September 4, 2015 by mndivorcelawyer
Filed under Divorce, What to Know Before Meeting with Your Divorce Attorney
Welcome to our last post in our blog series, What to Know Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney.
For those of you just joining us, so far we’ve talked about:
– The Initial Consultation and How to Use it to Get Yourself the right Divorce Attorney (our first post of the series);
– How to Schedule an Intake Appointment and What Questions You Should Ask Ahead of Time (our second post of the series);
– What You’ll Need to Bring with You to the Intake Appointment (our third post in the series); and
– What Happens at an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney (our fourth post in the series).
Now that you’ve gotten a chance to check out our previous posts, here are 5 tips to make the most out of your intake appointment with your divorce attorney.
Tip # 1: Make Sure the Divorce Attorney Listens to and Matches Your Goals
Not all divorce attorneys are the same.
Some divorce attorneys are more aggressive and confrontational than other divorce attorneys.
For example, although it’s required in Minnesota, some divorce attorneys don’t put much thought into alternative dispute resolution (methods, such as mediation, for negotiating with your spouse) and instead push going to trial (where the majority of legal fees and costs reside during a divorce). –> If you don’t want to go to trial and your divorce attorney enjoys going to trial and has a high percentage of divorce cases that go to trial, then maybe s/he isn’t the best fit.
Some divorce attorneys are more comfortable with a client completing case tasks that don’t require attorney oversight than other divorce attorneys.
For example, some divorce attorneys allow a client to arrange a property evaluation, such as a house appraisal with a third party, while other divorce attorneys view this as part of his/her billable services. –> If you want your divorce attorney to handle everything, than you’ll be dissatisfied with a divorce attorney who gives you a lists of tasks to complete independently, where as if you’re goal is to save money you’d be happy that you didn’t get charged for things you could do yourself.
The point is, in order to guarantee a good fit, you need to identify ahead of time what your goals are and evaluate what kind of divorce attorney you want representing you.
Thus, it’s important to make sure that you get a divorce attorney that matches what you’re looking for and is able to meet your needs. So if you haven’t already, use the intake appointment to get to know your divorce attorney better.
Signs that You’ve Found a Divorce Attorney that Listens to and Matches Your Goals
– Your divorce attorney takes notes when you’re talking about your goals.
– Your divorce attorney makes direct eye contact with you when you’re speaking and provides his/her undivided attention to you and your case.
– You and your divorce attorney, together, create a plan on how to proceed with your divorce that incorporates your goals and meets your needs.
*NOTE: If your divorce attorney hasn’t asked about your goals by the intake appointment, that’s a BIG red flag and it’d be advantageous to reconsider your decision to hire him/her.
Tip # 2: Be Prepared to Offer Personal Information
As discussed briefly in our previous post, your divorce attorney will want to collect information about a wide variety of topics that may pertain to your divorce at the intake appointment. Aside from core issues, like your property, debts, incomes, and children, often times more uncomfortable and private issues arise, like domestic abuse, drug & alcohol use, mental health issues, etc… It’s easy to feel like your being judged and that your life is under a microscope when you’re being asked such questions by an outsider.
However, you may find it helpful to know that the client-patient relationship you have with your doctor is very similar to the relationship you share with your divorce attorney.
To illustrate, just like what you tell your doctor is private and confidential, the same goes for what you share with your divorce attorney. In addition, similar to your doctor, your divorce attorney is ethically bound to do what’s in your best interests. And lastly, just like the recommendations a doctor makes and the medical plan that s/he creates for you is based on the information you share with him/her, an attorney’s counsel and legal advice is also directly related to the information you provide him/her.
So although it’s difficult opening up to a stranger, omitting certain facts is detrimental to your case because it limits your divorce attorney’s abilities. Therefore, it’s best to be completely honest and trust that the divorce attorney is only asking you such questions so s/he has a thorough understanding of your situation. After all, your divorce attorney can’t provide the best possible counsel and legal guidance if s/he doesn’t have all the facts.
Tip # 3: Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Clarification
Some people shy away from asking questions. Don’t. Although hopefully your divorce attorney does a good job of explaining things to you, if you don’t understand something s/he said, ask for clarification. There’s no need for embarrassment. The divorce attorney does this for a living. You don’t.
Therefore, neither your divorce attorney nor yourself, for that matter, should expect you to be well-versed in family law and divorce procedures. Instead, your divorce attorney should be willing to talk with you until you not only understand, but feel comfortable and confident in the decisions being made in your divorce.
Tip # 4: Make Sure You Understand What the Next Steps Are
As mentioned in our previous post, at the end of the intake appointment with your divorce attorney, s/he should clearly explain what the next steps are in your divorce case. It’s essential that you know what the divorce attorney needs from you and what s/he will be doing to proceed with your divorce.
In fact, it’s important that you not only understand what the next steps are after the intake appointment, but throughout your divorce case. There will be times in your divorce, when your divorce attorney won’t be able to proceed until s/he hears back from you or gets something signed by you, etc…so it’s important that you’re always on the same page. When there’s a disconnect in communication and responsiveness between the two of you, it prolongs the divorce process.
