You Get What You Pay For in Your Attorney
It may be tempting to hire what you may consider a “bargain” or “cheap” family law attorney. After all, isn’t any attorney better than having no attorney? Isn’t the “cheap” attorney that you are thinking of hiring just as good as any other attorney because he or she is licensed, can go to Court, and “argue” your case to the Court? The answer to those questions is not necessarily. The old adage of you get what you pay for applies equally when you hire a family law attorney. Bargain attorneys are “cheap” or “bargains” for a reason. You may get a “bargain” or “cheap” result that you may not be happy with in the end. What sets apart attorneys may include the following:
- Skills. A skilled attorney knows the law, knows how to get information and documentation to prove or disapprove claims (known as “discovery”) and knows how to present and/or keep evidence out of the Courtroom (depending on which side is attempting to get the evidence admitted).
- Effective Communication. Communication starts with the initial discussion or contact you may have with the attorney. It isn’t limited to how well your attorney communicates your case to the Court (that is equally important). If you haven’t been kept informed of all of your options, how the process works, the potential outcomes (good or bad) and the strategies to avoid the “bad” and strengthen the “good” parts of your case, then you may not have an effective communicator in your attorney.
- Attention to Detail. As the old saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” That hasn’t changed in family law. Your attorney should know the ins and outs of your case. Period. No exceptions. Your attorney should also know the potential strategies or claims that the other side may make against you (knowing the ins and outs of your case should allow your attorney to know potential claims that may arise – if that hasn’t happened or isn’t happening, then there may be a problem). Anyone can “fill out” the forms that are either exchanged or filed with the Court, but the nuances of those forms can come back later and bite the client if not done properly. Detail goes hand-in-hand with preparation. Neither can be compromised.
- Preparation. Those that are prepared can anticipate issues before they become issues and can win their own case (or claims) or defeat the other party’s claims. It shouldn’t be surprising that many attorneys and firms are simply unprepared for hearings, trials or other matters that require their involvement. Oftentimes attorneys show up to Court without having read the paperwork, without having spoken to his or her client in advance, without explaining the court process to his or her client and without having laid out the roadmap or strategy of the hearing or trial. Preparation is key to a successful outcome. Remember taking tests back in school? To succeed you had to prepare and know your particular subject. Your attorney should be doing the same.
- Compassion. Attorneys should never have to be reminded that compassion is necessary with clients going through the divorce or family law process. The process may be unfamiliar to a client who has recently been served with papers and it may be stressful or emotional to deal with allegations that may be untrue or baseless, but your attorney should be able to give you a sense of calm knowing his skills, preparation, and attention to detail if he is an effective communicator. We know the process is hard on a client. We understand it may be emotional. An attorney’s compassion for a client, their lives, their causes and cases should be a factor considered by a client when looking for a family law attorney to represent his or her interests (we don’t mean an emotional attorney, as that can be a disservice to you, we mean compassion in knowing that your world may be turned upside down and you need your attorney to not only understand what you are going through, but to appreciate it and help you cope with it through the litigation process and the relationship that you build with him or her in going through the process).