How to Find the Right Divorce Attorney: Ian Steinberg The Anti-Shark

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Episode Description

Think divorce lawyers intentionally stir the pot and create conflict to line their own pockets? Ian Steinberg is different.

As a top New York family law attorney Ian is on a mission to help people through one of life's most challenging transitions. Unlike some other divorce lawyers, Ian advocates for a team approach where divorce lawyers, divorce coaches, financial advisors and others collaborate to help clients achieve their goals as efficiently as possible.

He offers pragmatic advice on how clients can be effective team members themselves by maintaining organization, defining priorities, and working with their lawyer to achieve the result they want.

With nuanced wisdom honed from years of experience in litigation, mediation, and Collaborative Divorce, Ian makes a compelling case for divorcing spouses to take the driver's seat in their own divorce. His focus on reasonable, cost-effective resolutions demonstrates that the right divorce attorney can be a compassionate guide during turmoil rather than merely another adversary.

For anyone who's looking to hire a divorce lawyer who can be reasonable, effective AND efficient, Ian's perspective is a must-listen.

Show Notes

About Ian

Ian is a matrimonial and family law attorney with Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, LLP. His practice focuses on the litigation, mediation, negotiation, and settlement of complex high net worth matrimonial and family law cases. Ian also specializes in negotiating and drafting prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. Ian is formally trained in mediation and regularly mediates divorce and family law matters. Ian has also been trained in collaborative law and regularly represents clients who wish to engage in such a process.

Connect with Ian

You can connect with Ian on LinkedIn at Ian Craig Steinberg or on Facebook at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, LLP.  To work with Ian and find out more about the law firm, visit their website at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, LLP or email Ian at [email protected].

Key Takeaways From This Episode with Ian

  • Ian Steinberg is a matrimonial and family law attorney who practices in New York City, Long Island, Westchester and New Jersey.
  • He specializes in litigation, mediation, negotiation and settlement of complex, high net worth divorce cases.
  • He discusses the negative reputation divorce lawyers often have but aims to break that by being settlement-minded and cost-effective for clients.
  • He believes divorce lawyers should aim to get clients through the process as painlessly and cost-effectively as possible.
  • He recommends clients work with a "team" including a divorce coach, financial advisor, etc. in addition to the attorney.
  • Clients can be better team members by being organized, providing lists of questions/priorities, and reviewing financial documents.
  • Ian explains the different divorce process options (negotiation, mediation, collaborative, litigation) and how to choose the right one.
  • He highlights the importance of knowing the judge's tendencies and county differences when litigating.
  • Ian stresses avoiding trial if possible due to the high costs, time delays, and loss of control over the outcome.
  • The majority of people in court are already divorced and dealing with post-judgment issues, which negotiated settlements may help avoid.
  • His firm's website showcases their philosophy and approach, which can guide clients in selecting the right attorney fit.

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 How to Find the Right Divorce Attorney:  Ian Steinberg The Anti-Shark


negotiation, settlement, family law, divorce coach, team 


Karen Covy, Ian Steinberg

Karen Covy Host00:10

Hello and welcome to Off the Fence, a podcast where we deconstruct difficult decision-making so we can discover what keeps us stuck and, more importantly, how we can get unstuck and start making even tough decisions with confidence. I'm your host, Karen Covey, a former divorce lawyer, mediator and arbitrator, turned coach, author and entrepreneur. And now, without further ado, let's get on with the show.

With me today is Ian Steinberg. Ian is a matrimonial and family law attorney with Berkman Bottger, Newman Schein LLP. His firm practices in New York City, long Island, Westchester and New Jersey. His practice focuses on the litigation, mediation, negotiation and settlement of complex, high net worth matrimonial and family law cases. Ian also specializes in negotiating and drafting prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. He's formally trained in mediation and regularly mediates divorce and family law matters. Ian has also been trained in collaborative law and regularly represents clients who wish to engage in that process, and he is also a very good litigator. Ian, welcome to the show.

Ian Steinberg Guest01:30

Thank you, thanks so much for having me.

