Different lawyers have different approaches in handling clients going through the rollercoaster of divorce. Beermann Divorce and Family Law Partners, Beth F. McCormack and James M. Quigley, walk us through the process of divorce and talk about what happens in open court proceedings or in litigation and alternative dispute resolution. They also shed light on the importance of seeing the situation from the other lawyer’s perspective. Offering some tips on how to tackle personality issues, they share how using coaches helps them deal with clients and how working as a team helps their entire process flow smoothly.

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Litigation Vs. Alternative Dispute Resolution

Our CMO, Sandra Napoli-D’Arco, asks questions that get the attorneys talking about everything they know and have experienced throughout their years of being divorce lawyers.

I’m here with James Quigley and Beth McCormack. We’re speaking about litigation versus alternative dispute resolution options in divorce cases. I’d like to have James and Beth share a little bit about themselves .

Beth: I’m Beth McCormack. I’m a Divorce and Family Law Partner at Beermann. I’ve been here for several years. I’m working alongside James. We have very different styles and approaches and we’re hoping this is illuminating for the audience to see that there’s no one approach that fits all.

James: I’m James Quigley. I’ve been practicing for about 27 years. I’ve been at Beermann since 2005. I think Beth really summed it up, that what this is about is that at Beermann, we very much provide a tailored approach. It’s not just you come to a lawyer, you’re getting a divorce. This is what we do. It’s a look to see what are the family’s needs, what is their special circumstances and how do we tailor an approach that fits their needs whether it be litigation, whether it be collaborative, cooperative, mediation. There are many different ways to help families in this situation.

Beth: To add a little more context, James and I opposed each other for the greater part of our career until I decided to join here as a partner and we earned one another’s respect. We saw how we practice law. We’d like to show others that there is not this one-size-fits-all approach. Very often James may call me in for a meeting, I might call him in because of his specific emphasis in litigation. That’s where he shines. Likewise, having done a lot of litigation, I like to think outside the box and use those talents in the ADR or Alternative Dispute Resolution realm.

This is a great segue because as a layperson, if I’m coming into Beermann and don’t understand or know what the different options of divorce are, I don’t know where to begin. James, can you walk me through the process?  Do you make recommendations regarding my case being litigated vs ADR? How does that work?

Alternative dispute resolution affords people privacy, and the people are the ones deciding the outcome. Click To Tweet

James: Let me start first by saying that while my experience in training and my forte is more of litigation and trying cases, I fundamentally believe people should try to first avoid it at all costs. One of the things that we do at Beermann when we sit down with a client for an initial phone call, initial interview, is we try to understand what the issues of the case might be, the personalities, whether or not you’re dealing with issues of mental health, addiction problems, some of the things that with our experience, certain processes might be more effective than another. As we listen to the client and as we listen to what their goals are, what they hope to accomplish, we then from there put teams together within our firm to represent the individuals and we make recommendations in terms of the approach we think is best for the individual client.

What is the main difference between litigation and alternative dispute resolution?

Beth: As James alluded to, every case comes in with a problem to fix. At its heart, it may be that it’s a litigation case. One or both of them present in a way that it’s clear they can’t get their head into problem-solving mode. They have to litigate. Most every case that’s litigated is settled. I don’t know percentages as we sit here now, many say upwards of 95% of cases that are even set for trial end up settling. That’s the nature of the work that we do. It settles at some point. Some people come into it and say, “I’m not going through that at all. I want to get into this problem-solving mode at the very beginning. I don’t want to pay lawyers.” Everybody’s motivated by different things. Alternative dispute resolution affords people privacy. Maybe their situation as such, they don’t want to air all their dirty laundry in court.

They may say, “I want to mediate or do collaborative law,” because everything is done in the privacy of a room. No one hears evidence in open court on what your incomes are, what your lifestyle is as it relates to where children are going to live, etc. Most generally, to answer the difference between the two is ADR affords people  privacy. Very often you save money, not always. There are many cases that could be mediated for months. There are many cases that are litigated that are resolved relatively quickly. I would say, generally speaking, privacy, money and then control. Control is at the heart of everything. In ADR, the people are deciding their outcome. Whereas in litigation, you’re giving it up to a judge. As James will tell you in his litigated cases, ultimately you’re giving it up to the judge. On the day of trial, you may decide, “I’m taking control and settling.” James does a ton of work in litigation to prepare for that place.

