You’re facing divorce and it feels like your world is upside down. Your financial future’s at stake and if you have children, so is your future with them. The last thing you need is a divorce attorney who’s more interested in profit than your best interest.
Determining whether your attorney is trustworthy can be difficult, especially at the outset, because you’ve never been through a divorce before and you don’t know what to expect.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should bury your head in the sand and hope for the best. There are some steps you can take and questions you can ask to assess whether a particular divorce attorney is someone you can actually trust.
1. Research the attorney online
There’s a wealth of information online about attorneys. It’s more difficult than ever to inconspicuously provide poor quality service. That’s because anyone after a miserable experience can hop online and warn their fellow consumers through reviews.
If the attorney’s a fraud, or maybe pretty sound at practicing law, but delivers terrible service, chances are people will post negative reviews about it. Google the lawyer’s name followed by “lawyer reviews” and you’ll see a number of directories on which people who have used the attorney may have left some feedback.
You can also ask around. Word of mouth is important on both ends of the spectrum: for positive and negative information. You may be able to contact someone who’s used the attorney.
Take advantage of the fact that it’s easier than ever to obtain information from third parties about the attorney. Consider that information carefully before making a decision.
2. Beware of being pressured to sign up.
Attorney’s should have your best interest as a priority. It’s not in your best interest to be pressured into hiring an attorney. If it feels like the attorney is a little too desperate to sign up for you, that’s a red flag. Of course, there are some cases in which time is of the essence and it’s the attorney’s obligation to inform you of that.
But that’s not what we’re talking about here. You know that feeling when the person trying to sell you something is pushing instead of educating? If you get that sense, step back and don’t make a rash decision.
3. If the attorney is encouraging you to make emotion-based decisions, run!
Divorce can be difficult. And of course, it’s not uncommon for emotions to run high. However, if the attorney is using your emotions to try to convince you to take certain steps in the case that are not grounded in sound logic and reason, that’s a sign the attorney is more interested in your money than your interests.
One way to put yourself in a better position to detect this is to educate yourself on divorce at the outset. No need to go into this blind. There’s a wealth of information online about divorce. Learn about it. Ask a lot of questions.
Also, if the attorney’s taking the case in a direction that doesn’t feel right, you can consult with another attorney. Sometimes having another professional re-assess a case for you can shed some light on an issue. And it may give you the information you need to determine if your attorney’s leading you astray.
4. Don’t tolerate poor communication.
The fact that many attorneys are poor at communication is a running joke. You leave a message and no one gets back to you for a couple of weeks because the lawyer’s “busy.” Nonsense! Poor communication results in information falling through the cracks, which compromises the lawyer’s ability to represent you effectively. Your information, goals, priorities are all lost in the shuffle if there isn’t a good client communication system in place at the firm.
It’s particularly troublesome when the communication is poor at the outset of the representation. If they’re not paying attention to you now, what makes you think things will get better going forward?
5. Be wary of attorneys that make no effort to compromise.
There’s generally give and take in divorce. Of course, the attorney should be looking out for your best interest and fighting to get you the best result.
But if the attorney has no flexibility and is making no effort to resolve the case, it may be that the attorney’s priority is making some extra money. Generally, if the case is resolved efficiently, the divorce lawyer is paid less. If your attorney is prolonging the case with no good explanation, you need to be asking more questions.
Attorneys have different styles and different personalities (they’re people too!). So understand that not everything about the lawyer or the firm will necessarily be perfect. However, if you keep in mind the principles above, you’ll be well on your way to sniffing out a fraud. Divorce can be expensive. If you hire someone who’s putting your interests on the back burner, it can be even more expensive, and frustrating.
Contact us for more information.