your attorney gets the big bucks. she works for you

by: mara bernstein
posted: wednesday, march 11, 2015

I've had former clients and friends who've told me that they've felt intimidated, bullied and ignored by their divorce lawyer. I know it sounds crazy but from time to time, it does happen. No matter how smart, successful, famous or admired your attorney is, she has no right to treat you with anything but respect and decency. If it happens to you, you need to know how to nip it in the bud. If you can't, give your rude attorney the boot; it's as simple as that. It's really O.K. to change your lawyer during your divorce. It's not at all uncommon.

Going through a divorce is tough enough. You absolutely don't need any additional stress, especially from someone you're paying to protect you. There are so many smart, professional and courteous divorce attorneys out there, there's no reason to stick with an idiot who is inappropriate or unresponsive to you.

Also know that you have a certain amount of control over how responsive and patient your attorney will be as long as you're keyed into three factors: chemistry, timing and communication.

Chemistry is a concept we hear over and over again in the dating world, the same concept applies to finding the right divorce attorney. Although chemistry is so important in deciding whether to hire an attorney, you must never, I repeat never, under any circumstances, hire her solely on the basis of chemistry between the two of you.

You may think she's warm, funny and really understands where you're coming from-that's great. But does she have the "stuff" to get to you what you want in your divorce? What's her level of expertise? Reputation? Experience in this area? Relationships with fellow divorce attorneys and judges? If your case is acrimonious and looks like it's headed for court, does she have considerable trial experience? Does she know her way around the courts? It's really like dating; good looks are great but after a while, looks can fade so you need the substance to back it up. There needs to be a good mix of style and substance, same applies with your divorce attorney.

Getting back to chemistry, think about the questions you've asked yourself when you've been in the dating mode looking for the right match or a "love connection." In looking for the right match, most of us have asked ourselves questions like:

  • Is he approachable?
  • Do I feel at ease in his presence?
  • Does he make me feel heard?
  • Is he responsive to me?v
  • Does he ask me questions?
  • Is he a good listener?
  • Do we see the world in the same way?
  • Do I feel like he really gets me and understands where I'm coming from? GOT THE PICTURE?

When I talk about timing, I'm talking about where your attorney is at in her practice and in her personal life:

  • Is she bombarded with other cases?
  • Is she under pressure of an upcoming trial?
  • Is she just coming off a long trial?
  • Did she just get hired to work on a celebrity or BIG money case?
  • Is she short on support staff?
  • Is she planning her wedding?
  • Is she in the process of her own divorce?
  • Is she pregnant and ready to have a baby?
  • Has she been practicing for many years and on the verge of burnout?

The answers to these questions will be great indicators as to how available, patient and responsive to your needs your attorney will be.

Finally, communication, the answer to these questions should be a resounding yes: Does your lawyer return your phone calls and emails within 24 hours? Is she patient when you ask her questions or need clarification on issues? Does she set aside time to meet with you when you need a sit down? If the answer is yes to all these questions, you're in good hands. If not, start getting referrals for other divorce lawyers, it's imperative that you do so sooner rather than later

Remember, you get one shot at your divorce. You must be able to feel and believe that your lawyer is "on your team" and that you are working in partnership toward a common goal of getting you the best results possible.