Tip # 5: Take a Proactive Stance with Your Divorce (Starting at the Intake Appointment)
There should never be a time when you feel like your divorce attorney has lost focus of your goals. If you find yourself in this situation, regardless of whether it’s after the intake appointment or later on, let your divorce attorney know immediately. The more you discuss your goals and expectations with your divorce attorney, the more likely you’ll be satisfied with the end result.
- You can satisfy tip #4 and #5 by requesting that at the end of each conversation or meeting with your divorce attorney, that s/he summarizes the key points and the next steps in your case for both him/her and yourself. This way you can be confident that you’re divorce attorney is working towards your goals and you ensure that you always know what’s happening with your divorce case.
Thanks for checking out our series, What To Know Before Meeting With A Divorce Attorney. Hopefully you’ve gotten a better idea of what to expect, you feel more prepared talking to an attorney, and you’re able to find a divorce attorney that’s right for you!
Love To Hear From You…
Besides knowing what to expect, what else would make meeting with a divorce attorney easier?
Chime in below ~
July 27, 2015 by mndivorcelawyer
Filed under Blog, Divorce, What to Know Before Meeting with Your Divorce Attorney
What Happens At Intake With A Divorce Attorney
Welcome to our fourth blog post in the series, What to Know Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney.
Next, our second post regarded how to schedule an intake appointment with a divorce attorney by providing you with a checklist of things you’ll want to ask and do before you meet. Save yourself some hassle and get the checklist now.
Following along with intake preparation, our third post focused on what you should bring with you to the intake appointment. Review the list from this article with your divorce attorney ahead of time to determine if there is anything else s/he would like to add.
Which brings us to today, What Happens At An Intake Appointment With A Divorce Attorney? So let’s talk about the actual intake appointment itself. Again, not all divorce and family law firms are the same, but we’ll give you a general idea of what happens so you can feel prepared.
Basic Agenda for an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney
Ideally, you can expect these five things to occur during an intake appointment with a divorce attorney:
1. Establishing a Relationship:
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the intake appointment, is that it’s your first opportunity to establish your relationship with your divorce attorney. It’s essential that you feel comfortable talking to your divorce attorney and that you can confide in him/her. We’ll go into more detail next week about the client-attorney relationship.
In addition, if possible, take a moment to introduce yourself to any other additional staff you’ll be working with, such as a paralegal, before leaving the intake appointment. Although paralegals can’t provide any legal advice or guidance, you save money by working directly with the paralegal on case matters such as scheduled court appearances, correspondences, and filings.
2. Completing the Engagement Letter & Fee Agreement (Contract):
The divorce attorney you meet with might refer to this as the client retention contract, the engagement letter, the representation and fee agreement, etc… Regardless of what the contract is called, it’s important that you’re able to review it with your divorce attorney, ask any questions you may have, and receive a personal copy for your records.
The contract sets forth the parameters of the client-attorney relationship, legal fees and service payments, client and attorney responsibilities, and other additional information regarding representation and firm policies. Although the contract can be intimidating at first due to it’s length, it’s reassuring to have everything in writing and clear expectations from the start. If the divorce attorney doesn’t have a contract, his/her contract is extremely vague and short, or s/he is unwilling to sign a contract with you, this is a BIG red flag and consider looking for a different divorce attorney.
*REMEMBER: It’s important that you understand the contract before signing it. If there is anything you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask the divorce attorney. S/he should be more than willing to explain and answer any and all questions. In addition, if a concern or question regarding representation and/or legal services isn’t addressed in the contract, bring it up and consider adding it to the contract before signing.
3. Depositing the Retainer:
Work on your case will start and you’ll officially have representation when you and your divorce attorney have both signed and dated the contract, and you’ve provided the retainer. Since we’ve discussed the retainer throughout this series (see links in the first paragraphs of this article for past posts), we won’t go into more detail here.
4. Discussing Your Divorce & Providing Legal Guidance:
Most divorce attorneys will collect information about you, your family and your spouse at the intake appointment. It’s not uncommon for the divorce attorney to ask you a wide-range of questions during the intake appointment. Although it can feel invasive, it gives the divorce attorney an overview and helps him/her spot possible issues that may arise in your case. We’ll talk more about this in our post next week.
At this time, you can also bring up any other issues not yet discussed and seek legal advice on any pressing concerns or family matters. In addition, if you’ve been served with divorce papers or have any other previous court orders, your divorce attorney will review such documents with you at this time. If you’re unable to bring these documents to the intake appointment for whatever reason, it’s essential that you and your divorce attorney still discuss such matters and that a plan is set in motion to get these documents as soon as possible.
5. Developing a Plan & Next Steps in Case:
At the end of your intake appointment, based on your goals, situation, and preferences, you and your divorce attorney should develop a plan for moving forward with your divorce. Before leaving the intake appointment, the divorce attorney should clearly explain what s/he will be doing and what s/he will be needing from you.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what happens at an intake appointment with a divorce attorney. Now, check out our 5 tips when meeting with a divorce attorney at intake.
