "slow work days" any more, so as partners we want to keep it a fun and interesting place to work. And that only benefits our clients.

John E. Byrnes
"The judge is going to be a stranger to your case, and no one - no matter what any lawyer tells you - can predict how a judge is going to rule."
Phone: (703) 224-0888
Fax: (703) 225-3333
University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1989
George Mason University School of Law, J.D. 1995
2014-06-10 13:27:23