James, can you give me an example of a case that is litigated? You  talked about privacy vs. non-privacy. Many people may not understand what that means. What does being in an open court mean?

DM 6 | Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alternative Dispute Resolution: In alternative dispute resolution, the people are deciding their outcome; whereas in litigation, they’re giving it up to a judge.


James: Fundamentally, it means it is open to the public. Literally, when I’m on trial, there are seats in the back of the courtroom. Anybody off the street can come in, sit down and observe a trial. I’ve had people do that. Your financial issues are going to come up because you have to introduce evidence during this proceeding. As you’re doing this, you might introduce a tax return of somebody. We’ll be talking about that with the court reporter in open court where someone is just sitting in the gallery and someone will be able to hear that this person makes this much or that person’s worth that. When you’re involved in custody issues, sometimes there are some very strange things that we learn about people’s personal lives that ended up coming out in the context of a trial whether you’re fighting over child-related issues or relocation, some of that stuff. To Beth’s point, we’ve represented some very well-known individuals here at Beermann, but one would never know because it’s never been litigated or in the court record. Everything is behind the scenes. Privacy is a big deal. I think Beth’s comment about control, in Cook County alone, Downtown Chicago, you probably have 30-plus divorce charges. All different personalities, all different professional backgrounds, political affiliations, you name it, you have very little control over. From one to the next, one judge is going to decide versus somebody else. It’s very unpredictable oftentimes. To me that’s very scary, especially when it comes to your children.

Can you talk a little bit more about the control piece with alternative dispute resolution and what that means?

Beth: I’ll put myself in the role of an attorney in an alternative dispute resolution. Let’s pretend the matters being resolved maybe  via mediation. I’m sitting with the person and preparing them for what they want. James alluded to, no matter the process, what are your goals? What are your concerns? We’re looking at those and those goals and concerns drive the negotiation. If your goal is for my child to have stability and continuity, if you would go to court and the judge would say, “Dad has Monday, Wednesday, Friday, mom has Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday,” that does afford stability. In the out of court option, you’re looking at creating what schedule makes sense for you. Let’s pretend I have a mom. Mom might say, “I have to have every Monday and Tuesday because Monday is dance and Tuesday is whatever.” You’re crafting the agreement you need for your family because you know your family. If a case goes to trial, a judge isn’t going to hear those details. If they do, it will take a very long time, months, maybe years, in order for the court to hear all of that. Even if they hear all the evidence, they still can’t know all the nuances of the family and make an informed decision. There’s more of a cookie cutter approach.

James: Yeah, from judges. The color between the lines, you’re not getting a lot of judges that are at trial getting uber creative. This is what the law is and you had your chance to try to be creative.

Beth: A lot of times in ADR, we’re having people try different schedules, “Let’s try out this schedule for three months and see how you’re doing, kids are doing.” Let’s pretend they decide, “We’re going to split the kids 50/50.” “Let’s try one week on, one week off with a dinner in between.” They realize that’s way too hard on our kids to go that many days without seeing the other parent. “Let’s try a different way to craft 50/50.” There are a lot of ways that can be done without having the court intervene. The other thing we didn’t allude to it all on the custody side is once you give up control in litigation, you might have an attorney appointed for those kids and then you’re giving up a little bit of control by letting an outside person, another lawyer, come into the negotiation. That’s game changing.

James: Anecdotally, I spent the last two and a half hours having a settlement conference in the case that has been in litigation for years, and it was settled and additional stuff came up, it keeps going and going. There are a lot of issues involved. For the last two and a half hours trying to settle this, the guardian ad litem who was appointed by the court, who’s charging both parties to be here.

If you want to pay less and if you want to have a faster divorce, you have to find a way to be agreeable. Click To Tweet

Can you explain what guardian ad litem is?

