Divorce isn’t the easiest thing to overcome, we all know that. But it’s also the first time that so many people have ever dealt with having a lawyer, and that’s a process that can be a little intimidating. Particularly because you don’t know who you’re looking for, what to look for or which way you’re trying to go. Your lawyer is your handheld directory to make your journey easier and caution you through the forks in the road of divorce. You may ask, how do I know which route is the best to take? Is it through Waze or Google Maps? Or maybe it’s the GPS installed in your Honda Civic that won’t stop belting, “Turn left!” when you’ve already decided going right is the best way to go?
Every lawyer is different but the client-lawyer relationship is going to be one of the most personal (dare we even say intimate) relationships you’re ever going to have, so you want to make sure your decision is a good one.
Don’t fall so quickly for the first attorney you meet.
Things can sound so promising during your first consultation, but you may come across some things that don’t feel like a great fit for you. For example, what if the attorney isn’t willing to be contacted over text? Is that an issue for you? You need to have an idea of the best and most realistic methods of communications – or be ok with the attorney’s directives – to be able to move forward in a productive way. You also want to Prioritize planning for the consultation so that you aren’t sounding like a broken record, regurgitating information about how your husband pissed you off last night.
Attorney consultation is not a therapy session.
This leads to the second tip – your lawyer isn’t supposed to be your emotional support nor be your best friend. Remember, the more you talk about other topics, the less time they will be able to focus on the real reason why you’re consulting. Do yourself a favor and leave the resentment at home. It’s so easy to feel bitter and angry when establishing your relationship with your lawyer. Who thought you’d even be sitting eye to eye with a divorce lawyer right now? But remember that they’re not why you should be mad; they are your partner on the road to freedom.
Communication is key.
And in order to make it down that road, establish your communication expectations early on. You, as the client, must understand the expectations from the attorney and attorneys must understand the expectations from the clients. Teamwork makes the dream work, people! If you both establish and feel gooid about the respective boundaries, you’ll quickly be on the same page. Also, keep in mind that your lawyer knows you may not have any experience with divorce or the process. You should never, ever feel dumb asking any questions that give you clarity into what is happening in your divorce. This is a situation that will end with decisions being made that will impact you for years to come, possible forever if you have kids, so it’s imperative that you truly understand exactly what’s going on. Don’t be afraid to ask all the questions (even ones that you think are silly)! Your attorney is there to fight for you and the last thing they want to do is fight with you.
Be careful what you ask for…the bills will sneak up on you.
One of the challenges in getting divorced is there are many people that want specific things but begin to forget about the money they’re spending. Like yes, you’re going to be charged for that! So listen up – read the retainer agreement! It may seem unpleasant but its important to read everything because, shocker(!)…every time you talk to your attorney, you’re being billed. Whether it’s on the phone, over zoom, in person, over text, doesn’t matter! Don’t make assumptions that since that was just a quick email or a 5-minute call that you’re not paying. And please do not, under any circumstances, have the conversations with your lawyer that you would have with a therapist. You’ll be saving more in your therapy sessions but your legal fees will be through the roof. Watch how often you are speaking to your attorney, it racks up!
You pay for an attorney’s time, you are not paying for results.
This may seem obvious, but it’s certainly something a lot of people lose sight of when they feel they’re in the flight of their lives, literally. There’s never a guarantee that things will go one way or the other in a divorce, and beware of any attorney that makes those kinds of promises or reassurances to you in the beginning. In fact, run from them! And it may be a hard pill to swallow, but at the end of the day, you are paying your lawyer for the work that they’re doing, despite hope it turns out in the end. So what’s going to move your case forward? Does there need to be a phone call for every single thing?
Maybe not, But make sure you don’t waste time writing emails back and forth when a quick call could have resolved your question or issue more easily. Here’s a tip, try putting emails into your drafts and send an email once a week indicating your needs, opposed to writing several emails (or more) every week. It’s also likely that your attorney may send you to talk to their paralegal since your attorney is trying to help you control costs. Paralegals maybe $95 an hour while your attorney may bill $400 an hour.
As you carry forward with your divorce process, your attorney is the closest you have to a guardian angel. You’ll start to feel like the perfect pair once you know that you’ve picked the right one. But make sure you don’t go into your consultation anxious, with low expectations, and a bad attitude. Remember, the lawyer you choose is there to be your shield and look out for your best interests. If you understand the relationship clearly from the start, you will have a much better experience, overall.