Sometimes, relationships don’t work out. The fact that you are reading this blog post on a family law attorney’s blog tells me that this statement that I just made is absolutely true. It is true for marriages and it is also true for attorney-client relationships. When you hire a divorce attorney you do so believing that this is the partner that you need to execute your divorce plan and to achieve your goals. What happens, though, when you and your attorney run into issues with your relationship? How can you tell when it’s time to terminate the relationship and to move on to a new attorney?
In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC I would like to discuss the nature of the attorney-client relationship and when it may be time for you to consider going in another direction as far as representation is concerned. Let’s state up front that this is not an easy decision to make, nor one that you should rush into. Before you fire you attorney, and preferably before you hire your attorney, you should read through this blog post first.
Make no mistake: the attorney you select to represent you can absolutely determine the outcome of your case
I think most of the things that you tend to hear about divorce is exaggerated. I don’t have the room or time to get into specifics, but just think of the things you’ve heard from well meaning friends and family about divorce. The costs. The time commitment. The judges. The attorneys. Most of what you hear are half truths- and just barely at that. These folks have had bad, sometimes exceptionally bad experiences and as a result their views on the subject of divorce have been skewed a great deal.
This is understandable, of course. If you have gone through something traumatic- or even something that you merely perceive to be traumatic- then your views on that subject can’t help but be slanted one way or another. However- it is your job to determine for yourself what is reality based and what is based on extreme circumstances. This is true in many areas of divorce, but notably in the area of the attorney-client relationship.
Your attorney can, should and will have a direct impact on the outcome of your case. In fact, unlike other areas divorce that we discussed above, I don’t think it is hyperbole to say that the attorney you select to represent you will determine the outcome of your case. While facts and circumstances are important, so is crafting a case around those facts and circumstances. Successful family law attorneys are able to take circumstances that on their face may not be all that favorable to their client, and can turn those circumstances into a favorable outcome for their client.
So, don’t listen to your friends or family members who tell you that all divorce attorneys are the same and that picking one or the other isn’t a big deal ultimately. I would beg to differ. Look hard at any attorney you hire before ultimately signing on their dotted line. It could impact the rest of your life in a profound way.
Does your attorney communicate well with you?
The most important tool that your attorney can have in his or her toolbox is the ability to communiticate effectively and often with you. Without this tool all of the other characteristics and skills he or she may have will not result in any sort of gain for you and your family.
Unfortunately many attorneys do not communicate well with their clients. This may not be all their fault. He or she may have a number of high-maintenance clients at the same time as you are represented by him or she. Their schedule may be full of court and mediation dates that make return phone calls difficult. Everyone has personal lives that can take up time and energy. Humans have human problems.
However, that doesn’t make the situation any better for you as their client. Whatever the reason, legitimate or not, if you are not getting return phone calls or emails from your attorney that is a problem. If you feel like you are not being communicated with effectively it can lead you to also think that you are not a priority for your attorney. Neglect causes relationships to wither on the vine and eventually die, I am sorry to say.
Chalk it up to poor time management skills, taking on too many clients at once and/or not having sufficient support staff available to handle their client load your attorney is ultimately responsible for communication to the same degree that you are. Pay close attention to the communication skills of your attorney. If he or she struggles with this skill then make note of it.
Professionalism is important
Attorneys love to refer to ourselves as “professionals.” I guess technically any person who does any job and is paid for it is a professional, but the way that attorneys use the term generally reflect an air of prestige. What does being a professional mean, though?
To some, being a professional means being able to take advantages of the perks of the perks of the job. A flexible work schedule, support staff available to take phone calls and assist at a moment’s notice and that hard to define sense of prestige that some attorneys feel like they have.
To me, professionalism means how you comport and conduct yourself on a day in and day out basis. Does your attorney treat you with respect? Does your attorney address your questions or brush them aside. Who does more of the talking in a conversation- you or your attorney? Ask yourself these questions when you pondering whether or not to let your attorney go.
Keep in mind that if your attorney is not professional with you, he or she is less likely to be professional with court staff, judges, opposing counsel and opposing parties. These are the people that will help determine the outcome of your case as well. You deserve a representative that will act responsibility, ethically and, yes, professionally. Don’t settle for one or two out of three.
Does your attorney know you and your case?
One of the more embarrassing things that I will hear flustered attorneys ask their clients at the courthouse before a hearing is: “Is yours the case that…?” Basically, the attorney is trying to determine if that client’s case is one that embodies a particular characteristic or circumstance because he or she cannot remember for certain. This is an embarrassing thing to ask someone who is paying your salary, in my opinion.
If your attorney cannot keep facts straight, and is unsure of even the most basic elements of your case then you have an attorney who either does not care enough to learn your case, is unintelligent or has no time to learn your case because he or she is overextended, client-wise. Either way- this is a maybe the biggest factor that you need to examine when determining whether or not to fire your attorney.
Consider this: family law is so fact based that your attorney absolutely needs to know exactly what is happening in your life in order to represent you effectively. If you are spending the moments before a trial or temporary orders hearing going over a basic run down of your kids’ ages then you have an underprepared attorney.
Questions on how to pick an attorney you won’t want to fire? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
No attorney is perfect, but the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC work hard to effectively and fairly represent our clients in a wide variety of family law cases. We pride ourselves on customer service and achieving great results for our clients.
To learn more about our office and the services that we can provide you and your family please do not hesitate to contact us today. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with our licensed family law attorneys.