James: The court has the ability when the parents can’t agree to a parenting schedule or who makes the decision for kids to appoint either a guardian ad litem or what’s called the child’s representative, which you typically do not see is courts appointing a lawyer to represent children, even though a guardian ad litem are attorneys that practice within our division. Beth routinely was appointed and get a lot of that work as well. It’s really someone who’s in the position of being the eyes and ears of the court and also an advocate looking for the best interest of the children. There’s a little more nuance technically to the difference if you’re child representative versus guardian ad litem. It’s appointed by the court and it’s somebody that the court affords great deference to oftentimes. They listen to that individual because that attorney coming in representing the children, appointed by the court, is neutral.

I’m not neutral. When I’m representing my client, I am representing my client. Beth, the same. We are fighting for our client 100%. Sadly, I don’t care about the other client, but I care about my client. There’s a little bit of a difference. In this situation, the guardian ad litem is very involved in the process of helping us try to settle this ongoing dispute because he, when it goes to trial if it does, is going to take a position and it’s not going to be in the middle of the road. At that point in time, he’s going to have to generate a report and based on his findings, he’s going to have to make a recommendation to the court. To Beth’s point, even though this has been in litigation, we’ve been in and out of court and the parties have spent a lot of money, it still may settle. Candidly, with the people involved in this particular case, I’m not sure collaborative or mediation or any of the other alternative forms of dispute resolution would have been effective because there are some issues that probably would have made that ineffective.

Beth: Let me just take that. Some of the issues very often when we’re screening, addiction issues tend to be especially challenging, mental health issues, there are some cases that we automatically say they can’t do it. That doesn’t mean they’re bad people. That doesn’t mean they’re impaired necessarily. For problem-solving, you can’t do it effectively with them. You don’t want to charge them to go through that process only to fail. Screening is a crucial piece. All too often, I think some lawyers will insist on a certain method when it’s really not in the client’s best interest. Believe it or not, super high conflict families are sometimes best suited for ADR. That feels counterintuitive to a lot of people. Oftentimes, these people are control freaks and they want to control their outcome. Very often they’ll say, “I am not going to give this up to a judge.” Contrary to popular belief, I love doing super high conflict families. That challenge is great with the right other attorney on the other side because there are some attorneys that say that they do mediation, and they don’t do it quite as effectively. It’s more of their own personal ego that’s hiding rather than their client’s needs.

Before coming to see an attorney, do I need to know that I’d like my case to be litigated or I’d like alternative dispute? Do I need to be armed with that information prior to making an appointment or visiting with you?

DM 6 | Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alternative Dispute Resolution: Families are best-suited for ADR, even though that feels counterintuitive to a lot of people.


Beth: Could be but hopefully, we’ll learn something from the lawyer that you’re interviewing to help you see it through another lens. I don’t go into any new matter looking with an agenda as to what I think is right for them. I hear all of their needs and their concerns and I have them paint a picture of what life is like at home. All of that helps me decipher what I think is the right approach.

James: To me, whether they do or they don’t, they don’t need to first of all. Candidly, we oftentimes have people come to us. We have tried to exercise a little bit of self-help and they’ve Googled this and Googled that and they’ve got a little bit of information. Sometimes you have a lot of misinformation. What we hope the client comes to us with is an open mic. If they understand they’re paying us for our experience, our training and all of the things that we’ve done to get to this point in their careers, and that they would have some level of trust. When we tell them what we’re recommending or what we’re suggesting, if they’re open to that, I think it’s going to be a little bit better. Sometimes we get people, “I want to do this, I want to do that.” Even if you explain the pitfalls to them, they sometimes are just in this type of process or are incapable of hearing you. They’re so angry, they’re into their own issues that they don’t always follow our lead. We’re going to still try to navigate through all of that.

We’ve written articles on narcissism. That’s interesting because someone comes in and they’re explaining how their spouses are narcissistic and they’re telling you all the things and yet it sounds like a narcissist. You start trying to formulate in your mind what’s the best process. I’m very cynical from my experiences. I think someone with that type of level of narcissism in a mediation or collaborative approach is going to be very willing to do that because they want to be seen as the good person and he’s this charmer that we always hear. They’re going to play along with it. We’ve had cases where we’ve gone very far along. Once you get to the point where the narcissist has to do what he’s supposed to do, but he doesn’t want to do and he can’t control it anymore, that’s sometimes where you get a rub. It takes somebody skilled like Beth to be able to navigate, understanding who we’re dealing with, their personality types or disorders and knowing that when we start pushing and getting him or her to that point where their personality issues are going to push back a little bit, how do you find ways around that?

