Monday, February 2, 2009

Judging divorce lawyers by their office decor

Before I settled on an attorney to handle my divorce, I visited three prominent matrimonial lawyers in New York city and took note of their similar, professionally decorated offices: sleek black leather sofas, steely gray carpets, contemporary, posh, and spare, with a current Architectural Digest in the reception area so you can ogle the gorgeous homes of happy couples as you contemplate the imminent loss of your own. The offices were designed to convey the attorneys' success rather than put anxious clients at ease.

But this past weekend I saw the opposite: the Bethesda, Maryland office of a family-law attorney who handles high-profile Washington DC divorces as well as less celebrated custody cases and property and custodial agreements for "divorcing" gay couples. As clients enter the cozy reception area, they are immediately greeted by Daisy, a happy, friendly mutt who belongs to one of the partners. If a little pet therapy doesn't cheer you up, you turn your sights to the bright, playful Mexican folk art that festoons the office: whimsical, hand-painted animal sculptures, bold-colored throw rugs, and in the conference room -- where opposing sides hash out settlement agreements -- the walls are decorated with colorful metal and beaded fish. Best of all, in the reception area the attorneys display a stack of our book, Still Hot -- a freebie for any client who needs a good laugh!

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