Karen Covy Host01:33

I am thrilled to have you because you are a lawyer after my own heart and so I've been so looking forward to this conversation. But before we get into that, can you share with the listeners a little bit of your backstory? I mean, why family? But before we get into that, can you share with the listeners a little bit of your backstory? I mean, why family law? Why get into this area of practice?

Ian Steinberg Guest01:51

Yeah, it's a great question. So I started just a little bit of background. I went to Emory University in Atlanta and I moved back home to New York City for law school and you know I was one of those law students who didn't really know what he wanted to do. Did I want to do personal injury? Did I want to do criminal? Did I want to do family law? I really had no idea.


And I started actually practicing real estate law and after doing that for about five years I came to this realization that I didn't have enough personal connections with my clients and I wanted to feel like I was really helping people and it didn't feel like that was something that I was finding in my day-to-day life. And so I made the jump over to now doing matrimonial and family law because, again, I find it's an area of the law where you can really work with people and hopefully help them in a very trying time. And I feel like I'm really doing something good with my law degree. And that's not to say that others practicing in other fields of law are not doing good things, but for me I just I like working with people, helping them, and this type of law really gives me the opportunity to do that, and that's sort of why I got into it, after trying a whole bunch of other things before and now landing here.

Karen Covy Host03:11

You know, that's fascinating and that's really what I wanted to get into with you because, as you and I both know, divorce lawyers have a bad reputation in the public. Right, and to hear you say you got into divorce specifically because you wanted to help people. When people think that divorce lawyers are shysters, that they're only fueling the fight to line their own pockets, that they cost too much money, they don't listen to their clients, blah, blah, blah, all the things, what would you say to that Like that reputation that divorce lawyers have? What would you say to that Like that that reputation that divorce lawyers have? What do you think about that?

Ian Steinberg Guest03:50

I'd say I'm hoping to break that reputation, but I certainly look, I get it. There is a. The first thing that you do as a divorce attorney when a client signs on is you ask them to provide you with a list of all of their assets, all their liabilities and all their expenses. So I know exactly what you have right off the bat, and sure that can create an incentive for maybe some more nefarious actors to try and take it. I don't want to say take advantage, but operate in that sphere and understanding sort of what's going on. And to me my goal is to get my clients out of the process as painlessly and as cost effectively as possible. I will say, look, I'm, I'm younger and I'm, you know, building a career and building a reputation. And I want that reputation to be as someone who fights for their clients but doesn't pick battles where there aren't and doesn't force people to make motions to the court that can be incredibly expensive when that isn't something that's necessary, and ideally, someone who really looks out for their clients, because at the end of the day, money shouldn't be spent on legal fees. That can go to your new future, that can go to your kids, that can go to a much better place. And if other attorneys see me and clients see me as someone who's settlement minded, who hopefully can get people to the other side, you know, without bankrupting them. That's certainly my goal and hopefully then they tell their friends, they tell their family look, this is someone who got me a great result and did it the right way.


And that's what I strive for, because at the end of the day, like I said before, I got in this to try and help people, and I don't know what help you're doing with people by depleting their bank accounts and making them fight. Fifty thousand dollars over a ten-thousand-dollar painting, right, it just doesn't add up. And in what other business context would you do that? So you know, obviously it's an emotional time, and so to kind of bring your clients back to that sort of reality and say, look, if you were in another business, would you really pay $50,000 to try and get something that is worth 10? And you might not even get. So let's try and figure out a way to whether it's recoup that elsewhere and maybe, or just come to a settlement that hopefully can work for everybody, and yes, that's not always possible, but let's try and exhaust every option prior to getting to that.

Karen Covy Host06:10

Well, let's talk about that. It's not always possible because sometimes it's not possible because the other person in the case, like their spouse, just wants to make a fight or is really angry or upset or whatever, and sometimes it is the spouse's attorney. I mean, what would you say? I think we both. I don't know. I will acknowledge I don't know if you feel the same way that there are some attorneys out there that kind of deserve the reputation that they have, that some people do make a fight, but in my experience that's probably way, way, way fewer attorneys than what people want to believe. What do you think about that?

