In this episode, Jake Gilbreath meets with a previous client, Hoyd, who shares his journey and offers a candid account of his experience finding the right law firm to represent him. By discussing the attorney-client relationship, Jake and Hoyd offer insights into legal professionals’ vital role in assisting their clients through family law proceedings.
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Your hosts have earned a reputation as fierce and effective advocates inside and outside of the courtroom. Both partners are experienced trial attorneys who have been board-certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
Jake Gilbreath:All right, well thanks for tuning into For Better, Worse, or Divorce podcast, where we provide you tips and insight of how to navigate divorce and child custody situations. I’m Jake Gilbreath. I’m one of the managing partners of Walters Gilbreath. And today, we thought it would be interesting or a good idea to have a former client of mine, Hoyd Breton, on who has been so nice to work out the scheduling with us. He’ll be the first one to say that I was difficult. And I feel bad. He told me to stop apologizing. I feel bad how difficult it was to schedule this. But I want to talk through things with Hoyd and his experiences. So, Hoyd, without further ado. We never had to go to court in your case, but I want to start like we would if we were in court. What’s your name and what do you do for work?
Hoyd: My name is Hoyd Breton, and for work I’m a software designer.
Jake Gilbreath: What is software design? Tell me, as somebody who’s a poli-sci major and stuck being a lawyer, what do you do as a software designer?
Hoyd: So essentially within the scope of the business, trying to define what could be helpful tools to add to the business, that would be valuable for our customers. And so it goes all the way from engaging with current customers and doing user research to understand their needs and any opportunities, then creating prototypes to see if the designs are meeting those needs. And then once there’s confirmation and direction, then it’s actually scoping it out and defining it in terms of engineering.
Jake Gilbreath:Love it. All stuff that is way over my head. My brain just does not work that way. I think I’ve said on the podcast, and maybe I told it to you or not, but I have a real limited skill set. If people stop getting divorced, I’m in a lot of trouble, because there’s not much more I can do.
Hoyd: Your future is bright, my friend.
Jake Gilbreath:Yeah, that seems to be the case. Well, so talk to us about how did you and I meet? What was going on when you called me?
Hoyd:So I was looking for a partner to handle divorce that was super diligent and precise and had experience, and also was focused in family law. And so I did some deep dives on Google and Reddit and everywhere, and your name came up, well as some others. And after interviewing you and some others, I really felt great about what this could entail. Yeah, I’m super happy I chose you as my partner in this journey.
Jake Gilbreath: Well, that’s interesting you say partner. I like that a lot. I think that you’re the first person I’ve heard refer to it that way. And I may be stealing that, just so you know. But why do you say partner? Most people say, “I was looking to hire a lawyer. I needed somebody to represent me. I needed somebody to handle my divorce.” I’ve heard all those. Why do you say partner?
Hoyd: Because I really feel like the process, it’s not a passive one. You’re the professional and you know the law. But then I can’t just go into the situation in some naive fashion, and so I need to educate myself. And then it creates much richer volleys when we have conversations in terms of what’s realistic, what’s fair objectively for both parties. So I just feel like it just required engagement. And so yeah, partnership felt more fitting.
Jake Gilbreath: Yeah. No, I appreciate that. I like that because, I’m sure I talked your ear off about it whenever I was your partner. Although we’re still partners, right?
Hoyd: Yeah, yeah, we’re still rocking.
Jake Gilbreath: Yeah, your case is done, but I want to know what’s going on. I want to know what’s going on with your kiddo and everything. When I was your partner and doing all this. I know we’ve had this conversation some, and with some clients, they’ll talk to you about it, some won’t, but just communication and stuff like that. I think you and I had conversations like what we do well, what we could do better. But first of all, what were you looking for or what were you expecting? And what’d you discover about communication when it comes to having a lawyer represent you and work with you through this process?
Hoyd:Essential. It’s so essential because earlier in the process I would find myself asking myself questions. And I’m not the professional so I would want to field the questions with you. And making progress on answering those questions just allows me to go further to the next step. So without having proper communication or frequent communication, I feel like the process just lingers. I feel like our flow, our process was pretty buttoned-up and expedient. I feel like we took care of business and it was in a speedy fashion but still diligent.
Jake Gilbreath:Yeah, it’s something that we’re passionate about too, is communication and everything. I’ll be frank, what I remember about representing you too is if there was a time let’s say if we weren’t diligent – I was in court or maybe I missed an email or something like that. You at first would say, “Hey, respond to the email.” I was like, “Oh crap. Yeah, that’s right. Here’s the email.” Which is sometimes all we want. It’s just the, “Shoot me a text. Hey, let’s get on and actually talk about this.” Which from the lawyer’s perspective is really helpful. I have so many, well not so many, but I have some clients, which I get it, they’ve hired me to do it, but it’s almost like we had to stalk them to get information or explain the process and stuff like that.