July 10, 2015 by mndivorcelawyer
Filed under Divorce, What to Know Before Meeting with Your Divorce Attorney
Preparing for an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney
Welcome to the third post in our blog series, What to Know Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney.
In our first post, we discussed what to expect during a consultation and how to use the consultation to find the best divorce attorney for you.
Next, in our second post, we talked about scheduling an intake appointment with a divorce attorney and what things you’ll want to ask, in case you forgot during the consultation or simply can’t recall after talking with a few divorce attorneys. The article includes a handy checklist for you!
Today’s post is about preparing for an intake appointment with a divorce attorney by giving you a few pointers on what you’ll want to bring with you when you meet with him/her.
What To Bring to an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney
1. Current Court Documents:
This refers to any and all court documents you’ve received before your intake appointment with a divorce attorney. For example, if you’ve been served by your spouse or s/he has filed for a divorce in Minnesota, you should have received two documents known as, the Petition and Summons.
It’s essential that you bring these documents (such as, the Petition and Summons) to avoid missing the deadline to contest your divorce and thus, forfeit your right to express your opinion regarding significant aspects of your divorce (such as, property division, child custody and child support).
To illustrate, in Minnesota you only have 30 days to respond after you’ve been served and your reply must be properly formatted into a legal document called, the Answer, which typically also includes one’s Counter-Petition.
For more information about the initial steps in a divorce in Minnesota and the legal documents mentioned above (such as, the Petition, Summons, Counter-Petition, Answer, etc…) read: How Do You Get a Divorce in Minnesota.
2. Previous Court Documents:
It’s also helpful for you to bring any other court documents from previous divorce and/or family law cases that you were involved in (if any) before this divorce.
For example, if applicable, you want to bring the following documents listed below:
- Court documents from any/all previous divorces, such as the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgement and Judgement and Decree. The judgement and decree is the final court document that is signed by the judge, establishes the divorce between the couple, and spells out the duties and responsibilities of each party regarding such matters as, property and asset division, child custody and child support.
- Other family law related court documents, such as Orders For Protection, Recognition of Parentage (ROP’s), Child Support and/or Child Custody Modification Arrangements, etc.
3. Financial Documents and Other Important Documents:
If you have any original financial documents such as, you and/or your spouse’s paystubs, 401k statements, pension plans, tax returns, etc… it’s in your best interest to start collecting these immediately so that you can give them to your divorce attorney.
Although we don’t require original financial documents right away, some law offices like to collect these documents immediately. As mentioned in our previous post, it’s best if you find out exactly what documents your divorce attorney will require from you at the intake appointment by asking during the consultation or when you’re scheduling the intake appointment.
* NOTE: Please be assured that although most divorce attorneys will ask for such financial documents, if you don’t have access to some/any of these financial documents, your divorce attorney should help you get access. In Minnesota, both parties are required to disclose any and all information to one another, but here’s what you should do if you believe your spouse is hiding assets from you.
4. Retainer Payment:
Most divorce and family law firms require some form of an initial retainer before working on your case. You can think of the retainer as an initial, good-faith deposit that demonstrates you’re ability to hire a divorce attorney and that you’ll use to pay for his/her legal services. It’s expected that you’ll bring the retainer to the intake appointment when you meet with your divorce attorney. As mentioned in our previous post, you should use the consultation to request information about retainer amounts, payment methods, and fee agreements.
One last thing about the retainer payment, if someone other than yourself will be paying on your behalf, it’s best that you inform your divorce attorney of this ahead of time (such as, during the consultation or when you’re scheduling the intake appointment). Some divorce and family law firms will only take checks from a third party. Some divorce and family law firms require the third party to appear in person to confirm identity and to obtain permission; while other divorce and family law firms will take a third party’s credit card number over the phone. The point is, if a third party will be paying the retainer, you’ll want to know if there are any additional procedures that are required ahead of time to ensure you’re prepared for the intake appointment.
5. Driver’s License and/or State Identification Card:
Your driver’s license and/or state identification card will be used by the divorce attorney to confirm your identity at the intake appointment. Identity confirmation is a very important practice because it ensures your safety and confidentiality by preventing someone from obtaining private information about you and your case by pretending to be you. In addition, if you’re paying the initial retainer with your credit card, your driver’s license or state identification card will prove that you own the account. Lastly, if you’re working with a small law firm or solo practitioner for your divorce, you most likely won’t need to show your I.D. card again to the divorce attorney after the initial intake appointment.
6. A Guest, such as a Friend or Family Member:
We’ve added a guest to the list of things to bring to an intake appointment with a divorce attorney not because you necessarily should or shouldn’t bring someone with you, but because it’s something that you should decide before the intake appointment with the divorce attorney. In addition, it’s something that you should discuss with the divorce attorney either during the consultation or when you’re scheduling an intake appointment. Before you decide, know the pros and cons of bringing someone with you to an intake appointment with a divorce attorney.