Ian Steinberg Guest06:53

Yeah, I mean, look, I think in every context a few bad actors make everyone else look bad, and I, you know, I think that in general, my colleagues in the matrimonial world, especially here in New York, there's an abundance of incredible attorneys, honorable attorneys, people who really are a pleasure to work with.  And look, every now and then there's someone who you have a disagreement with and you know it's hard to know what's going on behind the scenes, on the other side of the table.


I think you know you mentioned that emotional aspect of it and we talked about how that fuels some of the litigation and I think that's why it's so important to have a team, to have someone like yourself on the team, because that's a way for them to really, if someone going through this challenging emotional process to properly channel that emotion right, to have those emotions dealt with by someone who can help with the process, like yourself, so that when they come to me, it's not that I'm not compassionate and can't help in that setting, but now we're focused on the legal aspect of it, right, and you can sort of break this down to does this make sense, like, can I really afford to keep the house? I know I really want it emotionally, but what if a boiler breaks or the roof leaks and I need to put a whole bunch of money into it? Will I be able to do that? Or am I better off keeping a bank account or an investment account or something like that, or not fighting over something that might be very expensive to fight over, where we can otherwise come to a deal? And so, again, it's hard to going back to what you said. It's hard to figure out what's going on the other side, but I'm hopeful that you know. If they are using this sort of team approach, hopefully cooler heads will prevail.

Karen Covy Host08:38

Yeah, speaking of the team approach. So, as you, as you know, I work as a divorce coach, so these days I'm behind the scenes, not out in front, the way that a lawyer is. How do you, as a lawyer, feel about working with a divorce coach as part of the team? Does that make sense to you or not? Because I know I told you the story I have a client who wanted to work with me and help prepare for trial, because this client was very, very nervous and had a lot of things to think about, and the lawyer went crazy when she heard what. You don't need a coach, that's a waste of money, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. All the things right and, as it turns out, that lawyer, who promised that she was going to have plenty of time to prepare the client for trial, didn't have the time. So it ended up being a good thing, but what do you think about that as a lawyer?

Ian Steinberg Guest09:35

I mean, I think working with a coach is a fantastic thing and I'm not just saying that because I'm here on your show, I truly mean that and I think part of our job as the lawyers is to know what we don't know, I mean and whether that's a coach who can work on some of the emotional aspects, on some strategy things, on ways to be more prepared when you do come to your lawyer, because you're sort of can help put the lawyer speak into English a little bit and I think that that is super helpful, I mean, and even you know it's why we would say, okay, I know that there may be a tax-related issue here, right, but I don't exactly know the proper advice to give you from the tax standpoint. Why don't we work with your accountant to figure out what the best way to go is?


I see it as a similar type of thing, right, you know, if there are certain skill sets that you have that I don't have, and I think that that putting all the pieces of the puzzle together ultimately leads to the best outcome for the client and everyone can then sort of do their job in the best way because we can focus on the legal element of it and just focus on okay, here's what the child support should be or here's what the spousal support should be.


And that's not again not to say that we can't handle some of those other aspects of it, but it's sort of knowing when to pass someone off to somebody else and then figure out how we make that team all come together to further the client's interest. So I think it's a great thing and I suggest it to all of my clients that they should work with a coach or, if it's a therapist or whoever it may be, also someone else in conjunction with the attorney. And also from a financial standpoint, I mean, look, I won't lie, our hourly rates are pretty high, and so if you're able to work with someone with a lower hourly rate typically to do a better job in that sort of arena than the lawyer may be able to do, why not go for that?

Karen Covy Host11:35

Yeah, that makes sense. But part of this team, you know. Also, I think the thing that gets overlooked so often is that the client is also a part of this team and that if the client wants to do well, they have to, you know, step it up as part of their own team, right? So what advice or suggestions would you give to somebody who's facing a divorce or going through it, so that they can be a better team, member of their own team, so that they can work with their lawyer better? So that, because you know as the best you know, if they work with their lawyer better, they're going to pay less money, they're going to do better. So what can people do to improve the relationship with their lawyer and work better with their lawyer?