Which I totally get. I’ve been through a divorce. The last thing that you want is a phone call from your divorce lawyer. It’s really never good news because at the end of the day you’re still going through a divorce. So it’s like talking to a doctor. You maybe like your doctor, but it’s rare that it’s just great news. Now on balance, it’s good to be able to say when there’s positive progress in the case and everything.
But point being when I had to sort of stalk clients or track them down or try to explain the process and stuff like that. Where I feel like I’m bugging them, that could be an extreme on the other end that’s difficult for the relationship. So I really did appreciate that about it. And frankly as a lawyer it actually makes me feel like I’m helping if you actually want to understand the process. It’s like, “Why is it that possession access works this way?” “Why is it that child support works this way?”
One of the reasons why we do this podcast is to talk about it. Some lawyers I think have the approach of, “It is that way because it is. Because I said it is, and I’m the professional, and you just do what I tell you to do.” And I do think it’s more of a guidance situation.
When you were shopping around for law firms, don’t give me names or anything, but what attracted you as far as who you decide to interview? And then what was appealing about other law firms and not appealing, and same for us?
Hoyd: I would say concentration in practice. I found some divorce attorneys, they covered a lot of different ground. And I really wanted a focus in family law, because I would imagine if you spent most of your time within a certain concentration, you have a bit more experience. So that was one layer.
Another one was a sense of definitely professionalism, but also the resources. I felt like there were some resources around your firm that felt like they were really helpful and informative and supportive, and that was really attractive. But that was all to just first make that initial list of conversations. And it’s truly in the conversation that that’s where the hunch gets either confirmed or rejected.
Jake Gilbreath: Yeah, it’s like getting a good review for something. It’s going to click or not. I always say it’s kind of like finding a therapist too. It needs to be the right click. Some people don’t click, some people do. Well, tell me if I’m digging too personal, but talk to me about… I said I’ve been through a divorce. It’s not fun. But as far as the process and everything, what surprised you about the process, if anything? And then what was some of the most difficult stuff to deal with, as somebody going through a divorce?
Hoyd:The most difficult is there are two things that are coupled. One thing is the emotional breaking apart of a relationship, that in my case it was around eight years. So that makes it very hard to then at the same time think about legal matters and logistical matters. So, I would say the emotional aspect itself was one of the most challenging experiences I ever have gone through in my life. Right now, I’m 37 years old and that takes the cake by far. But then to add another layer of the legal and logistical matters, that’s a really intense situation, for sure.
Jake Gilbreath:Yeah. You know, it’s funny because I’ve referenced that on this podcast before too. It’s just like when people ask me about my divorce, they say, “Well, I assume you represented yourself.” Like, “Hell no, I’m not going to represent myself. I can’t think straight myself, going through this process.” It’s just not fun. Every single divorce is different. They all have their different levels of difficulty. But I wasn’t in the right state of mind. And I do this. I only do family law. I had been doing it for some time in going through my divorce. And I was not in a position to where I would be making a rational decision, not the right way of putting it. I was just able to process the information and feed myself the information at the same time. I needed a partner that I had in my divorce going through it. Because it affects your decision-making.
And that’s interesting, I hope I struck the right balance in your case. But as far as practicing family law and everything, on the one hand my job is to give you the dry advice of, “Hey, Hoyd, this is how possession schedules work in the state of Texas. And this is how child support works in the state of Texas. This is how we do property division.” But at the same time be able to look and go, “This really sucks, right?” Or, “Hey, this is looking better. This is great. We’re moving on.” Or something in between. But as somebody going through it, did you have a preference? You are an engineer, right? Here’s the dry, “If this, then that.” Or are you kind of looking for more in your partner?
Hoyd: I think a little blend, like 80/20. So 80% being the professional and brass tacks, and then a little bit of the 20% of empathy. I think it’s helpful. And I think also could get calibrated based on the recipient, because different folks have different needs. But overall I think at the end of the day you’re here to be my partner and represent me and provide me with the best legal guidance possible. So that is the essentials, right? It just it requires a little bit of bedside manners when somebody’s going through a very rough time emotionally.
Jake Gilbreath:Yeah, not always the best at it. We do try to. And it doesn’t need to be the other extreme where I’m just sitting there crying with you. You want to just say, “It’s okay.” And we’ve also talked about that in the podcast, is at the end of the day I think clients want to hear, “It’s going to be okay.”