Hopefully you’ve gotten a better idea of what to talk about with a divorce attorney during a consultation and when scheduling an intake appointment, and what you’ll want to bring with you to the intake appointment through this blog series, What to Know Before Meeting with Your Divorce Attorney.
Now here’s what happens at intake with a divorce attorney so you’re better prepared and 5 tips when meeting with your divorce attorney for the first time!
June 29, 2015 by mndivorcelawyer
Filed under Divorce, What to Know Before Meeting with Your Divorce Attorney
Scheduling an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney – What to Know and How to Do It
This is our second post in our blog series, What to Know Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney.
It’s common to feel uncomfortable when you’re meeting with your divorce attorney for the first time. After all, it’s normal to feel a little awkward when you’re in an unfamiliar situation and you can’t rely on previous experience to help you prepare.
So that’s what this blog series is all about – uncovering the unknowns and giving you a better idea of what lies ahead so that you’re not left guessing.
In our first post, we discussed what to expect from a consultation with a divorce attorney and how to use the consultation to find the divorce attorney that’s right for you.
Today’s blog post is dedicated to what you should do next after you’ve selected a divorce attorney – schedule the intake appointment. In addition, we made a checklist at the end so you know what to ask when you’re scheduling your intake appointment with a divorce attorney.
Schedule an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney
Once you’ve decided to retain an attorney for your divorce, you’ll want to set up an intake appointment with the divorce attorney as soon as possible. This may seem obvious. In fact, you may be wondering why we even brought this up. However, it’s one of those things that’s easier said than done.
For a lot of people, calling to schedule an intake appointment to retain a divorce attorney means the start to the end of a marriage. Even if you haven’t been happy for a long time or have been talking about getting a divorce, it’s the completing of this step that often makes it “more real” for people and with that realization can come a flood of unwanted emotions and unanswered questions. At this point, it’s very easy to become paralyzed with fear and worry.
However, if you’re past the contemplation stage and you’re absolutely sure that you want a divorce, allowing yourself the chance to meet your divorce attorney can help with some of those unanswered questions and fears and, provide some support.
Schedule an In-Person Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney
Personally, we recommend meeting with a divorce attorney in person at his/her office for the intake appointment. This allows you the chance to meet face-to-face and get to know the divorce attorney who’ll be representing you and anyone else (such as, a legal assistant or paralegal) who’ll be working with you throughout your divorce.
The only time we don’t meet in person is when the firm has been retained by an individual who lives far away, has mobility concerns or time constraints, and therefore, prefers to have the intake meeting over the phone or by using video software like Skype or FaceTime.
Intake Appointment Scheduling Checklist
1. If you’d prefer not to meet at the office or if it’s difficult for you to meet in person with the divorce attorney, determine if the firm has the resources and ability to accommodate your needs/preferences before you schedule an intake appointment. For example, you can ask if the divorce attorney is willing to meet you at a different location that’s more convenient for you.
* If this is the case, just make sure that the location you select still ensures your privacy and confidentiality. Or if you’ve decided to phone or video conference make sure to exchange information, such as Skype user names, and arrange who will initiate the phone/video conference when you set up the intake appointment.
2. When you schedule the intake appointment, ask how long it will take so you’re not stretching yourself too thin.
* Trying to rush through the intake appointment because you only allocated 30 minutes (when you could really use an hour) adds stress. It’s hard to focus if you’re worried about making it to your next commitment on time. Therefore, schedule the intake appointment for a day when you’re less busy. If that’s not possible, you can always ask if the lawyer would be willing to spread the intake appointment out into 3 smaller meetings. Or try to get some help with your commitments to lighten your schedule. For example, arranging a carpool with another parent for your kid’s soccer practice that night so that you have enough time for the appointment.
–> In addition, map out your route ahead of time and make sure you take into account parking and traffic on the day and time of your intake appointment. Always give yourself longer than you think it will take to get to your intake appointment. That way, you’re not running into your intake appointment already frazzled because you’re late.
3. Provide a safe and secure (meaning, it should be private, confidential and password-protected) phone number with voicemail and/or email address, in case the divorce attorney needs to reach you before your intake appointment or if you’d like to receive an intake appointment reminder from the firm.
* If you haven’t been asked already, let the firm know the best way to reach you and your preferred method of contact. If you don’t have access to a secure phone line or you have reason to believe that your email has been compromised, inform the firm immediately so that steps can be taken to protect your confidentiality and privacy.
4. Confirm the address of the law firm and don’t be afraid to ask for directions and nearby landmarks.
5. Ask about parking options for the intake appointment.
* You’ll want to confirm ahead of time if you need to find a nearby parking ramp, have cash/change for a meter, or if the firm provides free parking through it’s own parking lot.
6. If you didn’t do it at the phone consultation or forgot, confirm the retainer amount and discuss the method of payment.