Ian Steinberg Guest12:25

It's a great question. I actually got an email from a client this morning who said to me handling this divorce has become a full-time job, and I get it. It's incredibly challenging. In New York we have to do the statement of net worth that I was referencing before expenses, assets, liabilities and I actually did it for myself because I said, look, I want to see just how challenging this is and, I'll be frank, it sucks. It is a really challenging thing to do. But I think organization is really key.


I think if you can send your attorney, before you speak on the phone, a list of questions that you may have, potential solutions that you may see or things you might think come up, the more that your time can be structured, the better it is, because you'll make better use of your time, right, and then maybe I can spend some time in advance of our call. Instead of being like, okay, what are we really talking about or which way is this going to go, I can say, look, here's the nine different things we want to talk about, and maybe that seems daunting, but really quickly we'll have a conversation and maybe this one task is a minute, maybe this one issue is half an hour, but we'll sort of work through that in a way that I think will make everyone's time better spent and allow us to provide better and clearer advice, because we know what you're seeking in terms of the advice that you want to get the questions that you want answered. So you don't leave that call and say was I supposed to do that? Did I answer that question?

Karen Covy Host14:01

Yeah, you know another thing. People often have questions of me that you know. When they give things to their lawyer, it's like how active should they be in their own case, right? So, for example, sometimes it's not unusual for a client to get a big stack of credit card bills, bank statements, those kinds of things. how important is it for the client to also go over all of that information that they get from their spouse?

Ian Steinberg Guest14:38

I mean, I think it's vital because  from a financial standpoint, it's going to cost way more for us to go through the documents than it will you. But I also think that the client knows what they're looking for. You have a much better idea of what skeletons might be in the closet, where your husband or wife may have been, where they might have spent the money, things that might seem like a, you know, a charge that's not of interest, right, or a transfer that's not of too much interest. But maybe you know right and know where to look. You know what account is there, what might not be there. That's not to say we can't do that.


Oh, that's a $50,000 charge out of that account. That's going to raise a little bit of a red flag, but you know for things that we may not notice, um, that's, it's vitally important. And if you can say, look, I'd like you to check pages 5, 20, and 27 to see what this is and then include that in a discovery demand to the other side. Saves me time, which means it saves you money. And again, it's hard because we haven't lived it right.


We're looking at this from the outside a little bit and I think, we're looking at this from the outside a little bit and I think, obviously as the person who's going through it, who's lived through the life of the marriage, you know your spouse better than we do. You know what triggers that we could pull. You know it's a little bit like okay, maybe you don't want to go to court, but you know that it might even just filing, may just be the pressure that someone needs. You know that maybe, if you know that we talk about this account and that's something that's really important to your spouse, maybe if you give in on that you can get something else Right. So the more you're involved in in that type of process as the client, the you know the more kind of leverage and trigger spots we can find, because you know what's important to your spouse more than we do.

Karen Covy Host16:34

Yeah, I mean it's all part of being or becoming that team with your lawyer and I think that when people if you just have the mindset shift of my lawyer and I are a team, versus I'm handing my life over to the lawyer, I hope he does a good job, you’re going to do better. I mean it's like I tell people I don't know if you and your spouse went to Morton Steakhouse for dinner last week or whether he took somebody else there for dinner last week, but you do.


You know so when you're working with the client. What other kinds of things would be helpful for you as the lawyer for the client to do, besides being organized and, of course, giving you the documents that you need to do your job, which can be big Other than that? Are there any other tips that you could give to clients for what they can do to show up better as part of the team so that they do better?