It’s not fun all the time. It is a difficult situation. A lot of times you’re breaking up with somebody that is very close to you, very important. Your kids are involved. You’re like me. You and I both start crying talking about our kids. You’re talking about your kid and everything, but at the same time too we need to move forward, and what I always describe as make business decisions. Even when it comes to our kids, we have to make business decisions.
We can be emotional, but then we have to put on our adult pants and figure out, “What are we going to do?” And that’s again, no different than a doctor. On the one hand, a doctor needs to be able to say, “Okay, option A, B, C. It’s not fun that you’re talking to me, but these are your options and here’s what we’re going to do. And we’re going to get you through it.”
So, in your case, I guess tell us. We were able to resolve it without going to court, which is always, as somebody who tries cases all day every day, I still preach that that’s the best thing to do is have these things resolved, where you’re kind of in control of your own fate. What was that like? That moment where you’re done, you sign it, and the process stops.
Hoyd: The relief, even though it was quite a journey to get there. Because I don’t know if you recall, but we promoted mediation, and then it was accepted at some point. And the terms we arrived at in mediation were ultimately rejected by the other party. But then that’s essentially, those are the terms that we agreed on in the final settlement, but it took months later and thousands of dollars later. So at the high altitude, macro level, it’s definitely a relief, but it’s still a puzzle in my mind. I try not to revisit it often. But when we dodge logic and in emotional situations, sure, they’re super-charged and it could blur logic. But dang, if there are certain terms in terms of the law, it just seems strange to kind of fantasize for other conclusions.
Jake Gilbreath:Yeah, I get that. There’s that feeling sometimes. Without going into specific details, where you just want to metaphorically shake the other side and just go, “I’m being rational. I’m working really hard to be rational and reasonable. I’m actually making compromises that I never thought I would make.” And then somebody that I share my life with or share a child with or both, it’s like, “You’re not meeting me here.” That can be really frustrating.
And yeah, I do remember that about your case. And then us having to sit there. And it did cause a delay, but just saying, “This is the deal. This is a good deal. This is what Hoyd’s willing to do. This is what makes sense for him and his kiddo and y’all moving forward. And that’s the deal, y’all.” Tell me if I’m sharing too much, but being willing to say, “I want to compromise. I want to get it resolved, but I’m not going to do something silly. We’ll be here when y’all are ready to meet us,” as I recall your case settling. Yeah. And then it did. But that’s frustrating, right? It’s like, “Why couldn’t we have done this?” I’m going to hope that you liked spending time with me, but it probably wasn’t fun paying me. And we could have done it three months, four months earlier.
Hoyd:Yeah, for sure. At the same time, I also try to put on my empathy hat too, because the other person, they’re not doing it necessarily because they enjoy the process and they want to drag it on. They’re doing it because they believe that they’re not getting a fair shake. So it’s super challenging trying to be empathetic while also reviewing the logic, and just at the end of the day, it’s not computing. But ultimately we concluded the situation in a way that I believe was fair for both parties. Even if it wasn’t, we both agreed to it, so I believe that there was a sense of fairness.
Jake Gilbreath: Yeah, they can go off and be a rock star dad. All right, well I didn’t tell you I was going to ask this, but I’m going to put you on the spot. What could we do better? Because it is helpful. The best reviews are the five-star glowing reviews of, “You guys are awesome. We knocked it out of the park.” The most helpful ones are the ones that go, “You guys did a good job, but here’s what I would do different if I were you.”
Hoyd:I enjoyed how you and, I don’t know if she was your assistant. I enjoyed the expectation setting, however early in the process, but the brackets were very wide. And so I understand why the brackets were very wide in terms of setting those expectations, because you don’t want to set up false expectations. It does generate a lot of, excuse me, anxiety when the brackets are very wide, regardless of what it’s respective to.
And so I wonder, “Hey, so please be mindful that every case is unique, however we have three cases that are kind of akin to yours.” Without divulging details obviously, but sharing a little bit more specifics in terms of some results with those cases. And again, bookending it with, “Again, every case is unique and we cannot guarantee any results.” I think that would’ve provided a little bit more comfort, grounding expectations in, and to whatever legally possible extent you could go, but grounding it in actual cases instead of very wide generic brackets. Does that make sense?
Jake Gilbreath:That makes a lot of sense. I am going to have to take that and think about how to incorporate that, because it is. I try to acknowledge it. It’s got to be a huge frustration for clients, because the practice of law in general is kind of this, “It depends,” or “We’ll see,” or “Maybe.” I think I may have shared this with you, maybe not, but I always say, to make a stereotype, but I’m going to do it. Yeah, I always say that lawyers drive engineers nuts the most, right? Because engineers are used to hearing, “If A happens, then B’s going to be the result. And then if B happens, then C’s going to be the result. That’s what happened.” You need to be able to provide that to your job, for example. “Hey, if you guys do this, this is what you’re going to see.”
