If you are thinking about a career change that will result in you earning less income do it BEFORE you get re-married.
As part of my series about “5 Things You Should Do To Survive and Thrive after a Divorce”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam J. Edelstein.
Adam has been practicing law (with a focus on matrimonial) for more than 25 years. He learned from his father, the legendary divorce attorney Saul Edelstein, who has been in the business for more than 40 years and virtually wrote the book on the practice of modern divorce law. “Most lawyers know the special tricks that will help their clients avoid going to court. That is important because whenever a case goes in front of a judge, there will always be the risk of the unknown,” says Adam.
Adam has built his practice on the wisdom he gained from his father. Adam knows how to make clients feel comfortable. His unique ability to make sure his clients understand every aspect of their case has been the hallmark of his successful approach. But Adam is not just following in the footsteps of his father. He is the next generation in a venerable family law firm that specializes in challenging family disputes and personal injury matters. Adam knows how to work within the system to ensure that his clients receive the best possible outcome. A skilled and dogged negotiator who has the experience to prove it, Adam’s clients know when they hire him, they have retained a fighter.
When signing off on agreements, Adam likes to give both sides a gift. He says, “I usually buy them lottery tickets and tell them, if they win, they have to split it.” Adam received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the State University of New York at Albany in 1988 and his Juris Doctor Degree from Brooklyn Law School in 1991.
He is a member of the Brooklyn Bar Association (BBA) and the New York State Bar Association (NYSTBA).
Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My grandfather was a real estate lawyer, my father was a divorce lawyer, and my brother is a personal injury lawyer, so you could say I had some options when deciding what type of law to practice. What brought me to divorce law specifically was hearing my father’s “war stories” as he likes to call them and knowing these were the types of clients I wanted to represent.
My father represented a famous Mafia Mobster in Brooklyn named “Crazy Joe Gallo”, a member of the New York Profaci crime family. Crazy Joe was said to keep a tiger in his basement where he would throw his rivals in to be mauled.
When my father first met with Crazy Joe, my father explained the divorce laws to him and told Joe that he would have to pay support to his wife along with other payments unless Joe could get his wife to settle and take less money.
Crazy Joe told my father not to worry and that his wife would sign any agreement Joe put in front of her. Sure enough, his wife signed an agreement favorable to Joe and to celebrate, Joe invited my father to come to celebrate the conclusion of his divorce and Joe’s birthday at Umberto’s Clam House in Manhattan’s Little Italy.
My father couldn’t make the dinner at Umberto’s, which ended up being a good thing, because that night Crazy Joe was gunned down in the restaurant by rival mobsters.
When I was in High School, my father represented Levon Helm, a member of a famous rock band called “The Band”. The stories my father told me about him and Levon probably shouldn’t be put in writing but suffice it to say, even though my father was bald, he let his hair down with Levon Helm.
My father also represented “Regular Joes” like cops, firemen, and housewives. Growing up and hearing my father’s stories, I knew to represent clients in divorces from all walks of life seemed fun and irrespective of who the client is, there is rarely a dull moment in the divorce business.
Other lawyers love to say the following to divorce lawyers “I don’t know how you can do it” but for me, I can’t imagine doing anything else!
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about “divorce”?
It’s very simple. I’m an authority on divorce because my father was THE authority on divorce and he taught me everything I know. The things I learned from him are invaluable to my career including but not limited to the fact that you have to build relationships with adversaries, you must know everything about the Judge you’re appearing before, and you should always counsel your client to weigh the costs and benefits of litigating a case based on what’s at stake. For example, if a client told my father that he’d rather pay my father than pay his wife, my father had no compunction about telling his own client that he needed to have his head examined. Why spend 100,000 dollars to save 50,000 dollars?
My father was also a master at handling custody cases and a master at settling cases. The passion I have for custody cases came from my father, and he taught me to have a “kill them with kindness” attitude when interacting with adversaries. Everywhere I go, lawyers ask me if I’m Saul Edelstein’s son and when I tell them I am, they always have a funny story to tell about my father and say how much they enjoyed working with him even though they were adversaries advocating for their respective clients.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
I wouldn’t call the story interesting so much as shocking and a hard lesson learned about the legal system not always getting things right.
Right out of law school I was representing a husband in a divorce. His wife alleged that he abused her and their one-year-old baby. My client denied the allegations but to be safe the Judge ordered that my client has supervised visitation until such time as a mental health evaluation and investigation was completed.
During the pendency of the case, the wife refused to produce the baby for supervised visitation and the Judge refused to hold her in contempt or otherwise punish her.
When the mental health evaluation and report was complete, it contained a finding that the mother had a brain injury which caused her, amongst other things, to confuse fantasy with reality and that the child had never been abused by my client. The mental health expert warned the Judge that if he gave my client unsupervised visitation that the mother would be a flight risk.
The Judge immediately ordered that my client have unsupervised visitation, and just as the mental health expert predicted, the Mother cleaned out the marital residence, disappeared and kidnapped the child. She never showed up in Court again and without knowing where she or the baby was, the Court awarded my client sole custody.
Ultimately the Mother was found, arrested and jailed for kidnapping the child, but she refused to tell the District Attorney in her criminal court case where the baby was. She was released on her own recognizance (no bail), and POOF! she disappeared again, but this time, never to be found.
My client never saw his daughter again (see: The Charley Project).
I will never forget that the system failed my client and that the criminal court judge should have never let the mother out of jail until she told the court where the child was so that the baby could be returned to my client. The point is that Judges don’t always get it right.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I disagreed with a Judge’s ruling and I threw a book that contained the laws into the garbage right in front of the Judge. The Judge let me have it. Never show up a Judge in a disrespectful manner, you can disagree respectfully.
If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce?
1. Don’t get married again.
2. If you do get married again get a prenuptial agreement.
3. Put all of your assets in a trust.
4. If you are thinking about a career change that will result in you earning less income do it BEFORE you get re-married.
5. Don’t have any more children.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?
My favorite books have nothing to do with the law but I do enjoy the Biography of Clarence Darrow who is unquestionably the greatest lawyer in American history, and Uncoupling: the Art of Coming Apart by Norman Sheresky.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that helped you in this work? Can you share how that was relevant in your real life?
“Do it now” and “Get comfortable being uncomfortable”. If you have things to do in life, don’t wait and procrastinate even though it may make you uncomfortable because life is all about being in uncomfortable situations. This absolutely applies to lawyers who face tasks and situations that make them uncomfortable.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
The biggest problem in the “Untied States” is the disparity of wealth and power in society. This needs to be addressed in part because if the gap keeps widening, the rich will have to live in gated communities with armed guards to keep out the poor.
Not all my clients are rich and if the middle and lower classes can’t afford to hire a lawyer, I will go out of business. The same can be said for a majority of businesses.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
There is an account on Twitter called [email protected] God has 6M followers and God only follows 1 account, Justin Bieber. The tweets are riotously funny and apropos to issues and challenges on a national and global level. I would love to sit down with the person behind this account because he or she is obviously brilliant.