Ian Steinberg Guest17:38

I think providing, whether it's a list, or at least just verbalizing what's the most important things to you, is very helpful, right? I want to know that if, no matter what you know, you want to keep, you want to stay in this house and that's the most important thing, let's figure out a way to make that happen. If I know that you don't really care about the investment account, you don't really care about, you know, figuring out whether you're having, you know you don't care about Thanksgiving, right, it's not important to your family, but Christmas is really important to your family. Is there something that we can do there? How do we figure that out? So I think, really understanding what is most valuable to you and what maybe you is not as important to you is, is really helpful, because at the end of the day, look, it is a negotiation and that means that there's going to be some give and there's going to be some take, because otherwise you're never going to come to an agreement and you're going to end up in court spending way too much money, right, that can otherwise be put towards your kid's college or your next vacation, or taking care of that boiler or that roof, right. And so I think knowing where you're willing to give in and where you'd rather take a hard line is incredibly helpful to the attorneys as we come in to the negotiation, because most of these are ideally settled in a negotiated context with going back and forth.


But it's hard for an attorney to know am I really pushing hard on this or is this something I'm willing to give in on? And the more we can sort of give some things or ask for some things, understanding that we won't get them all and knowing maybe okay. Again, like I said before, this particular account is very important to my spouse, right, and so if I ask for it, willing to give it up in exchange for something, how do we sort of figure that out? So I think you know, knowing those types of things in advance are really important.


And then I think, just again, being an active participant and understanding that you know we're in this together for your greater good. But ultimately, you know they call lawyers counselor right in court, and I think that's because we're supposed to counsel our clients, give them the advice, but understand, at the end of the day, it's your decision to make and I think that should be empowering to people. Like you know, you can either choose A, b or C and I'll tell you if I think A is better than B, which is better than C. But at the end of the day, you might think B is better, and it's my job to get you the outcome that you want, not the outcome that I think is best.

Karen Covy Host20:05

Yeah, and you know talking about negotiation and outcomes and that kind of thing. You are also one of the rare lawyers who does it all Right. So you litigate and you enjoy litigation. You mediate and you're good at that. You do collaborative divorce. You can participate in all of the different processes. In other words, in all the different ways to get divorced. How can you, as the lawyer who can do it all, what informs your decision about which process a particular client should use or would be best served by using?

Ian Steinberg Guest20:51

See, I think it first starts with information and I ultimately think that it's the client's decision right. So I want to provide the information to a client of look, here's what it looks like if we just negotiate, try and negotiate this case. Here's what mediation might look like. Here's what collaborative might look like. Here's sort of the differences between them, how the process will go, based on which of these process choices you select. And I think ultimately, it's up to the client.


Look, some couples can't sit in a room together with a neutral mediator and come to an agreement. They just can't. And to recognize that is important. Maybe that means you could if you were in a collaborative context, because you actually have a lawyer representing you in the room, versus a neutral mediator where there tends not to be the lawyers in the room and just the mediator. Or maybe anything collaborative will just not work. And that doesn't mean you have to litigate. It could mean it's settlement proposals being sent back and forth by attorneys and you know, sometimes you're going to the mat and that's, and that's just is what it is.


And I think you know one of the advantages of our firm, and my practice in particular, is that whichever choice you take, we can help you with that choice and I think that that should be empowering to people too, to know that it doesn't just have to be this.


It's not the courtroom TV type of thing that you see and it's not the you know mediation where people are slamming on the tables. Right, there are ways to do it amicably and there are ways to not, and we'd always prefer people try and do it amicably if they can, but if not, you know, we're able to use the court system as well, and just because someone files for divorce, just because someone has an initial conference, it doesn't mean that you're going to trial. They don't happen that often because ultimately, people weigh the cost of trial and the uncertainty of putting your future, your kid's future, in the hands of a judge who doesn't know your family in the same way that you do. Usually that leads people to settlement and I think that it's an important consideration to think do I want to choose my future? Do I want to choose the agreement I'm coming to, or do I want some man or woman in a robe sitting on a bench to decide?

Karen Covy Host23:12

You know, I'd like to say more about that because I think that's something that people don't really appreciate or understand in the way that lawyers do that when you go to court, you know you put your fate in the hands of a judge. People have ideas about how that's going to go, like I'm going to get up in front of the judge. I want my day in court. I want to tell the judge my story. What would you tell people about that?

