Fighting Over The Lawn Ornaments

It amazes me how often clients or potential clients think that the lawyer is “not fighting for them.”  I suppose sometimes it is true, but more often it is based on emotional responses to good advise from the lawyer.  On of the classic triggers for this type of response is for the lawyer to suggest that it may not be productive to fight over every tiny bit of property on the list of personal property.

If the marital estate has $20,000 worth of property composed of beds. couches, stereos and yes-lawn ornaments-each side can anticipate getting roughly $10,000 worth of stuff.  For one reason or another most of these items are self selecting.  For example, the $300 flyfishing set will typically be set aside to the husband and the $150 scrapbooking kit and the $150 worth of pots and pans will be set aside to the wife. 

These items will typically balance each other out leaving maybe 30% of the estate which could be taken by either side.  Lets call these items the lawn ornaments.   Lets say there is an especially beautiful garden gnome left to divide that was bought for $100.  Lets say that one side or another has invested significant emotional baggage in the garden gnome.  Perhaps the other side is hell bent on dividing the property EXACTLY down the middle. 

Lets say the lawyers make $200/hr.  Every minute that the combined team of lawyers spends on the lawn ornament costs $6.66.  Lawyers bill in increments of 1/10 hr or 6 minutes per billing entry.  If each lawyer spends 1/1o of one hour that is a comined bill of nearly $80.  Most lawyers charge 2/10 of an hour per phone call.  That is a combined bill of nearly $160. 

If the clients are really invested in this particular lawn ornament it will probably take more than a single phone call to resolve.  Otherwise productive settlement discussions get blown up over such stupidity.  Even if one side or the other eventually gives in the financial cost can be astronomical in relation to the real value of the item.

Take my advice-if the lawyer looks at you cross-eyed because you want to fight over the lawn ornament you have a good lawyer.  If your lawyer wants to feed the fight over the lawn ornament then look very carefully at your next bill.