Saturday, July 23, 2011

Five Red Flags that Your Divorce Attorney is on the Wrong Road

Divorce lawyers are expensive; far too expensive for what most families need in a divorce proceeding.  If you are involved in a divorce, here are some warning signs to help you determine whether you are getting your money's worth for this important service.

1.  Lack of Communication.  A breakdown in communication is the number one cause of client dissatisfaction with their divorce attorney.  If a lawyer does not return your call within a reasonable time, she is either too busy or does not care about your case.

We all know in this era of smart phones that our lawyers get our calls, emails, and text messages within minutes of pushing the send button.  Has your lawyer provided a cell phone contact; do you have access to her staff?  If not, then you are not a priority in their office.

2.  Does not know your case.  Any engaged lawyer will have several cases going at one time.  Every family is different.  But a good lawyer will be sharp enough to master the basic facts and dynamics of your family.  The next time you have a status meeting with your lawyer, listen carefully to the lawyer to determine whether he speaks in general terms; or whether he has a specific plan that applies to the facts of your case; your family.

3.  Excessive Billings.  Do you get sticker shock each month when you examine your divorce attorney's invoice?  More troubling: do you even get a monthly invoice?  Although many lawyers will have you believe that family law is "rocket science", it is not.  If you are being billed more than $250 per hour for non-court related tasks such as preparing "summaries", checklists, or budgets, you are getting fleeced.

One trick unethical lawyers employ is to bill your file at the end of the proceeding, after you cut your deal, and after they see what's available for their fees.  Often in such cases, a premium is baked into the final fee.  Get your fee agreement in writing at the beginning of the process and insist on monthly invoices.  When you receive the invoices, open them immediately as you would any other bill and examine them for accuracy.  If you do not agree with items on the invoice, call the lawyer to discuss it right away; it is more difficult to raise fee issues several months down the road.

4.  Arrogant and Antagonistic.  The "old-school" image of a classic lawyer is that she holds herself above everyone else; is smarter than everyone and not afraid to prove it over and over again.  These lawyers carry themselves with a certian touch of, er, arrogance.

In the trenches of family law, however, the real trick is to find a reasonable solution to your specific issues that works for everyone, particularly if there are young children.  Arrogance is not a trait that gets this done.  Does your lawyer show condescension toward you or does he repeatedly become antagonistic toward opposing counsel?  If so, this is a sign of weakness, not strength.  You may want to consider changing counsel.

5.  Too Many Excuses.  If your divorce lawyer lacks candor, fire him immediately.  Unless he can effectively communicate with you on time regarding your specific issues; unless she follows through and does what she says, delivering service in your case on time, you have a big problem.

We hope these tips help you identify whether you are on the right road with your divorce attorney.  After all, your life is in their hands.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not to be rude, I love the advice but one problem.... they should say he/she not just she or her... I normally do not complain about female rights and so on, but it just seems to me that in this that only female lawyers are what you have to watch out for lol ;)