Ian Steinberg Guest23:47

I mean, the court experience is never what you expect. Oftentimes people will walk in and you're one of 30 different couples that are sitting there and you maybe speak to the judge for two minutes and you tell them your name, your address, your relationship to the case and your lawyer does most of the talking and, let's be honest, the people who are in court. A lot of that is because they are the ones who there was adultery, there were other sort of issues that come up that maybe are the same issues that you have and very little will surprise the matrimonial and family law judges, because those are the people that are in front of them. Right, and at least here in New York, it's what we call a no-fault divorce state, meaning the reasoning doesn't really matter. The reasoning can be useful when you're trying to negotiate.


Maybe your spouse feels guilty about what he or she did and maybe that's a way to get a better negotiated outcome, but the judges just don't care that he cheated or she cheated and you know it's not. Telling your story is obviously something that may be cathartic for you, but maybe that's a story that's best told to somebody else, because the second you get in front of a judge you're spending a lot of money and it's not going to live up to what you think, it's not going to be in what you see in the movies of getting up and testifying. I mean to get to that point. The case has been going on for a long, long time.

Karen Covy Host25:22

What's a long time Like in the jurisdictions that you practice in? How long, on average, would it take a case to get to trial right now?

Ian Steinberg Guest25:34

It definitely does vary by county. So Manhattan is a little bit quicker than the Bronx maybe, or different than Brooklyn. I mean three years to get there, to ultimately get there.

Karen Covy Host25:51

So, people really yeah, if you're going to go to trial, you're in for the long haul.

Ian Steinberg Guest25:58

And I'll tell you this much judges don't really like trying cases. They don't want to be the ones to make decisions for your future. They'd rather you do it. And so you have a lot of you know, maybe that's the push someone needs to settle by being in court and having a judge saying this is what I do, or you know you really better work this out, or you're coming back for trial and it's that like don't come back for trial type of thing. But yeah, it means you've really went through the ringer, You've spent a lot of money, You've done a lot of financial discovery.


Typically there may be, if it's a child custody related case, there may be a forensic evaluator appointed, an attorney for your children done. If that's what it takes, you know we're equipped to do it and you know you have to work with someone to your point of the way that you were helping your client prep for trial. I think that's such a valuable tool and you know you might have to do it sometimes, but we'd like to say, if we can avoid it, it's definitely in your best interest to avoid it, Because the other consideration, too, is what we call post-judgment issues.

Karen Covy Host27:11

So after you've been divorced, Okay, Say more about that, because I think this is something people don't know about.

Ian Steinberg Guest27:20

Yeah. So after you've been divorced, you're still co-parenting, you may still have financial obligations to one another, and so there's a lot of litigation or negotiation, but oftentimes it can be litigation that takes place after you've already been divorced. Did he or she not pay the spousal support or the child support? Is someone maybe not parenting in the manner in which they should? Does someone want to relocate elsewhere? There's a whole host of different issues that can come up after the fact, and I don't have statistics on this.


I would love it if there was a way to figure this out, but I would think that the negotiated and the mediated outcomes and agreements that come through that I would imagine that there is less post-judgment litigation, post-judgment issues that stem from people who made their own decision on what days and times work for them to be with their kids, instead of having a judge do that for them.


Because, again, the judge doesn't know your family. The judge doesn't know in the same way that you do. The judge doesn't know that every Tuesday night you have a meeting that goes till nine o'clock, and so that may not be the best night for you to have overnights with your children and instead you should get Wednesday, Thursday instead of Monday, Tuesday. Those are certain things that when you're negotiating an agreement you come up with and you recognize those real-life realities. Are you a school teacher that maybe can't do the morning drop-offs as much? Are you an actor here in New York City on Broadway where maybe that makes it challenging for you to do weekday overnights? These types of things that we really can account for when coming to an agreement that maybe a court can't. And so we tend to find that those agreements coming out of negotiation and mediation hopefully have less post-judgment issues than those that ultimately were done by a judge.

