Things to Look for When Choosing a Divorce Attorney
When you’ve made the decision to start researching and looking for a divorce attorney, life has already presented you with a significant change. It’s an emotional time requiring hard, difficult, and sometimes life changing decisions. I wanted to write and give you some ideas on what qualities you should be looking for as a prospective client.
- Trust – First and foremost, I think a prospective client and the attorney need to have a relationship built on trust. Your attorney may ask you to make difficult decisions. Our firm, for example, prides itself on thinking creatively and outside the box. At times, we may be asking you to do things that seem very (and I emphasize very) counterintuitive. As a result, you have to be able to trust what I’m telling you and the advice I’m giving you.
- Honesty and Straightforward Talk – As your prospective attorney, I’m not being paid to tell you what you want to hear. Rather, an attorney simply telling you that he/she can solve anything and everything you are requesting of him should send up a red flag for you. It is a sign that the attorney is likely trying to sell you in order to get a retainer. This is especially true in light of a difficult and complex situation. As an experienced family law litigator and negotiator, I know better. Instead, I “talk straight” with clients, set realistic expectations, and offer a detailed strategic plan on how to achieve each client’s goals. However, this often means clients need to hear what they need to hear and not what they want to hear. If you come to my office for an intake, be prepared for this.
A “yes man” attorney in the face of a complex family law matter can be disastrous. It’s important that you can trust your family attorney it give you the truth, whether you like that truth or not. This is not a movie, it’s not “A Few Good Men” where you can or can’t handle the truth. Let’s face it, you are hiring an attorney to win and not be your “yes man”. If you feel you can’t handle a straight talk and just want an attorney to be your yes man, the attorneys at the Evans Family Law Group are not for you.For optimum results, I ask that you keep an open mind. I am likely to challenge your thought process and notions of what you thought about your case, and provide options you may have not even considered. Some, I can guarantee you will be counterintuitive and make you uncomfortable, but these are grounded in my significant experience in all kinds of complex family law situations. This body of experience leads to results which speak for themselves.
- Ability to listen and Strategize – After your intake meeting with your prospective attorney you should come away from the meeting with a very detailed plan. A strategy. You should get the feeling that your attorney hears you and understands your goals, and that in the course of the dialogue you agree on that which can be accomplished as well as the specific steps that will accomplish these goals. During the course of your meeting, it’s okay if you don’t know what to say. As a skilled and experienced attorney, I know how to direct the conversation — even if things are emotional or difficult for you to discuss — leading to a concise, yet detailed strategy based around your specific legal needs.
- Hands-on experience – Experience is hard to come by. It takes, well, experience. It’s one thing to hear an attorney talk about theories and strategy; it’s another to know that your attorney actually has direct experience in the specific areas your case involves. Ask about that experience, results and their relevance to your specific case needs. Your divorce attorney should be able to give you specific examples of how he or she helped clients in situations very much like yours.
- Strong communications processes throughout the working relationship. Personally, I believe one of my most significant obligations to a client is to make sure the client has a clear and detailed understanding of the strategy involved in his/her case. A strong ability to communicate and ensure that you as a client understand all aspects of your case reduces anxiety and allows you to have more confidence as your case proceeds.
Ongoing communication is also of utmost importance. For example: will the attorney communicate ahead of sending a letter on your behalf? Will the attorney immediately let you know if a communication has been received? Will the attorney immediately notify you prior to filing a motion or pleading with the Court — or that one has been received from your spouse’ attorney? Will the attorney communicate to you why these things are happening and how they specifically relate back to your strategy and goals?
You want to know that your attorney’s staff has a tried-and-true process for sending and receiving all the various letters, motions, and other communications so critical for your case. Moreover, you need to be assured that your attorney will actually explain these communications to you. Some of them are likely to cause a response from the other party — and not necessarily a friendly one — so it’s imperative that you know how to answer.
Lastly, be sure to understand the role of the paralegal in the attorney’s office. When you will be talking to the paralegal and when you will be talking directly to the attorney? For example, in my office both of my paralegals are board certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Each works at a very high level and are highly experienced. They can answer a lot of questions for you. But, at times it’s necessary or even just desirable to talk to the attorney directly. In my office, I suggest that you “test me”. My paralegals, while highly experienced, know and understand they are no substitute for communicating directly with me. Clients at all times have direct access to me.