* If you’re planning on having someone else pay the retainer on your behalf, it’s a good time to bring this up when your scheduling your intake appointment.
Learn more about: How to Pay for a Divorce Lawyer.
7. Determine what you should be bringing to the intake appointment with the divorce attorney. Use this list of what to bring with you when you meet your divorce attorney to give you an idea and as a starting point. In addition, if you’re planning on bringing someone else to the intake appointment with you, it’s a good idea to discuss this now.
8. Before getting off the phone, ask if there is anything else you should know at this point. This gives your divorce attorney the opportunity to add anything else s/he may want you to know or discuss ahead of time.
Hopefully this series, What to Know Before Meeting with Your Divorce Attorney has been helpful. To prepare for your intake appointment, read: What Happens at Intake with a Divorce Attorney and 5 Tips When Meeting with a Divorce Attorney at Intake or pin them to read later!
What are your current views regarding divorce? Is the stigma of divorce detrimental to families that are trying to move forward and hurtful to the children involved? As a society, are our views accurate depictions of what divorce is like or perhaps have they changed over the years?
David Dickerman, author of Mom, Dad, and Everyone Else, a children’s book that uses clay illustrations to reframe the concept of divorce for children in a new light, challenges current notions of divorce in his featured article below.
* For more information about David Dickerman and his book, please see his bio below the article.
Brave New Families
Every relationship is different. Some people gravitate towards a partner more similar to themselves in order to connect through common interests and backgrounds, while others prefer to be with their polar opposites in order to be challenged and exposed to new things. Since people are all different, no relationships can be identical. Therefore, it would stand to reason that every marriage would be different as well. If this logic is sound, would it not make sense that every divorce would be different too?
Although the traditional view of marriage (with the woman staying home and caring for the house and kids while the husband works) has changed, our ideas about divorce remain the same. When the D-word is uttered, scenes of confrontational custody battles and alimony wars come to mind. However, generalities cannot be made about any relationships – whether it’s a marriage, family, divorce, etc…
Do some divorcing couples argue over custody and disagree about alimony? Yes, just like there are families where the wife stays at home while the husband works. However, there are also families where both parents work, same – sex couples, the father stays home, grandma moves in, sons and daughters play with step-siblings, etc…
As the nature of families change it is our responsibility, as a society, to acknowledge these changes and adapt. Just like we know more about medicine than we did a hundred years ago, we also know more about families and divorce. Therefore, it’s important that we continue to pass these evolving views down to our children.
Statistics show that people are now marrying later in life for reasons such as wanting time to establish a career and waiting to marry for love. This does not make the institution of marriage flawless. Nor does it change the fact that where there is marriage, there is also divorce.
Fortunately, changes have started to arise as the term “co-parenting” strutted onto the scene. Slowly, people are coming to accept that if children are involved, getting a divorce severs the marriage relationship, but gives rise to a new relationship with parenting.
As I mentioned before, families come in all shapes and sizes, and this also applies to divorced families. Some parents end contact with one another after the divorce and communicate with one another mainly through others, while some divorced families get together for sporting events and celebrate the holidays together.
Families are not the same because marriage is not the same. As a society we are trying to make a new type of family exist in an archaic construct. It is a losing battle that does not have to be lost if we reframe the idea of family and divorce to our children.
People change and grow, sometimes in the same direction and sometimes not. If a couple produces children they both love, built something strong together, and end because they have become different people while still remaining friends, why is this considered a failure? Can a successful marriage end? It depends on how you handle the divorce…
By David Dickerman
BIO FOR DAVID DICKERMAN:
David Dickerman was born in Dallas, Texas. He has a BA in Psychology from Syracuse University and pursued a Master’s in general childhood education and literacy from Bank Street College in New York City.
David began working with children at a young age as a camp counselor, and in after school programs. These experiences, coupled with his post-secondary education, prepared David for his multi-faceted career as a teacher, program director, literacy specialist, and educational consultant. David also shared that he identifies as an adult child of divorce (ACOD).
David currently works as an assessment specialist in New Jersey and lives in the area with his wife, Laura; son, Spencer; and dog, Norman.
For more information about his book, click here.
This is the 4th post, Why Caseload Matters In Your Divorce, in the series called, “Got
Milk a Good Lawyer?”
The series is dedicated to helping you find the best attorney for you and your divorce. It’ll help you in the decision making process by pointing out some things to consider when you’re deciding who to hire as your divorce lawyer. In particular, I’ve identified 10 criteria to use when you’re evaluating which divorce lawyer is right for you.
So far in the series, I’ve discussed 4 criteria to consider: Communication, Personality, Support help, and Background experience and education. This week’s post is about criteria 5: The Divorce Attorney’s Current Clients and Caseload.
ReCap of the “Got a Good Lawyer?” Series So Far:
For those of you just joining us, here’s a glimpse of what’s been covered so far in the series. For your convenience, I have linked all 4 criteria mentioned below to their previous posts. Simply click the criteria and you’ll be taken directly to the related post to read.
