Washington, DC—Patrick McConnell, named one of the DC area's best divorce attorneys, as well as one of the best in America, has been working exclusively on family law cases for over 25 years. But his phenomenally successful quarter century in divorce law started out not because he was inspired by famous attorneys, but because he had a head for business.
During a business law class in college, McConnell told laws.com in a recent interview, “I realized that in the practice of law, you have the opportunity to have your own business and control your destiny.”
After going to law school, McConnell started out in corporate law, but switched to family law because it allowed for more personal interaction with clients. “Beyond that,” he says, “there is a thrill when handling the complicated personal and legal issues and being able to handle both at the same time.”
According to McConnell, divorces today are more complicated than ever, often involving multiple jurisdictions. “I have filed in Europe, South America, Japan and Asia as well as Virginia,” he says. “Maybe 15 percent of my practice involves international issues and assets–that has been a significant change.”
McConnell's business today also involves same sex relationship dissolution, which can create significant issues for attorneys practicing in states like Virginia, which does not allow same sex marriage. “What happens is that people who are of the same sex will get married in other states, but come to Virginia and have to deal with multiple jurisdictions and legal issues,” McConnell says.
These new issues in family law are exciting for McConnell. “I really enjoy multi-state and international cases. You get to learn so many new laws. For the situation of a dissolution that involves international assets, it's not just the laws, but the reality of how the legal system works,” he says. “For example, the laws in Russia say one thing, but actually getting something done in Russia is a whole other story. It is a continuous learning process.”
For divorcing couples, McConnell oftentimes recommends mediation or collaborative law approaches, although he cautions that couples should be careful about which of these solutions they choose to resolve their disputes. “For mediation, the parties have to be on par when it comes to financial knowledge,” he says. “I do not recommend mediation when you have a very sophisticated, financially adept spouse and an uneducated, naive spouse. When people come from similar backgrounds, it is a good recipe for mediation.”
For couples who have differences in their background, McConnell says that a relatively new form of resolving divorce disputes, collaborative law, may be the answer. “In that kind of case, it's a good alternative,” he says. “You really do need a significant amount of time as well as money, because it is a team approach that involves not only lawyers, but often financial experts and at times a psychiatrist.”
Collaborative law helps couples to resolve their disputes with a minimum of animosity, but McConnell says that people need to be clear about their reasons for collaborating. “It is important to know that you are not going to save money on the collaborative process, but you will have a good chance of coming out as friends rather than enemies. Litigation does not make friends.”