A family member of mine practices law and focuses on criminal cases and divorce. He works hard, knows his stuff, and prospers. His clients rarely may be acquitted or obtain the divorce they were seeking. But they rarely profit from the experience. It’s not that my in-law charges any more or less than may criminal and family attorneys in his area. It’s simply the nature of his business: the law dictates that court documents be filled out and filed properly; hearings must be attended, in person, by attorneys; witnesses must be deposed; evidence must be requested and examined; and if no plea bargain can be reached or charges are not dismissed, a trial must be held.
The end result is that fees add up, at an eye-watering hourly rate, for his time, whether it’s a young man accused of robbery or a middle-aged couple hell-bent on divorce. In either case, it’s the families and individuals who pay, and too many times they’re in no position to drop ten or twenty thousand dollars in legal fees. But they feel they must, especially in criminal cases, and they do. They take out second mortgages on their homes, liquidate what assets they have, and pay up.
Few of them come out of the process financially sound. Many never recover from it, financially or emotionally. Any resources that could have committed to a child for college, to a relative to help them open their own business, or an inheritance for future generations to build on are gone.
Emotions run high between couples in the middle of a divorce. Proceedings that could have cost a couple of thousand dollars end up costing fifty thousand. Logic is deposed by vengeance, and hard-earned dollars go up in smoke.
Divorce is common today, but its frequency does not lessen its destructiveness. I would never pretend to give marital–or premarital–advice outside of what I’ve covered in the Marriage and Family section of The Old Money Book. I would caution young lovers and couples everywhere, however, to think long and hard about their relationships and how they might behave if things run aground. Divorce is painful, but it doesn’t have to be financially ruinous.
Secondly, doing something illegal is risky business. Whether it’s insider trading on Wall Street or dealing drugs on the corner, there are dozens of government agencies with infinite resources at their disposal eager to make you a statistic. The prosperity derived from illegal activities is almost always short-lived, and the consequences often overshadow any luster they briefly held. What’s more, future earnings potential–in the legal world, anyway– drop like a big rock off a tall cliff once you’ve got a record.
Potential employers, business partners, and marriage partners of any value will all weigh, not just your future potential, but your past choices as well. Unlike your pastor, priest, or rabbi, they won’t be forgiving if you do something stupid.
And that is the way they will refer to it, not without accuracy.
So be smart. Give yourself a fighting chance to do well in this life. Avoid legal problems. Settle your issues outside court. Don’t associate with people or make choices that could pull you into court.
Take the high road.