What to Consider Before Hiring Your Divorce Attorney:
- Before you hire your divorce attorney, what are his/her procedures for communicating with you? Do you know what to expect regarding methods of communication and receiving updates on your case?
- Have you met with your divorce lawyer in person? Do you feel comfortable around your divorce lawyer? Do you feel like you can work with him/her?
- Does your divorce lawyer have additional staff on his/her team, such as a legal assistant or paralegal to help him/her with your case, and save you money?
- Does your divorce lawyer practice in the area of family law and have experience with divorce cases similar to your own? What majority of your attorney’s cases are divorce cases?
Now to this week’s topic: Criteria 5,
The Divorce Attorney’s Current Clients and Caseload
The divorce attorney’s current clients and caseload will impact his/her ability to competently serve you.
For example, let’s say that you find a divorce attorney that has a reputation for caring about his/her clients, or you find a divorce attorney that is known for his/her dedication and hard work on cases…
Great! That’s what you want!
However, even with these great qualities, no divorce attorney is immune to the limitations of time. After all, there’s only so much that can get done in a day.
Therefore, the simple fact remains…
If your divorce attorney takes more clients and cases than s/he can handle, it impacts you, as the client, because your attorney won’t be able to deliver the best service possible.
Therefore, to ensure that you and your divorce case get the quality representation and attention that you deserve, don’t overlook the fact that the divorce attorney that you’re considering may already have a full plate. Like this guy…
“How Do I Know If An Attorney Has Time for Me and My Divorce?”
I recommend that you ask the divorce attorney that you’re considering on hiring,
“Do you currently have the time and resources available to competently handle my case?”
I realize that this may seem silly, because some attorneys may say yes because they don’t know their limits, or worst case scenario, say yes because they want your business. However, even in the worst case scenario, I’d still ask and here’s why…
By asking this question, you signal to your divorce lawyer that this is a concern for you. By communicating this concern from the get-go, you ensure that your divorce attorney is made aware of your concern right away. By making your lawyer cognizant of the issue from the start, s/he is able to take the necessary steps throughout your case to ensure that it doesn’t happen. Therefore, by voicing your concern, you increase your chances of receiving quality representation and services. After all, it’s in any lawyer’s best interest to keep his/her clients happy since lawyers depend on referrals from past clients for future business!
One more helpful tip,
Consider As Many Criteria as Possible when You’re Deciding Who to Hire
It’s to your advantage to take into consideration as many of the 10 criteria as possible when you’re judging which divorce lawyer to hire. The more criteria you use when evaluating and deciding which divorce attorney is right for you and your divorce, the more satisfied you’ll be with the attorney you pick in the end.
To illustrate, if your divorce attorney has a legal assistant or paralegal (criteria 3: support help), then the firm can take more clients, than a solo practitioner, because more staff means more people to help with your case and share the work.
Therefore, this example shows how taking into consideration both criteria 5 (the attorney’s current clients and caseload) and criteria 3 (support help) help you make a better decision about if you’re divorce attorney will have time for you and your divorce case, than if you only focused on criteria 5 or criteria 3.
In addition, if your divorce attorney practices exclusively in family law and is experienced with divorce cases (criteria 4: background experience and education), s/he can have more clients at a time, than an attorney who practices in several areas of law, because presumably the general practice attorney is going to be serving a wider range of clients and therefore having to set aside more time to learn and research laws in multiple areas (such as, criminal law, or bankruptcy law) due to having unrelated cases.
Therefore, this example shows how taking into consideration criteria 5 (the attorney’s current clients and caseload) and criteria 4 (background experience and education) help you make a you make a better decision about if you’re divorce attorney will have time for you and your divorce case, than if you solely focused on criteria 5 or criteria 4.
Ultimately, the reason you care about the 10 criteria that I’m sharing with you in the series, is because they will help you find the right divorce attorney for you and your divorce by helping you answer important questions, such as how we used criteria 3, 4, and 5 in today’s post to help you answer the question, “How do I know if my divorce attorney has time for me and my divorce case?”
And as I just demonstrated, it’s detrimental to base your decision only on a single criteria because you just saw how criteria 3 and criteria 4, can impact criteria 5. So when you make your final decision of who to hire as your divorce attorney, just make sure to consider as many criteria as possible.
Thanks for reading. In the next post in the series, “Got a Good Lawyer?” we’ll discuss criteria 6.
Love to Hear From You…
Other factors such as, the firm’s organization and the attorney’s time management skills, impact how many clients and cases an attorney can competently represent at one time.
What else do you think impacts an attorney’s ability to competently represent several clients at a time?
Take a moment to add to the discussion by commenting in the section below.
Support Help and Professional Background and Experience
This is the third post in the series, “Got a Good Lawyer?” This week I’ll discuss Criteria 3 (Support Help) and Criteria 4 (Professional Background and Experience) to consider when selecting your divorce lawyer. Also, I’ll share some research on the importance of your divorce lawyer’s looks. I’m looking forward to hearing your opinion on the matter. Scroll down to the section titled “Criteria 3 and 4 to Consider when Hiring a Divorce Lawyer” to go straight to this week’s post.
