Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Choosing -- AND KEEPING -- Your Attorney

             Unfortunately, sometimes the attorney-client relationship is not so happy and a high percentage of people who hire a family law attorney end up with a different attorney before their divorce is finalized.  The attorney-client relationship, especially in an emotionally charged situation like a divorce, can have its ups and downs -- not to mention, sideways,  backwards, and upside down.  This can be difficult for a person whose life is already changing radically with the ending of their marital relationship.  Additionally, it adds extra expense -- if you hire a new attorney, he or she will need to review the file, (which is often volumes of documents and emails and conversations and court hearings, etc.), in order to effectively take on your representation.  This review can take many hours of work by the new attorney and it's likely that at least a portion of which will be charged to the client.
               Because switching attorneys is costly (and can also be emotionally jarring), it's a good idea to choose your attorney carefully before you sign the agreement and pay the retainer deposit.  It can seem like there's a fire drill emergency and that you need to hire an attorney immediately (and in some cases, this is true), but usually it is best to be careful and make deliberate choices. 
               A good place to begin is to gather some names of attorneys you may be interested in.  Ask friends, family, colleagues for referrals.  You can also contact the local bar association or various online referral sites (such as NOLO Press).  Even if your best friend has recommended someone, it is a good idea to contact several attorneys and either speak with them over the phone or go into their office to meet in person (although beware as many attorneys charge a consultation fee if you go into their office to meet).  Even without a formal consultation, you can gain much insight about the prospective attorney by how they communicate with you.  Another source of information is the attorney's website or other online information.  Make sure that the attorney you are considering has the same approach that you do -- for example, if you and your "ex" agree on most everything, look for an attorney who will help you come to a settlement, not an attorney who promises to fight to the death in court.  Think about what issues may arise for  you and your ex -- for example complicated division of assets or a joint business venture, or custody issues, etc. -- and then see if the prospective attorney has experience in these areas.
               I often recommend that people choose an attorney who they can envision getting bad news from -- because in most cases, there will be some "bad news," something that doesn't go the way the client expects.  Hire someone you think you can trust -- do your homework and then trust your gut.  Try to think of being in a long-term relationship with this attorney -- keep in mind that even in the best case scenario, it will take the California statutory minimum of six months plus one day before your divorce is finalized and many divorces can stretch on for a couple of years. 
               The bottom line is that whatever methodology you utilize, do take some careful steps before you make up your mind and sign on the dotted line.  This is likely to be one of the most important decisions you will make in your divorce.  And once you make a decision, try to have faith in your choice and in your attorney and try to remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel.... 


1 comment:

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