You need to hire a divorce lawyer because you're contemplating a divorce or one of you has already filed one. You search on-line, talk to friends who have been through it but, at the end of the day, searching for the right lawyer has gotten a bit complex for you.
What do you do?
Or, more importantly, what should you expect from the divorce lawyer for your case?
In this article, we answer exactly those questions…
Expectations at the First Meeting
Chances are, your first substantive contact with any divorce lawyer you interview will be a phone call or in person meeting. Here is what to expect:
1. Speak with the lawyer: If you get a secretary, paralegal or anyone else who is not an attorney to consult with you about the facts of your case, you may be better off moving on. If the divorce lawyer you intend to hire can't even take the time to speak with you, then chances are you won't get much better personal attention after you hire his or her office. Some divorce lawyers (including those at our firm) prefer to talk in person and that is pretty normal. We like to meet people, shake hands, look them in the eye and effectively communicate with them.
2. Check out the lawyer's office: How does the office look? Clean and orderly? People working hard? Or does the office look disheveled, disorganized and the staff looks overwhelmed? These are important signs. A good business runs smoothly.
3. Professionalism: You should be treated with respect. You should expect that. How you are treated, spoken with and not just the lawyer, but by everyone you greet will tell you much about the lawyer or law firm.
What do you get out of the meeting?
Most Orange County divorce lawyers offer a free consultation. But do you really know what you are getting? We have previously written that consultations should be more than free - they should be informative. Ours are generally not free. We do charge an affordable fee. That shouldn't scare you away. Your lawyer is not going to represent you for free and the problem with many free consultations is you're not getting much. Here are some tips.
1. Details, details, details: The devil is in the details and a good lawyer will go into the details of your situation with you, not just cover them in general.
2. Strategy building: Your divorce lawyer should be able to state to you what the general strategy on your case should be, after discussing with you the facts. This strategy building is a mutual effort. Your input is critical. Your divorce lawyer won't just come up with one. You have to come up with it together. If by the end of the meeting and before you are ready to hire the lawyer, you don't have a preliminary strategy on your case, you may want to keep looking elsewhere.
3. Budget management: You need a clear and written retainer agreement that lays out the divorce lawyer's billing rates, initial deposit and fee and cost agreement. What's more, the divorce lawyer should leave the agreement with you and encourage you to read it before dating and signing it (like we do with every client).
After You Hire and Pay Your Lawyer
Once you hire a divorce lawyer, the following are important considerations as to whether the attorney-client relationship is an effective one.
1. Communications: Phone call, email, sometimes fax and rarely letters. Why do we say rarely letters? In this day and age, anything that could be mailed can be sent to you via PDF. Lawyers who still mail things to their clients as FYI or a CC are living in the dark ages of law and are costing their clients a lot more than they should. You need an email address and your divorce lawyer should freely communicate with you by email. Regarding phone calls, it's simple. If the lawyer is not present to take your call, his or her secretary should set a time for you and your divorce lawyer to talk. If you find yourself talking to non-attorneys at the office more than your lawyer, uh oh, your case may not be getting the attention it needs.
2. Expectations: Beware of cheerleaders. What do I mean by that? Divorce lawyers who get you riled up and make you wild promises, guaranteed success or take tactics that appear over aggressive are usually out to take as much money from you as possible. There are certain law firms and lawyers that have a well earned reputation for "churning" a file, which means unnecessary or unreasonable work and billing. Don't get me wrong - divorce is like life and it doesn't come with guarantees but there has to be purpose and reason for litigation you undertake. If you hear words like "bury" your spouse, "paper" him or her to death, going to "war", etc. then you may the wrong lawyer…unless you like wasting time and money and subjecting yourself to monetary sanctions pursuant to Family Code 271 for improper litigation conduct.
3. Strategy and budget re-evaluation: "But, wait. You already talked about strategy and budget." Is that what you're thinking? That was at the initial consult. The issue of strategy and budget is not a one-time discussion. It's a constantly evolving progress. As a case proceeds forward, your divorce lawyer should discuss with you strategy and budget on your case to see if it needs tweaking or significant changes altogether. Divorce litigation, against like life, is not static. It changes and, with it, your divorce lawyer should adjust and adapt.
Let's talk about your facts
Our divorce lawyers don't just talk about these things. We do it. This is how we handle every divorce case. Contact our lawyers for an initial strategy session for a reasonable and affordable fee. We are ready to get your case started on the right track. If you currently have a lawyer but think it may be time for a change, let us know. We will objectively evaluate your case and tell you if you should make a change.