For the first 30 years of my professional career, when asked, “What kind of law do you practice?” I would give the smart-ass answer, “I officiate the involuntary redistribution of corporate assets.”  The meaning:  I was a commercial litigation and trial lawyer.  I tried cases involving contract and construction disputes, unfair competition lawsuits, securities fraud cases, mortgage, and mechanics lien foreclosures, injunction suits, intellectual property disputes, and too many others to mention.  As varied as the topics were, the goals were always the same:  Win as much as you can or lose as little as possible.

When I accepted the invitation of my partner Miles Beermann to join his firm and blend its family law practice with my commercial practice, I assumed that the family law practice was far less complex than my commercial practice.  I thought, “Divorce lawyers only deal with one thing – the splitting up of a married couple.  How complicated can that be?”  Boy, was I wrong!

My first challenge was to develop a level of compassion and open-mindedness sufficient to allow me to look past the dollars-and-cents issues, to grasp the magnitude of the emotional upheaval caused by a marital breakup.  My second was to be able to deal with the inestimable potential damage that could be suffered by the children of a dissolving marriage, especially those of tender years. My third challenge was and is to remember that each spouse’s needs – both emotional and financial – are unique to that person and can never be allowed to guide me in assessing the needs of each client independently.

After 20 years of trying and negotiating settlements of marriage dissolution cases, I find that these challenges still face me every day.  I have done my very best to be true to my understanding and appreciation of these challenges and I am a better lawyer for it, both in commercial and family law matters. For as long as I practice, I vow to do my best to continue that approach.

Howard C. Emmerman, Commercial and Family Law Partner

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