Category: consultation

How Do I Know If It’s Time to Hire a Different Lawyer?

How Do I Know If It’s Time to Hire a Different Lawyer?

The decision to change attorneys is a costly one.  It takes an emotional toll when you are already emotionally vulnerable.  It takes a financial toll and it takes a toll on your time when all you want is to get this process over.  You will have to go through getting to know your new attorney and how his office works.  Your new attorney will need time to get up to speed on your case, which will cost you money.  All of this will most likely delay the proceedings.

Nevertheless, if you feel your current counsel is not adequately representing your interests or if you feel that you can no longer work with that lawyer (sometimes called a breakdown of the attorney/client relationship), you might be well served by changing attorneys and should not hesitate. The sooner you act, the more likely you will be able to ensure that your rights are protected and that you have an attorney in whom you have faith and can trust to represent your interests.

Before you go through the expense and trouble of hiring a new attorney, you should take a hard look at your case and ask yourself some things:

  • Have I expressed my concerns to my attorney?  I mean, have you calmly and reasonably talked with your attorney about what is bothering you and not tried to get attention by being rude or demanding to the attorney or the office staff.  (FYI – that is never effective at getting a response you want.)
  • When I expressed my concerns, did my attorney take steps to remedy the situation?  This would apply whether we are talking about moving the case forward or simply handling an issue of communication between you and your attorney.
  • Is my lawyer open and receptive to what I have to say or does he get defensive?  Again this might depend on how your present your problem to the attorney, but attorney’s are professionals and should not get their feelings hurt if you are expressing a legitimate concern.
  • Am I blaming my lawyer for the bad behavior of my spouse or opposing counsel?  Try as you might, there is no way to litigate someone into not being a jerk.  Don’t blame your lawyer.
  • Have I provided my lawyer with all of the information he needs to take the next action in my case?  As a lawyer, it is impossible to go into battle with an unloaded gun.  Give your attorney all of the ammunition he/she needs.  You have responsibilities in this case as well.
  • Am I blaming my lawyer for things over which he/she has no control?  Sometimes, the law just is not on your side.  Make sure you ask whether it is your lawyer’s fault or if it is the law or even the judge that govern’s the outcome.
  • Is my lawyer keeping promises for completing action on my case?  Basically, is the lawyer doing what he says he is going to do?
  • Do I trust my lawyer?  Much like in a marriage, once the trust is gone, you need to go elsewhere.  Remember, you are putting your future and the future of your family in this person’s hands.
  • What are the relative advantages of hiring a new attorney compared to the costs?  Weigh out the pros and cons of changing lawyers.
  • Do I feel like my lawyer will support me to achieve my goals in this case?  Has my lawyer ever even asked me what my goals are?

You should make every effort to avoid changing attorneys in the middle of your case.  It can make a difficult situation even tougher.  There is an old adage that says you should never change horses mid-stream, but you might be on a horse that just can’t swim.  If that is the case, you should probably find yourself a canoe.

Photo courtesy of Stephen

I’ve Been Divorced Before But My Ex Has Hired Counsel. I Can Still Go It Alone Right?

I’ve Been Divorced Before But My Ex Has Hired Counsel. I Can Still Go It Alone Right?

If you went through a contested divorce years ago, you probably learned a lot about the divorce laws that were in effect at that time.  Be very cautious about proceeding without legal representation.  As I have said before, you can amputate your own limb but it usually works about better if you have a surgeon do it.  You should also be careful that you are not thinking too much with your heart and not enough with your head.

One thing to keep in mind is that every divorce is different.  This marriage may be very different from your previous marriage.  The finances may be more complicated, it could be a longer-term marriage, or there might be children involved.  Additionally, if you had assets when you came into this marriage (e.g. from the previous divorce), you will surely want to make sure that they are protected during this divorce.  Even your age and health condition may affect the outcome of your divorce and are issues that a skilled family law attorney can discuss with you.

Another point to consider, is that, as I acknowledged, you may have learned a lot about the laws in effect at the time of your last divorce.  The problem is that laws change all the time.  That is especially true in the are of family law.  Every year there may be new statutes passed by the legislature, or new rules of procedure or even new decisions by the appellate courts.  All of these things can directly affect your case.  You may also be appearing before a different judge than in your last case.  One with much, much different attitudes about your particular factual situation.  A trained lawyer should be able to discuss all of these issues with you and explain how your particular situation fits in the current status of the law.