Beth: James and I both wrote articles on narcissists and our approaches are almost polar opposite. Neither of them is right or wrong. The best part about it is it’s a style. When people come to interview here, we’ve interviewed people together and they see the yin and the yang. I’ve never judged James for his style and vice versa. If anything, it’s a great compliment. To use the narcissist example, there are ways to give a narcissist what they want because you have to let the narcissist win. James, I think you say don’t let him win. I’m not saying which way is right, but that spouse knows which way is right because that spouse knows how to play their husband or their wife because they’ve obviously navigated it for years. They may say, “For sure we need to not give him an inch because then we’re sunk as soon as we do that,” so then your approach is more appropriate. It’s not like James doesn’t shift to my approach and give the narcissist something. When we wrote the articles, I found it fascinating because we both are seeing it in our practice day in and day out. Everybody’s labeling everybody else as a narcissist.

Have you ever had a situation where both husband and wife are narcissists?

Knowledge is power. Unless you know all the data about the case, you are not in a position to negotiate. Click To Tweet

Beth: Who are we to say? Remember, we’re just lawyers. Do they exhibit narcissistic tendencies? Sure. As humans, especially humans getting divorced, everybody’s very much focused on themselves and self-protection.

James: Maybe it’s not clinically diagnosed as being a narcissist, but having strong narcissistic tendencies, I don’t typically see two of those in a marriage. I typically see someone on the other side, which would be histrionic or very codependent. A narcissist really needs someone that is codependent on them. All of this talk about mental health issues and so on so forth, when you start talking about process, you have to have a deeper look and a deeper understanding as to the people you’re going to be working with. That’s where I think, Beth, you can maybe talk a little bit about the collaborative approach where in that process you could bring in a mental health professional that’s viewed as neutral that can understand those things even more than we’ve been able to learn in our experience.

Beth: In a collaborative case that I’ve also used a coach in litigation or mediation, what you’re doing is knowing what you don’t know. If a person is struggling, I like to bring a coach in to help me understand how to reach that person. You have the codependent’s spouse just shutting down. They need to gather data. They need to think about what their future might look like, but they’re incapacitated because they’re out of place where the divorce is here but my brain’s not functioning. A coach can help them with that. In the collaborative model, the coach is there only as a neutral. The coach is coaching both the husband and wife and if the lawyers aren’t acting appropriately. A little bit of a referee role, helping everybody navigate the many minefields of emotion and managing them to the best they can and having them think forward.

A lot of times, coaches are reminding me that clients want to get bogged down in their stories and the more we go down those rabbit holes with them, the less helpful it is. If everybody’s rehashing their past what you do day in and day out, we’re not helping them. We need to have them help envision the future and coaches are really good at reframing that and getting everybody to look forward. I love using coaches for that reason. Also in collaborative, we have a financial neutral. Having said that, financial neutrals are sometimes used in litigations. We’re always trying to craft a team that saves people money. That’s emotionally on the coach side or financially with the evaluator who works for both sides.

James: I think if the audience takes one thing away from that, every client always has the same question, “How long is it going to take and how much is it going to cost?” One goes hand in hand with the other. The longer it takes, regardless of the process, the more expensive it’s going to be. That’s the one thing that people have to understand. What we try to do, whether it’s through a litigation approach or an alternative dispute resolution and mediation, collaborative, cooperative, we try to get people through the process as quickly as we can. A lot of lawyers and other firms don’t necessarily share that motivation because it’s counterproductive to billable hours, which is how divorce lawyers operate. If you want to pay less and if you want to have a faster divorce, you have to find a way to be agreeable.

DM 6 | Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alternative Dispute Resolution: If you get stuck in court, you can be in court easily for a year to two years.


