Best Lawyer for Your Case

September 2013

Best Lawyer for Your Case

At least two, sometimes three times a week I am asked:”What is the best lawyer for a divorce?”, “Who should I hire for my divorce?, or “What do I look for in a divorce lawyer?”

The answer is a lot more simple than it may at first appear. The best lawyer for your case is the one you feel comfortable with. Think about it for a moment, would you let someone have keys to your house to clean it – and go through your sock drawer when you are not there – based on a fancy ad, or price? Would you let someone babysit your child because he or she is cheaper than the others? Of course not, so why would you let a complete stranger have access to your personal life, all your dirty little secrets as so to speak? And more to the point, if you would not trust a babysitter with your kids for a night based solely on the price of their services, why would you ever trust attorney with your child’s future based solely on the cost?

Yes, you should always hire the best lawyer you can afford but keep in mind, cost is not the determining factor. A lawyer will charge more if he or she has the client base to support the higher fees. A lawyer will charge more to support staff, overhead, and advertising. Keep in mind, advertising is the same regardless of the product or service, it is designed to get your attention and get you to pay for the product or service.

This brings up an important point. The best lawyer for you is not necessarily the best lawyer for someone else and the cost is directly tied to your goals. Accordingly, you need to decide, and this takes some honest introspection, what do you want? Are you going to:

1 – Get revenge – or get even with your spouse (this is a very expensive proposition and let’s be honest, you will never get the closure you need or want);
2 – Fight because it is not over until you say it over, no matter the cost (a/k/a “I am not quitting until he/she admits ___________”);
3 – Fight for what you deserve but in the end, make a “business decision” on what is worth fighting over;
4 – Just try to get half (this is what the law presumes, it is all a matter of finding the assets, determining values, and splitting it up);
5 – Try to get along and end this situation as neat and clean as possible: or
6 – Grab the easy stuff and run.
Keep in mind if there are children, your election may (I believe it should) be different than if this is a marriage with no children or grown children. And the list above is not exhaustive. The point is that you have to decide what you want or expect, then you owe it to yourself to interview at least one lawyer BEFORE you make a hiring decision. The first lawyer you talk to may be the one. But if not, do not hesitate to talk to a second, third or even a fourth. And I know that it is more common for lawyers to charge a consult fee (I still offer a free consult) but this is money well spent. You are making a hiring decision, you are the employer, and you deserve to make an informed hiring decision.

Think of it this way: Would you ever look on the internet for a nanny for your child, then hire him or her based on what they said on a website (or worse still, hire one based solely off an advertisement on TV or in a magazine)? Or would you invest the time to talk to the individual BEFORE let him or her watch your kids? The same applies when hiring a lawyer. You have to find one that answers your questions, will handle your case the way you want it handled. Keep in mind, if you have unrealistic goals – you should be advised up front of this fact. Any lawyer that will not be honest enough to tell you your goals are unattainable by law has done you no favor. Part of your attorney’s job is to help you assess your goals and if they are unrealistic to adjust them so that you can attain some closure. I am not advocating that lawyers need to be therapist, even though some clients need a therapist more than a lawyer. What I am saying is that Divorce takes a part of you away and you never really get that part back. Divorce is the death of a marriage. You need to walk away with more than hurt feelings and anger when possible, but in the end, you have to be able to walk away. Of course, if your spouse is choosing the “get even” or “get revenge” goal, walking away becomes even more difficult.

Which brings me to my second point, after you have assessed your goals, you have to sit down and honestly assess your spouse and what he/she may have as a goal. This is not the time for wishful thinking. 95% of clients who come in saying “my spouse will work with me and we can do this uncontested” are being overly optimistic. They have considered what they want (goal #5 above) and are hoping and praying their spouse will agree. When both have goal #5 above, you have an uncontested divorce and you and your spouse can use one lawyer who will handle the legalities and draft the papers and orders for you and may even have to mediate a few minor items. Most often however, goal #2 is what your spouse is thinking.

The real problem with goal #2 occurs when one (or both) sides have unrealistic beliefs on what is theirs. Examples are a woman who recently contacted me when she and her boyfriend who had lived together for 2 years in a house his parent left to him when they died broke up – she felt she was entitled to alimony for the rest of her life or half of his house (never mind they were not married, had no kids together, etc). In her mind, she should get half of the house or alimony because she thought that it was unfair that he got a free house and she did not. Another example is the man who has a decent job and believes that since he has worked and his wife has stayed home and cared for children, “everything” is his since he “paid for it all” or “she never worked”. My last example is the woman that has been a stay at home mom that thinks she is entitled to remain a stay at home mom after divorce. While being a stay-at-home Mom may have been the division of labor during the marriage, after divorce, there is no marriage (relationship of two people) to divide the labor, so each has to be both homemaker and bread-winner.

Bottom line, the best lawyer for your case, is the lawyer that you trusts. If you talk to a lawyer and everything you want is all okay with him or her as long as you pay the retainer, beware. Re-assess your goals, have you sold yourself short or have you found a lawyer that is not being honest with you up front? More importantly, if you do not feel confidence, or trust sufficient to tell your lawyer the truth . . . run, don’t walk to the exit and find another lawyer for your case. The courtroom is a bad place to have to explain your actions to the one person that is there to protect your interest.

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