When I am interviewing potential new clients of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, I will typically ask the person if they have ever hired an attorney before. The answer is usually, “No”. Next, I will ask if that person has ever been to court before and/or filed a lawsuit against another person. Again, the answer is typically, “No”. My response is that the person has led a good and likely happy life if they have never been involved in a legal matter before and have never had to see the inside of a courtroom.
The fact is that nobody likes the idea of having to hire an attorney. You probably have somewhere between one and three-dozen things that you would prefer to spend your money on, as opposed to doing so on an attorney. However, if you are planning to file for divorce or have been forced to respond to a divorce petition filed by your spouse hiring an attorney to assist you in that process is essential in my opinion.
If you have never been through this process before you may have never even interacted with an attorney in your life. How can you know how to discuss your case with an attorney in order to determine whether or not it is worth your time and money to hire the lawyer’s services? In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC we will discuss this subject in some detail. Very few people go to shop for a new car without at least knowing what you want your new car to have as far as amenities and features. Likewise, you do not want to make an even more important decision without having some information to operate off of before you begin the process of hiring an attorney.
How should you go about hiring an attorney?
Getting a recommendation from your friend who has gone through a divorce or any other referral system is not a bad idea at all. You should listen to people that you trust and who have been through the process before. If you have never been through a divorce or hired an attorney you will obviously have more trust in what a friend says than what a lawyer you’ve never met has to tell you. Listen to those who are close to you and whose judgement you trust and value.
The next step is where you test the recommendation to see if it makes sense for you and your circumstances. Once you have a recommendation you need to do a little bit of research on the attorney. What do other people say about how the lawyer did in their case? Read through online reviews but even here you need to be careful. Many websites’ reviews of attorneys can’t be trusted because they do not verify that the client who is submitting the review actually had an attorney-client relationship with that lawyer. This can make reading the reviews a little dicey but I say that it is better than nothing.
Not all divorces are created equal. Yours may be one where you and your spouse do not have much in the way of income or assets but you do have four kids that are going to be the centerpiece of your divorce. As a result, you will want to hire an attorney who seems to understand issues surrounding children and can provide you with assistance in regard to custody, visitation and child support.
Likewise, if you and your spouse are older, have no children (or all your children are over the age of eighteen) and have a substantial amount of wealth and assets to divide in your divorce you will need to look into hiring an attorney with experience in high-income/wealth divorces. The factors are different in this sort of divorce than the one I described in the paragraph previous to this one. In this sort of case your attorney should be experienced in helping clients in dividing marital estates.
How should you not go about hiring an attorney?
In the world of attorneys, many of my brothers and sisters in the law believe that any ol’ attorney can put on their fancy suit and march down the courthouse and represent you in a temporary orders hearing or trial for your divorce. This is not the case, however. Just as with any specialized area of the law there are certain traits and experiences that family law attorney embody in regard to being able to know the nuances of the Texas Family Code and how to best apply those nuances to your case. Secondly, family law attorneys are quite adept at communication and negotiation with opposing parties. There is a fine line between advocating for a client and completely alienating the other side. Family law attorneys know how to walk on that thin line without going over.
The point I’m trying to make here is that you need to hire a family law attorney to represent you in a your divorce. Make sure the person has handled many divorces (of all kinds) before yours. Young attorneys need to get their start somewhere but I would not recommend letting your case be that “somewhere”. Go with an attorney who has experience handling your variety of divorce case. Ask him or her to talk to you about prior cases and how you helped your client achieve their goals. If you are not comfortable with the attorney’s level of experience there is nothing wrong with going in another direction. In fact, I would recommend that you do exactly that.
By the same token, do not hire an attorney only because of the reputation that he or she has built up in your community. Certainly an attorney that has a great reputation, exceptional history of results and the ability to educate you on the process and your case should be considered. However, if all you go off of is the person’s reputation without attempting to find out more you could be making a huge mistake in hiring that person.
If the attorney tells you that he or she has never been to court do not take this as a positive without asking more. Maybe that means the reputation the person has allows him or her to swing deals that otherwise would cause you to wind up in court. On the other hand, it could mean that you are talking to an attorney who is scared to go to court and therefore would not be a great option for you in the event that negotiation fails and litigation is the best option to pursue.
Finally, if you have hired an attorney and you find that your phone calls and emails are not being returned in a reasonable amount of time then you should not remain with that lawyer. I will say that it is unrealistic in many cases to have your attorney return your phone calls or emails with an hour of your sending them (in most cases). However, I have set up a rule for myself to return all phone calls and emails within twenty four business hours of receiving a message. I think this is reasonable. If your attorney can’t manage to communicate with you this is a problem that you need to address.
Talking to your lawyer and talking to your spouse- a how to guide. Tomorrow’s blog post topic
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC is appreciative of your interest in today’s topic and hopes you will return tomorrow to read more about divorce in Texas. If you have any questions for one of our licensed family law attorneys please do not hesitate to contact us today. We offer free of charge consultations and are available to speak with you six days a week.