In some cases, you may be able to keep the involvement of an attorney to a minimum.  It may be limited to simply reviewing a proposed agreement and advising you about its ramifications.  On the other hand, the lawyer may realize that you are being taken advantage of and potentially signing away thousands of dollars or other rights that you did not even know you had.  It is up to you whether you will choose to be penny wise and pound foolish.  As a final point, I will remind you, do not ever operate under the delusion that you and your spouse can “share” an attorney.

Photo courtesy of Rob Walker

Can I Bring a Friend or Family Member to My Consultation?

Can I Bring a Friend or Family Member to My Consultation?

The short answer is yes, you can bring someone with you to your initial consultation.  Whether you should bring someone or allow that person to sit through the entire meeting is another matter.  Going to see a divorce/custody attorney for the first time can be intimidating and scary.  Having someone else there can be a great resource for support and comfort.  This person might be your designated note taker so you can focus on listening to the attorney and asking questions that are pressing on your mind.  Your friend can also help make sure that you ask everything that is concerning you.  They might also help keep you organized and make sure you give the attorney all of the information he or she may need.  Keep in mind that this is your consultation and it is important that the attorney hear the facts of the case from you and that you discuss your goals.

It is also important that your consultation with the attorney be as open and honest as possible.  Everything you discuss with the attorney, whether you retain the attorney or not, is to be held in the strictest of confidence.  Nevertheless, there are sometimes issues involved in a divorce that may be embarrassing to you and difficult to share.  This can be double tough when your mom or best friend from grade school is sitting next to you.  If there are certain facts that you are embarrassed to share with your friend or relative present, you should probably ask them to wait outside while you discuss them with the attorney in private.  While the attorney has a duty of confidentiality to you, your friend or family member owes you no such duty.

Another reason to ask your companion to wait in the lobby is due to attorney-client privilege.  The attorney-client privilege is different from the attorney’s duty of confidentiality.  The duty of confidentiality binds the attorney to not reveal your secrets or other information about you.  The attorney-client privilege deals with the judicial system and your ability to invoke the privilege to prevent a court from requiring the attorney to reveal information about you.  That privilege applies to all communications you have with your attorney unless those communications also involved third parties (i.e. your mother was sitting next to you).  In that case, the privilege may be deemed waived as to any communications that took place while that third party was present.  Long story short, be careful about you bring with you to your consultation and what you say in their presence.

Photo courtesy of Allen

What Can I Expect at an Initial Consultation With an Attorney?

What Can I Expect at an Initial Consultation With an Attorney?

A lawyer’s time is his stock in trade. ~Abraham Lincoln

Not all initial consultations are created equal.  Many attorneys, especially in the area of divorce and family law, charge an initial consultation fee.  There are several attorneys who offer free consultations, but the advice you get, if any, may be worth exactly what you pay for it.

The nature of the advice you get in an initial consultation will vary greatly depending on the nature of the case about which you are consulting with the attorney.  If you are just beginning a divorce case, you will get much different information than if you are in the middle of a contested case.  It will also depend on if you are merely on an information gathering visit or ready to file something immediately.

During your first meeting with an attorney in addition to the other information you should bring, which we discussed here, you should be prepared to provide the following information to your attorney:

  • A brief history of the marriage
  • Background information on you, your spouse, your children and other pertinent members of your family
  • Information about your immediate situation and/or needs
  • Your goals regarding your post-divorce future and, more specifically, your relationship with your soon-to-be ex-spouse
  • The information you need from the attorney, i.e. come prepared to ask questions

The attorney you meet with should be able to provide you with the following:

  • A summary of how divorce works in Kentucky and a rough outline of how the case will progress
  • A discussion of the issues that are relevant to your case and how he/she might approach each issue
  • A preliminary assessment of your rights, obligations and responsibilities under the law
  • Background on the attorney, the firm, and their experience in family law matters
  • Information about fees, court costs and other expected litigation expenses.

The initial consultation is an opportunity for you to develop a rapport with the prospective attorney.  You will be putting the immediate (and possibly long-term) future of you, your children and other members of your family into this person’s hands.  It is imperative that you trust this person and are satisfied with the advice they give you and that they have the ability to handle your case.  You should expect them to not only answer your questions, but ask you questions that show he/she understands your situation.  While it is impossible for an attorney to answer every single question at an initial consultation, you should be able to develop some sense of comfort with the person.  If not, you need to keep on searching.

Photo courtesy of Solo, with others