For Those just Joining the Series,
Welcome, and thank you for checking out the blog!
I’ve provided a brief recap below explaining what the series is about and its purpose. However, I recommend checking out posts 1 and 2 to get completely up to speed.
For your convenience, I’ve hyperlinked the post titles below so you can just click to be taken directly to the article.
Recap of Previous Posts in the Series
This is the first article in the series, “Got a Good Lawyer?” In the article, I mentioned that in order to get the best representation in Minnesota, you want to find the lawyer that is the best fit for you and your divorce. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone. However, I thought it would be helpful if you had some criteria to base your decision on. Therefore, the series focuses on 10 criteria to use when judging which divorce lawyer is right for you.
Last week, in Post 2, I introduced criteria 1: Communication and criteria 2: Personality. I stressed the importance of knowing your divorce lawyer’s communication procedures before hiring him/her to represent you in your divorce. That way you know ahead of time what to expect when it comes to communicating with your divorce lawyer.
In regards to personality, I shared research that demonstrates the value of meeting briefly with your divorce lawyer in person, to get an idea of what his/her personality is like before hiring him/her for your divorce.
Criteria 3 and 4 to Consider when Hiring a Divorce Lawyer…
Criteria 3: SUPPORT HELP
It’s important to know what type of help the divorce lawyer that you’re considering has available to him/her. For example, does your divorce lawyer have a legal assistant, paralegal, administrative assistant, etc…?Let’s take a look at some research.
Our Ability to Process Information
Neurophysiological studies show that although the human brain receives 11 million pieces of information per second from our environment, we can only process 40 bits per second. In addition, due to today’s fast-paced and technology-driven society, information overload has become rampant. Lastly, additional research shows that the more cognitive resources required to filter through information, the less we have to use when it comes time to complete the task at hand.
Case in point, see picture of computer screen posted below. Yikes!
Therefore, hiring a divorce lawyer that has at least 1 additional staff member, helps manage the work that needs to be done on your case, keeps your case more organized, ensures important details don’t get overlooked, and allows your divorce lawyer to dedicate his/her attention and focus on the most important aspects of your divorce case.
Also, hiring a divorce lawyer that has at least 1 additional staff member can save you money. For instance, if your divorce lawyer is a solo practitioner, you might be paying high attorney fees for tasks required on your divorce case (such as, filing with the court) that could otherwise be done by a legal assistant at half the price!
Criteria 4: PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND AND EXPERIENCE:
Check for Family Law Background
It’s essential that you consider the lawyer’s professional experience and background for a number of reasons. To illustrate, let’s say you check out a law firm’s web site and the firm advertises that they’ve been practicing for 20 years.
You may be thinking, “Great! They have a ton of experience.”
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. For instance, are they adding up the individual years among each attorney in the practice and therefore, getting a total of 20 years? Hopefully that’s not the case. However, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
So let’s say you do ask, and you find out that each lawyer has 20 years of experience individually.
So your lawyer has 20 years of experience, but in what area?
It does you absolutely no good to hire an attorney for your divorce in Minnesota who has 18 years of experience in criminal law, and only 2 years in family law, or worst yet, none!
Evaluate Experience with Minnesota Divorce Cases
Therefore, you’ll want to evaluate how much experience the lawyer has in family law in Minnesota, and even more specifically, with divorce cases that are similar to your own. By doing so, you increase your chances of finding a divorce lawyer in Minnesota that is familiar with your individualized needs and specific concerns. In addition, it’s beneficial if the majority of the lawyer’s family law cases have been divorces in Minnesota, because the current laws and legal statues will be fresh in his/her mind. And lastly, it’ll be more likely that your divorce lawyer will know the Minnesota judge that will be overseeing your divorce case.
Review Education and Ability to Practice
In terms of education, you want a divorce lawyer that has graduated from an accredited law school, passed the Bar exam and is currently licensed to practice as an attorney in the state of Minnesota. You should be able to easily find this information on the attorney’s website in his/her about me section. Or, when you go for your initial consultation with your divorce lawyer, check the walls of his/her office and you’ll most likely see his/her diplomas and certifications hung up. You may also find it helpful to know if your divorce lawyer belongs to any associations or currently serves on any committees related to family law. This information can also usually be found on the attorney’s website in his/her about me section, but you can always just ask too.
Now to the Study: Looks More Important than The Books?
Mary Ellen Sullivan wrote an interesting article based on research conducted by Leigh McMillan, Vice President of Marketing for Avvo (an attorney-client networking site). The results of the study were based on the responses from 10,000 consumers. The study looked at factors involved in how individuals choose a lawyer.
The lawyer’s head shot mattered more to people when deciding who to hire as their lawyer than where the lawyer went to school.
To read her full article, check out the link at the end of the article under the “Sources” section.
What Do You Think?
