Working with lawyers and legal staff is essential in divorce, but can incredibly frustrating. As their client, we’ve hired them to protect and promote our welfare, and we need to communicate efficiently to manage their work (as much as they’ll let us). They are often over-worked and semi-responsive, but they can be incredibly valuable as advocates and creators of settlement language that can make our future with our ex-spouse smooth or rocky.
There are many of different directions our divorce process can go based on our communication with the lawyer. They don’t mean to make your ship go in a direction you don’t want, but they may do that due to their training, experience and personal concerns, unless you communicate clearly and reign them in. Their advice and legal knowledge is indispensable and can save you years of heartache and finacial woes.
Like a jungle guide taking you through the unknowns to a new territory – trust their know-how and instinct, but keep them moving towards your goals in a reasonable time frame.
- Find a good one – much easier said than done. Seek recommendations at divorce support groups like those found at Meetup sites http://www.meetup.com/ or with National support groups at churchs like Divorce Care http://www.divorcecare.org/ Request a free initial interview.
- Check out at Avvo.com http://www.avvo.com/ and Martindale Hubble http://www.martindale.com/ for background, but don’t count on critiques.
- Your State Bar association will offer some information on lawyers with complaints/bad history.
- Ask a local trusted professional or friend with legal background.
Communication With All Legal Professionals:
Be clear and concise with information and your goals. Attorneys and paralegals often charge in 7 minute increments, so they are Not the ones to whom you cry on their shoulders. Use your mom or best friend for that. Like doctors, it’s better to tell your symptoms (problems or concerns), rather than share what disease you think you have (or what legal action you think they should take. ) Have questions and information ready for each meeting. Don’t’ be afraid to ask questions like, “What are the potential consequences of this language in my agreement?”
Like my sister in the military says, always be friendly (if you want them to keep your file near the top of their pile), firm (with what you want them to do – as much as you know what that is) and fair (with your expectations of them ). You’re one of many clients.
Costs: For non-essential information, work with staff that are not charging to save money for communication. Carefully check your monthly bills to see what office staff is charging for what. My friend used an attorney who never charged for emails, but only phone calls – so she sent brief emails whenever possible. Another friend found the paralegal/legal secretary never charged for informational calls, and tried to clear up all non-critical info through them. They often won’t tell you outright, which can really rack up bills – guess they want their BMWs after all that hard work, so be warrry and figure it out yourself from the bills .
Problems with bills: keep careful details on time spent on the phone with legal staff. Keep your important emails and letters in files such as: important letters, legal documents, billing, tax information, finances. Don’t hesitate to address emails that were never responded to and charged for, or excessive time logged on to your call times.
Poor communication: If a lawyers’ office is not communicating clearly or within reasonable times, be politely persistent with the staff to get your questions answered. The lightly squeaky wheel gets the grease. Call every other day if you have to – be brief, polite, ask for specific results and information.
In their defense: I hear divorce law is a high stress job dealing with unhappy parties day in and day out. And they’re pretty much experts at covering their bottoms against law suits, so don’t be too offended when they don’t respond to detailed emails (my only thought is they don’t want to be help accountable for receiving information that might be used to sue them.) Many of them just want to talk by phone or in person (like the God Father – who said it’s the only safe way). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qvpcfYFHcw Work with their style.
Coming Soon: Gollum and “The Ring” from “The Hobbit.”