Legally Blond in Philadelphia
By: Stacy E. Schwarz
As appeared in THE PHILADELPHIA LAWYER
VOLUME 67, NO.1
Philadelphia Bar Association Quarterly Magazine, Spring 2004
The practice of domestic relations law can be as emotionally challenging to the opposing attorneys as it is to the parties involved. What better way to add some levity to the quarrelsome, sometimes-pretty and dramatically charged legal atmosphere than by the presence of a 2.8-pound fluffy marshmallow teacup Maltese puppy named Cody.
Cody came into my life at the age of ten weeks in May 2002. He weighed just a pound, fit into the palm of my hand and began accompanying me to and from work. Cody is the first one to greet clients to my office. And he’s there to lick away the tears brought on by the conflicts resulting in dissolution of marriage and relationships.
Cody’s “claim to fame” is his accomplishment in breaking the ice by effectuating a custody settlement in a contentious case. I had never felt so much as a smile or tone of conciliation on the other end of the phone during my dealings with opposing counsel in that case. Our respective clients were vigorously fighting over primary custody of their child. Somehow, as a last resort prior to protracted litigation, a four-way conference was scheduled. As I was getting directions to opposing counsel’s office, I asked if she would object to my bringing my dog to the conference. I heard a laugh so loud, so real and so hysterical on the other end of the line that I did not recognize the person. She said “are you serious?” and broke out in another long series of laughs. I said “yes” and proceeded to describe Cody. She said “OK” and continued to laugh as she hung up the phone.
As Cody entered opposing counsel’s office, the office support staff was immediately charmed. Much to my client’s dismay, Cody was particularly drawn to the opposing party, the father. Cody jumped up on his leg and wanted to play. Before we even sat down to negotiate, the ice had been broken. For the first time in the entire course of the case, four smiles lit up the conference room.
Hours later, an agreement was reached. Was it because of Cody’s warm presence? All I know is that at the conclusion of the conference, both the parties and attorneys left the office with a sense of peace and accomplishment.
Cody has not yet been presented with the assignment of accompanying me to Court. I may have to file and argue a groundbreaking Petition for Special Relief to make that happen.