Hiring an Attorney: Looking for honesty and communication to avoid costly surprises

Divorce litigation can be very expensive when the issues are complex and the parties are far from agreeing on what happens with children, incomes, assets, and so forth. When clients do not pay their attorney’s fees, the client suffers if the attorney withdraws from their case. Often that client has to hire a new attorney to finish the case, which involves some duplication of work. While paying for a new attorney, the previous one might be taking actions against their past client to collect unpaid fees. This scenario is too common and it only hurts the attorney and the client. Setting expectations at the outset of divorce litigation, being truthful about the potential costs, and working with the client to minimize financial stress can improve attorney-client relations and increase referrals.

Learn what to look for when hiring an attorney!

Hire an attorney who shares realistic expectations of the potential costs of divorce litigation. If an attorney tells you that you can get a divorce for the amount of the original retainer check, ask more questions. Experienced attorneys know the average time frames and amount of work required to successfully represent family law clients in a variety of matters affecting the family. Having said this, your attorney cannot control the opponents. If your soon to be ex-spouse files excessive motions, or schedules depositions for everyone under the sun, you could be stuck paying for what might me excessive litigation. The take away is that divorce litigation can become far more expensive than you or your attorney intend.

Hire an attorney who works with clients to minimize fees and costs when possible. The discovery process can be more manageable when the client knows their financial status and presents their assets, liabilities, and records regarding family issues in an organized manner. Organized clients can save money if they bring their attorney a binder containing organized and labeled documents. On the other hand, a box of unorganized materials can require attorneys and staff to spend billable hours piecing together your financial and family records. When you know your affairs best, it makes sense to spend the time to present documents in an organized fashion to avoid unnecessary guesswork.

Hire an attorney well known for receiving referrals from people in the community. Today, more attorneys are grooming their online presence, often including earned testimonial statements from happy clients. Clients who recommend attorneys likely had a good experience with their lawyer. The referrals do not as frequently come to the attorneys who withdrew from a case or sued the client for unpaid fees. You would think that a client would offer referrals to a professional they could not pay, but most people find they would rather lay low and dodge a discussion about fees when their former attorney calls to thank them for the referral.

Hire an attorney who communicates honestly and effectively. The key to a good experience is honesty. With honesty, we earn trust. If the child custody battle could be financially devastating, the parent seeking custody should be prepared. Part of being prepared is having a communications plan so there client and attorney are on the same page and there are no surprises. Billing the client regularly and often is a best practice to avoid surprises. A good attorney will tell you the truth and make sure you know where you stand, what it will cost, and how you might reach a conclusion that works in your best interests.

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