That’s really difficult when one person can’t stand the other, one person’s an addict, you name it. It’s a very complex subset of the population we’re dealing with in this context. It seems really simple. Just agree upon everything. It’s fast, it’s inexpensive but that’s truly what it comes down to. In litigation, if you get stuck in court, you can be in court easily for a year, two years. I’ve had cases beyond two years to get to trial. Beth could probably tell you stories of cases that have been mediated and collaborative. Maybe they don’t go that long. Maybe they do, but certainly, they go a long time. It’s because people can’t get to that point where they’re willing to make a concession, they’re willing to see something a little more even. That’s the challenge regardless of the process getting people to a point of.

If I start my case with one process and it’s not working and I need to switch to a different process, is that a possibility? If so, what is the process of tackling that?

Beth: I can tell you the most typical approach is mediation or collaborative. Almost everybody wants to at least try, “Let me try to see what we can do.” If a collaborative team, with the assistance of the two lawyers and everybody has a lawyer, the coach that we talked about is neutral. That team approach, if by chance they don’t reach all terms, everybody is excluded from helping the family move forward. It’s a disqualification provision that the lawyers and their whole firms cannot help that family moving forward. Some people are like, “Why would I spend all that money, put all my eggs in that basket only if we don’t reach terms, we’re done?” I think that’s exactly to James’ point why people should do it because they do have the answer. Even though there are many hurdles and they feel like they can’t ever reach terms, they can and everybody’s got skin in the game. As a lawyer, I don’t get to walk you down the hall to my litigation partner when we’re done. I make money, let’s pretend on mediation and then I make money in litigation. In collaborative, everybody that’s called a limited scope engagement, we’re done right there. On the other side, I’ve had people drop out of litigation and come to me for the collaborative approach because they saw the devastation, they saw the money and the time and they said, “We want to sign up for this process and let’s get it done.” It’s not nearly as common but it does happen. I’m sure you could say in litigation you pull out and go to mediation all the time.

James: I think what you said to start is we try to avail ourselves of some out of court means before we start fighting it out. Once you get in court, generally you stay in court. Judges want to see you back every month for statuses and updates, the discovery process goes. To me, I’m not as pushy in terms of which form. Some people want to work with a mediator. When there are finances involved, I strongly advise clients to work through attorney assisted mediation, where the attorneys are there in the mediation process. When it comes to the children, I’m less concerned about that because parents, with a good mediator, can resolve how they want to raise their children. Sometimes you can take a collaborative approach, but if they don’t do it with all of the formalities so that you don’t have to change firms, Beth would tell you that’s not the purest way to do it but sometimes we’ve done it that way.

We have lawyers in my office with the parties and we had settlement conferences for two and a half hours. To me, the real benefit to Beermann is we’ve got such tremendously talented lawyers who have different styles like Beth mentioned before. I believe in all of this stuff that Beth does and I really do, but I’m just not wired that way. I’m a fighter. Let’s filter it down, “What’s the issue? Let’s solve the issue,” person. My head would explode sitting in meditation for eight hours where you’ve got whiteboards and snacks on the table and all this stuff. I think it’s a great process. I’m not well-suited for that process. You want to go fight, I’m your guy.

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Beth: If the client comes to you looking for an approach, going back to your pivot, you’ve got a really strong team of lawyers that you’re going to create the right team for that client. A client who wants the fighter to feel protected, he’s there. He’s always going to be there. If you want to soft sell for a little bit, you’re over there. They’re working on that side. I do it a lot. I’ll bring James in and say, “This is what it’s going to look like.” The next thing you know, the client’s back to, “We’ve got to stay soft,” because ultimately it’s going to cost them obviously financially but also emotionally. That family is devastated after that. They certainly can’t imagine sitting at their children’s wedding together or anything like that in the future because they’re just devastated with one another.

James: That really to me is the best too is having us work at teams in Beermann. It is really effective. I can tell you there are times Beth or one of my partners, Shana Vitek, where they get to a point in an alternative dispute process where they say, “Quigley is going to take over now,” and the lawyer said, “No.” They understand this is the direction that we’ll go and it sometimes causes people to think twice whether you really want to blow up that process.