Karen Covy Host29:23

Yeah, I've tried to get those kinds of statistics too and it's just totally impossible. But I don't know about you, but anecdotally when we were all present in court all the time, which is now no longer the case, depending what county you're in. Some counties are 100% back here in person and others are not. But the point is that if you looked around the courtroom on any given day, between, I would say, a third to a half of the people sitting in that courtroom are already divorced. What's your experience been?

Ian Steinberg Guest29:56

It's similar, it really is, and sometimes it may even be higher than that, because these are people who probably have been litigating already and it's just continuing. And it's sad because you would think this is now your new beginning and really you're just hearkening back to the past, and so I would imagine that all of those people sitting in the courtroom, whether they're in the divorce process or they're done with it, are probably going to continue to be in that process, and I would hope not, but to your point, it's a high percentage of people in the post judgment world that are still in court.

Karen Covy Host30:35

Yeah, and that's not where anyone wants to be, and it sounds like that's something that you and your firm focus really hard on to get people to avoid. Right, that you get them to a reasonable conclusion as quickly and efficiently as possible. But let's be realistic. Your firm is one firm in the New York area. How could people find if they're not in New York, if they're in some other state and they can't use your firm? If they are in your state, I would highly recommend that they do. But if they're not, how can people find lawyers like you, lawyers who care, lawyers who have a heart, lawyers who will do the right thing by their client?

Ian Steinberg Guest31:19

Yeah, I would say like if you look at our website there it sort of goes through a lot of the different process choices that we offer and I would think that similar firms who have those different process choices recognize the advantage to taking advantage of some of those other process choices and I think that maybe that's a sign. But I always recommend people, even when I speak to them, I'd say, look, go talk to a couple other attorneys. It's a really personal decision to make.


You and your attorney are going to be sharing information or you're going to be sharing with them that you don't share with that many other people in your life. So you want to make sure that it's the right fit, that you feel comfortable with that person, that they are the type of compassionate, reasonable, rational attorney that you think would be someone who would be a good fit with you.


Look, maybe you're looking for a bulldog, right, you're looking for a pit bull, someone who's going to be that way, and then that's the person that you should hire. But if you're looking for someone who maybe can play that role when needed, but not play that role and understand at the end of the day the goal is to get to a settlement as quickly and cost effectively as possible then you know, hopefully you can parse that out by speaking to a couple of people. But I always recommend that you, that that potential clients speak to more than one and ideally, they come back and say oh, you know, I'm glad I spoke to them and I still want to use you. But, um, you know, I think in order to figure out that someone is the right fit, you have to find a couple or speak to a couple of people to figure out that someone is the right fit.

Karen Covy Host32:53

You have to find a couple or speak to a couple people. Yeah, that makes all the sense in the world. But you also bring up a good point about the things that people can learn by looking at a website. And if the website is all, we will fight for your rights. We have the best litigators in you know. That's the tone of the website. You kind of know what you're getting, right. You know versus like you guys do it all, which I think is beautiful, because so many lawyers don't they? They know what they. They know they do what they do, and if you want something different, you go somewhere else, right?

Ian Steinberg Guest33:30

Yeah, and I think that the practicing in different areas in my opinion sharpens your skills in each of those different areas.


I think I am a stronger mediator because I have a litigation background and because I also litigate cases and I can say I could look at a case and in my opinion, I could figure out what I think a court may or may not do.


Now maybe that's something I don't bring into the mediation room and maybe it's something that the parties do want to hear about in the mediation room, but I think some of those skills, of the litigation skills and knowing what the courtroom is like can be helpful in mediation.


And I think sometimes the listening skills that you develop in mediation trying to understand why people are interested in certain outcomes and what they're really saying and they might be saying X, but what they really mean by this is Y I think that can be very helpful in the litigated standpoint because you can make an argument to the court based on what you hear the other side say and say why that might not be right. Or maybe that'll help you when you're trying to now negotiate the outcome even in the midst of a litigation, because you can sort of listen and say, okay, they're saying this, but I can kind of tell this is really what they want out of this. So maybe we find a way to give them that and get something else in return. So I think the skills really are intertwined and you and I think being able to practice in different settings helps you in each of the other settings as well.

