When you are divorcing, money has to be an issue for most people. You are now running two households on the same income as you have been making, and now you have to pay attorney fees. Many people think hiring a big firm or paying a high hourly fee will guarantee them the best outcome – but does it?
Hiring a large firm is not necessary, even if you have a difficult case. In fact, I would say a smaller firm, even a solo practitioner, would perhaps be better not just on the pocketbook, but also emotionally. At a time when you are at your lowest, you undoubtedly want to feel like your attorney is there for you, right?
I have been in larger firms, and I often found myself appearing on cases that I was only vaguely familiar with. That was a very unpleasant feeling. Either the paralegal or another newer and less experienced attorney did the majority of the footwork, and knew the case much better. I would often be required to handle 75 cases at one time and could only go without sleep for only so long. I didn’t like practicing that way, so I opened my own practice. In my solo practice, I much prefer the “hands on” approach. I prepare the declarations and other important documents in the case, not my assistant. I have had clients express amazement that I remember so much about my clients. It is because I am extremely involved in each case at all times.
I have spoke to people who have hired larger firms, and left them to come to me. I hear the same complaints – “someone I didn’t even know showed up at the last hearing”, “I can’t get an answer from my attorney because (s)he is unavailable”, “the attorney doesn’t seem to remember much of the details of my case”, “I felt ignored because when I showed up to court, my attorney was handling another case in another courtroom”, and my favorite “I paid $10,000 for nothing.”
There are many attorneys out there, large firms in particular, that seem to make issues only for the purpose of generating a fee. I know some solo practitioners who are guilty of this too – usually the “specialists”. Problems that are usually handled between attorneys suddenly becomes motions and appearances. Example – an attorney refuses to agree to a vocational evaluation of his/her unemployed client. I had an attorney who refused to stipulate, even after the clerk informed him that he should simply stipulate because the judge does it all of the time, and it would be ordered. Since this guy is a family law specialist, I feel pretty confident he already knew this.
That leads me into another discussion – client control. Some attorneys have the idea that your client pays you to give your legal advice as to how the court will see a particular matter. I am of this camp. I question my clients when I find something hard to believe, I am not a puppet. Other attorneys simply do the bidding of their client, even when they know this will be unsuccessful. I was at a family law section meeting once where an attorney from an extremely large firm (they advertise on the radio even) stated that if a client wants him to file a motion, he will file it. It is the trier of fact that decides the merits, not him. I don’t agree with that, as I believe his success was based on wasting other people’s time and money. I don’t want my client embarrassed, humiliated or defeated like that.
So, the question of who to pick as your attorney should be done by simply speaking to several attorneys. I offer free initial consultations, and so do other attorneys. Pick the one you feel comfortable with, not the name or the higher price.