You mentioned cost several times. What are the cost differences between litigation and ADR?

James: I’m not sure there’s much of a difference because I am elaborative in its purest form. People are cooperating and they’re transparent in other words, in litigation. I’ve got to pull information like I’m pulling teeth. I’ve got to send subpoenas. I’ve got to take people’s depositions. I’ve got to hire investigators sometimes to get information. In theory, my hourly rate, Beth’s hourly rate doesn’t change from one process to the next. If in my process I’m doing 100 hours’ worth of work and Beth is doing 50 hours’ worth of work. If you do the math, it’s just going to be less expensive. You hear this adage all the time, “Time is money.” That’s regardless of the process. It circles back to how quickly can you get to a point of resolution? I don’t care what the process is. If you don’t have transparency in any process, you’re not going to get a resolution. I need to know, Beth needs to know the same facts. How much do people earn? What assets do they have? Are they marital? Are they non-marital? We have to have the basic set of facts that we’re operating off of. If that can be produced voluntarily, you’re going to save time, you’re going to save money.

Beth: To build on, “Time is money,” as an adage, another is, “Knowledge is power.” Unless you have the knowledge of all the data that James alluded to, you’re not in a position to negotiate. Another common misconception is if you’re doing any form of ADR, you never get all the data. James will tell you in litigation, there’s no guarantee that you ever got all the data either. Ultimately, we both have the parties sign an affidavit saying they disclosed everything. If later determined that somebody hid something, it’s the same remedy to rectify it. We try hard to help people see that because you’re pulling out of court doesn’t mean that you are getting any fewer data. I’m just as vigilant as James in ensuring that all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed and that everybody has the same knowledge. There are no shortcuts by doing ADR.

DM 6 | Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alternative Dispute Resolution: Listen to your lawyers. They know what they’re doing; that’s why you’re hiring and paying them.


Can you offer maybe three takeaways for people, whether they’re choosing litigation or whether alternative dispute resolution is their direction? What are the top things people should think about before they pick up the phone and make an appointment with you?

James: I don’t know if I have a top three but generally speaking, when you come in and interview a divorce lawyer, and assuming you have some information, a little information or none at all, it doesn’t matter. First and foremost, when you come to a firm like Beermann that has the resources at a very top level to be able to provide whichever process works best for you and your family. That’s number one. Not every lawyer, not every law firm has that ability the way we do. That to me I think is important because if you don’t have options and you go see a sole practitioner, he’s a litigation lawyer and he’s going to say, “This is what we do.” That might not really be the best. Get yourself to someone that has different resources within that same firm. That’s very valuable. Number two, ask your attorney that you’re interviewing about those processes, which you have an understanding of how they work. We’ve touched the surface on what the different processes are and how they work. There’s so much more depth to litigation, to collaborative, to mediation and you have to understand it a little. As we said, knowledge is power. You want to be making an informed decision, both of the lawyer you select, the process that you’re going to go.

I’m going to add a fourth, but number three is listen to your lawyers if you’re hiring them and you’re paying them. Beth and I, 27, 28 years of experience each, that’s a lot of experiences we’ve had. We know what we’re doing. We have different styles and different approaches but hear us and that’s really what you’re paying for. The last thing, I just want to add this in, make sure you understand as a person coming to hire a lawyer, that the money that you’re going to spend, there’s never a situation where it’s, “We’re going to make him pay for the lawyers or her pay for the lawyers.” It doesn’t work that way. More often than that, the money that’s being paid in a divorce, I don’t care what process is selected, is coming out of the estate. Don’t be misled. Understand that if you spend $100,000 on your side and your husband spends $100,000, that $200,000 is coming directly out of the marital estate. Pay each lawyer $10,000 and say you get an extra $90,000, you get $90,000. Don’t be misled on some of the stories about who’s going to pay for attorney’s fees. You’re all paying for it.

