For many people, their first experience with the Court and working with an attorney is when they go through a divorce. The following is some of the mistakes people make that negatively impact their relationship with their attorney.
Most family law attorneys have had a client similar to Jenny:
Jenny has been married to John for 12 years. They have two children, a house, two cars, some investment accounts and retirement accounts. Jenny learned that Mike is having an affair and is bleeping mad about it. Jenny expects her attorney to be as outraged as she is. Many attorneys will be accommodating but the Court is not going to be impressed and Jenny and John can expect to have their attorney fees increase by approximately 50% because it just ramps up the emotions on both sides. This is not to say that Jenny should not gather evidence to prove adultery grounds but an attorney who emulates Jenny’s emotions and pain is less likely to bring the case to a reasonable resolution.
All family law attorneys who litigate cases are under very strict deadlines. Expecting that you can just walk into your attorney’s office and demand that your attorney stop what he/she is doing to talk to you, is not going to sit very well with your attorney or his/her staff. Likewise, demanding that your attorney interrupt a deposition or trial to call you immediately is not going to happen. Imagine yourself in the middle of trial and your attorney excuses himself because he has to take a telephone call from another client. Isn’t it reasonable to expect your attorney to have 100% of his/her attention on your case during meetings, depositions and trial? Schedule times to meet with your attorney when it is convenient for both of you.
The number one complaint of clients is that their attorney never returns their calls. This issue should be discussed at the initial conversation. Every attorney runs their calendars differently. Some attorneys only take telephone calls during certain hours of the day. I personally tell my clients at their initial consultation that if I am not available when they call, to ask for my legal assistant. My legal assistant schedules a telephone conference on my calendar. When my client calls, they know I am available. What are your expectations to response emails? Some attorneys are very slow with answering emails. During your divorce or custody case, you are going to have questions that need to get answered. Make sure you know before entering into a fee agreement how the attorney is going to be assessable to you.
If your attorney is unable or unwilling to communicate with you, then I suggest that you find another attorney.
Funding your legal fees
At your initial consultation, you should talk to the attorney about legal fees. What are their expectations? If the attorney says to you, “I do not get into those issues,” do you drop the subject? If he/she does not get into those issues, who does? What is the lawyer’s hourly rate? What kind of advance fee are they expecting you to pay? What happens if the advance fee runs out? Do you receive a monthly invoice? Do you only receive an invoice at the conclusion of your case? Does the attorney take credit cards?
Most people have no idea how expensive legal fees can be. If you give the attorney $10,000.00 as an advance fee, is this going to cover the cost of the litigation? If not, how much more is it going to cost? No attorney can give you an exact amount because there are so many variables from the aggressiveness of opposing counsel to the amount of times you are in and out of court. Every time we go to court, there is preparation before the hearing, the travel to and from the court and the hearing itself.
These questions need to be discussed. The last thing you want is your attorney withdrawing from your case near the trial date, because you are unable to pay your attorney.