Karen Covy Host34:57

Yeah, and you also mentioned something that I want to highlight because I really want to hear. I want people to hear it. A lot of times people say, well, why should I have a lawyer? What does a lawyer bring to the table? I can Google the law, but what the lawyer knows is the judge. How does that affect the outcome of a case?

Ian Steinberg Guest35:19

I think it's very important to know your judge. If you are in a litigated context, you have to know look, this judge tends to award less by way of spousal support or more by way of spousal support. You know tends to maybe favor mom in custody decisions and maybe not. And again, it's anecdotal, it's just based on experience. But being in the same courts in front of the same judges allows you to sort of get a little bit of a feel of that. And I think why take a really aggressive stance on child support if you know that the judge maybe isn't going to award something as high as you're asking? And I think part of practicing in different counties and different areas is helpful too. I know that in Manhattan, in New York County, they're likely to award higher support numbers than they are in Westchester. That just is the way that it happens to be.


I mean, there's an interesting article that I read about during COVID. People who lived in New York City and had their second homes in the Hamptons. A lot of them were filing for divorce. If you were the moneyed spouse were filing for divorce in Suffolk County, where the Hamptons is, because that's where they were residing during COVID, because there tend to be lower support awards in Suffolk County than in Manhattan and New York County. So there are sort of ways, depending on your situation, who your client is, that knowing your judge to your point and knowing your county, knowing the area, can be very, very helpful to your case. And even knowing, like, OK, maybe I'm going to say I'll back off on this one position because I know the judge probably won't give it to me anyway, and see what I can get in return for backing off that decision for my client.

Karen Covy Host37:05

Yeah, that makes all the sense in the world and you know, if I want people to get one thing out of this, it's that there is a lot to this. Right, it's complicated and having a lawyer like you, like your firm, who can you know, who has the experience and the knowledge and the expertise in multiple different areas, multiple different counties, can be so important for people as they're going through this if they want the best outcome they can in the most efficient way that they can.

Ian Steinberg Guest37:41

Yeah, and I think to your point again and I know we've touched on it a fair amount, but because of the complicated nature again, I'm such an advocate of the team approach. Having a coach like you is incredibly important. Having a financial advisor, having an accountant, having an attorney the more people you can have on your team to surround yourself with that can each specialize in certain areas will only lead to a better outcome of what is understandably a very challenging emotional financial mental time, and to be able to surround yourself with people that can help is only beneficial.

Karen Covy Host38:18

Ian this has been a wonderful conversation. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, for helping enlighten people and, I hope, helping people see that not all divorce lawyers are sharks, not all divorce lawyers are just out to milk their clients, that there are people out there like you who really care. So thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your expertise with everybody. If people want to find you, where's the best place for them to do that?

Ian Steinberg Guest38:48

Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. If you want to find me, you can go to my LinkedIn. It's Ian Steinberg on LinkedIn, or an email. You can email me at iSteinberg at And that's also our website,

Karen Covy Host39:09

And all of that will be linked in the show notes for anyone who's listening. So if you're in the New York City area and you're thinking about divorce, I highly recommend that you look Ian up and if you liked this episode, if you enjoyed the conversation, if you want to hear more of it, do me a big favor like, subscribe, comment, leave us a review, whether it's on Spotify or Apple or YouTube or wherever you're listening or watching this, and if you enjoyed it, I look forward to seeing you again next time. Thank you.

Thank you.

Head shot of Karen Covy in an Orange jacket smiling at the camera with her hand on her chin.

Karen Covy is a Divorce Coach, Lawyer, Mediator, Author, and Speaker. She coaches high net worth professionals and successful business owners to make hard decisions about their marriage with confidence, and to navigate divorce with dignity.  She speaks and writes about decision-making, divorce, and living life on your terms. To connect with Karen and discover how she can help you, CLICK HERE.


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