Beth: Which brings up the stories. I’m always trying to remind people at the beginning that they will hear some lawyers tell them what they want to hear. We at Beermann are very cautious to not do that because we want to set the expectation at the beginning as to their possible outcomes. At the end of the day, we can accomplish the vast majority of their goals. We’re not trying to sell them on something that we know we can’t achieve. Be careful of the Greek chorus, the proverbial Greek chorus. Everybody’s got their story of who they went to and why and why this lawyer is great and that lawyer’s great. I don’t just sway people from it. I think you know who you can trust and who you can’t. Keep a really sharp look through what those people’s motivations are because very often it’s not always that person’s best interests that they’re looking at. Everybody’s got their own story. Every case has its own story. To try to compare me to your cousin’s divorce probably is not a good use of time and it ultimately costs money. We make a lot of money on people calling and saying, “What about this and what about that?” To James’ point, you have to listen to your lawyer. My last piece of advice is to keep control over your outcome by considering an out of court settlement up to and including the last day right before the trial starts. Ponder what is at stake and don’t spend $3 to save $1. Be thoughtful about where you spend your money.

James: I’ve got to add one more thing. When I’ve had clients that they’ve hired other lawyers at other firms and they come to us and things haven’t gone well. I ask the question, “What was the strategy you had?” They look at you like a deer in the headlights like, “What do you mean? Strategy?” “What was the plan when you hired that lawyer? Did that lawyers say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do. If this happens, then we’ll do that?”’ From our perspective, part of an initial counsel, if you’re hiring us and we’re going to be your lawyers, we have to have a plan of action. We have to have a strategy. You should walk away from that interview having some sense of what we’re doing and what the end game is.

Beth: That is so we’re not going down a rabbit hole spending the $3 to get $1. They need to know why we’re doing what we want to do when, and we’re laying out that strategy at day one and we’re having many meetings in between explaining it.

I have one more question. Is there a fee for a consultation?

James: For me, sometimes. I typically charge a consultation fee if someone isn’t ready to move forward and they just want to take an hour of my time, fair, I’m happy to give my thoughts and impressions. I typically would charge someone for that. If someone says, “I was referred to you by so and so and I want to get moving,” or “I received a call from home that I’ve been serving,” and he was referred to me. Come on in. I’m not going to charge you for that consultation. It’s more for me. Administrative, let’s talk through the process. Let’s develop our strategy. Let’s get the general information we need to get going in a way we go on. In that context, I generally won’t.

Beth: I am identical. More often than not, we’ll waive it as a courtesy but there are instances where I have to charge, but the client knows that well in advance. No one gets blindsided.

This has been fascinating. If you’d like to learn more about James and Beth, please go to www.BeermannLaw.com. Please follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn. This isn’t the last that you’ve heard from James and Beth. They’ll be back talking about different divorce topics. Thank you.

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About Beth F. McCormack

DM 6 | Alternative Dispute Resolution

Beth F. McCormack focuses on highly complex family law matters with vast experience in complex litigation, as well as Mediation and Collaborative Law. Beth also represents children, when appointed by the Court, which makes her unparalleled in her ability to navigate complex parenting issues. Beth appreciates the sensitivity surrounding high net-worth, high-profile, and child-related matters, with each requiring a very different skill set.

Beth’s practice is founded on compassion and empathy. She sees it as her responsibility to be aware of each person’s needs, seeking the most appropriate solution for each client.

Beth’s vast family law experience enables her to handle and settle complex and sophisticated issues many families face. She is an unwavering advocate for the best interests of children and easily navigates families through the highly emotional nature of any divorce.

As one of the most influential attorneys in Chicago, Beth has naturally become a mentor to many professionals in the legal community. Her peers consistently nominate her as a Best Lawyer, Super Lawyer, and Leading Lawyer. Most recently, Beth was named top 50 women Super Lawyers. Her work ethic and community involvement have earned her accolades within the legal community, and beyond.

Ms. McCormack has a monthly column in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin where she educates other lawyers on best practices and writes for many other publications as well.

About James M. Quigley

DM 6 | Alternative Dispute Resolution

Partner James M.  Quigley is widely regarded as a highly-esteemed and experienced Illinois Divorce/Family Law attorney and litigator. Mr. Quigley has successfully tried complex financial, custody, removal and other contested cases in Cook, Lake, DuPage, and other counties throughout the state of Illinois, since 1992.


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