And then for lawyers, it’s the, “Well, maybe. Depends on what judge we get. And what if this judge surprises me? I’m not positive.” Even something as simple as child support. “Hey, what’s my child support going to be?” “Well, it should be this number, but in some instances the court can go above guidelines. It depends on the needs of the child. And this judge is a little high, but this one’s not.”
Now I’m doing it, where I just talk and sort of spew information. So one extreme is just totally vague. “Hoyd, I don’t know. It’s crazy down at that courthouse. And these judges are all crazy. And I don’t know what’s going to happen. We just got to batten down the hatches and hope for the best.” That’s one extreme, which obviously isn’t helpful. The other extreme is never trust a lawyer who sits there and gives you a guarantee. And just sits there and goes, “No way, no how is that ever going to happen down at the courthouse. No way is Judge So-and-So…”
This is a side story, but you remember me, I just like to ramble. One of the best lessons I got as a trial lawyer was from a lawyer named John Behr who’s retired now. And this was back when I was Jim Piper’s associate. I don’t know if you got a chance to meet Jim when you were working with us, Hoyd, he is of counsel now. But I was working for Jim. I was a two-year lawyer. And those listening who know Jim will appreciate that Jim back then could sometimes be a bit animated, could sometimes be a bit forceful with opposing counsel.
And we are sitting there in John’s office. Jim and John are close, close friends. And we got this case. And John’s side’s a little ridiculous. We really are going to go kick their ass in court. And John got on as the second lawyer for the dad. So it wasn’t really his fault, but it was going to happen. And Jim was all worked up about this case. And we’re in John’s office, we’re just talking. And then this case comes up. And Jim, kind of in classic Jim-fashion, just sits there and starts going, “This position your guy’s taking, it’s just ridiculous. I’m going to get attorney’s fees. John, your client’s going to pay attorney’s fees.” The judge was a guy named Mark Silverstone. “Judge Silverstone, no way is Judge Silverstone going to give you what you want. I’m going to go get attorney’s fees.” Jim was a lot more animated than I was just then telling. And John just calmly looks over at me and goes, “Maybe.”
And Jim changed on a dime. He calmed down. And he looked at me, and he said, “That is the best lesson you’ll ever get as a trial lawyer. It’s ‘Maybe, but maybe not.'” So we’re so scared, right? What if I tell Hoyd, “Don’t worry, buddy, it’s never going to happen.” Then what if you’re that one in 50 where it does? What if I just jinxed you?
Hoyd: Yeah. And I’m definitely not advocating for that. But so scenario A is like, “Oh, regarding this thing, it’s generally between X and Y.” And X and Y, the balance is significant. You could still say that, but scenario B is, “Generally it’s between X and Y. I had two cases recently within the same district or whatnot that one resulted in this direction, and one resulted in this direction.”
But it’s just kind of informative because the range is abstracted from an actual human and a case that happened. But whenever you’re able to refer to, again whatever’s legally possible – to some detail, something that happened recently, given the recent conditions of things, then that. It’s not something that one should get attached to it. And then you could kind of ensure the client doesn’t get attached to that. But I do think I find it’s a bit helpful.
Jake Gilbreath: I think that’s right. I like that sort of brackets too. Again, so the doctor analogy, I probably wouldn’t like it if I went and talked to my doctor and said, “You’ve been diagnosed with this.” And I say, “Well, what’s that mean?” And they go, “I don’t know.”
Hoyd: Or, “You’ve been diagnosed with this, and there’s a 20 to 80% chance of this thing happening. However, we had one patient that had this result, and then another patient that had this result.” And that just starts really humanizing the polarity, the poles of things. It just feels a bit easier to hold.
Jake Gilbreath: I like that. Hey, this is my favorite part of our conversation, and I sprung it on you. So thanks for sharing with that. I’m actually going to wrap us up on that because I think that’s great. And I’m going to take that to heart. For those listening, if you like what you heard today, do us a favor and leave a review. We appreciate all feedback, especially when it helps us better the podcast. And if you’re interested in speaking to our firm, you can of course find us at waltersgilbreath.com. You can email us at email@example.com. Thanks for listening.
For information about the topics covered in today’s episode and more, you can visit our website at waltersgilbreath.com. Thanks for tuning in to today’s episode of For Better, Worse, or Divorce, where we post new episodes every first and third Wednesday. Do you have a topic you want discussed or a question for our hosts? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for listening. Until next time.