How important is where your divorce lawyer went to school?
Please take a moment to add to the discussion by commenting in the section below.Look forward to reading what you have to say!
Thanks, and see you in 2 weeks for my fourth post in the “Got a Good Lawyer?” series regarding criteria 5!
Manfred Zimmerman, “Neurophysiology of Sensory Systems,” in Fundamentals of Sensory Physiology, 3rd, rev. ed., ed. Robert R. Schmidt (New York: Springer, 1986), 116.
Mary Ellen Sullivan, http://www.attorneyatwork.com/heads-headshots-created-equal/
Got a Good Laywer Part II
Last week, I introduced a new blog series, called “Got a Good Lawyer?” In the post, I shared that the most important thing to consider when you’re looking for the best representation in Minnesota is to pick the lawyer that is the best fit for you and your divorce. I also told you that the purpose of the series is to help you judge whether a divorce lawyer is right for you or not by evaluating him/her on 10 specific criteria. So this week, I’ll get started by identifying and discussing the first 2 criteria: COMMUNCATION and PERSONALITY.
Perhaps one of the most significant factors to take into consideration before hiring your divorce lawyer, is to clarify communication procedures ahead of time.
For example, you’ll want to know the answers to questions such as,
- “How can you get a hold of your lawyer when you need to talk with him/her about your divorce case?”
- “Does your divorce lawyer have open office hours or is s/he able to meet with you in the community?”
- If you prefer to talk on the phone, email, fax, text, skype, etc… “Does the divorce lawyer currently have systems in place to match your preferred method of communication?”
- If your divorce lawyer is unavailable… “How long will it take for him/her to get back to you?”
- “How often will your divorce lawyer update you on your case?
The last question is important because if you’re someone who wants to be updated immediately and frequently throughout your divorce case, you want to make sure that the divorce attorney that you pick has the resources needed (whether that means the divorce attorney has a legal assistant, a manageable caseload, etc…) to meet your preferences.
Sometimes people just rub you the wrong way and you can’t necessarily put your finger on what it is that bothers you.
When you first meet with your divorce lawyer, consider the following…
- How do you feel around him/her?
- Does s/he seem genuine and authentic when talking with you?
- How long did you have to wait in the reception area before s/he greeted you for your intake appointment?
- Did s/he offer you a beverage and try to make you feel welcomed and comfortable in the office?
Importance of Initial Consultation with Divorce Lawyer
Why does it matter if you meet with your divorce lawyer in person before hiring him/her? Well, if you don’t meet with him/her in person, you’re making it harder on yourself. Here’s why…
Research from UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian demonstrates that we infer meaning and our understanding of someone not on what they say to us, but how they say it. In fact, body language accounts for 55%, tone of voice accounts for 38%, while words account for a mere 7%. In addition, when someone’s verbal communication doesn’t match their non-verbal communication, we believe the non-verbal communication to be more valid.
Actions Speak Louder than Words
We’ve all experienced this in real life. For example, when you ask a friend how she’s doing and she says fine, but you notice that her eyes are glossy from holding back tears.
Do you actually believe that she is fine? No.
Although she says she’s fine (verbal communication), her facial expression (non-verbal communication) says otherwise. And since the two don’t match…we deem the non-verbal as the true message, which then guides our behavior to try and comfort her, instead of talking about the promotion we just got at work.
Therefore, if you’re trying to get a sense of whether this divorce lawyer or that divorce lawyer is a good fit for you, you can only get the whole picture by meeting with him/her in person. Otherwise, as the research shows, you’re making a decision without having all the information.
No Free Initial Consultation Offered
Unfortunately, some divorce lawyers charge a fee for the initial consultation. Not being able to meet your divorce lawyer in person makes it harder to get to know his/her personality. However, you can get a glimpse of your divorce lawyer’s personality by searching for him/her on social media. Try checking out your divorce lawyer by visiting his/her Google+ page, Website, LinkedIn account, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, or You Tube channel.
No Free Initial Consultation & No Social Media Presence
If the divorce lawyer you’re considering doesn’t offer a free initial consultation to meet him/her in person and s/he doesn’t participate in social media, then how is s/he trying to meet your needs? The fact that the divorce lawyer doesn’t offer the opportunity to meet in person and also doesn’t participate in social media already tells you a lot about his/her personality.
However, if this is the case and you’re still interested in the divorce lawyer, then the additional criteria to come will have more weight in your decision on who you decide to hire and I highly recommend you come back next week when I share criteria 3 and 4.
One Last Thing on Personality
I’m not saying that the two of you (you and you’re divorce lawyer) have to be kindred spirits. In fact, I think we all know that even if your best friend happened to be a divorce attorney, that it would be in your best interest NOT to retain him/her as your divorce lawyer.
I simply just wanted to point out that things typically go a lot smoother when you’re not also budding heads with your divorce lawyer and having to deal with clashing personalities.
What Do You Think?
- What are some communication practices that you wish divorce lawyers would use more often?
- What personal qualities do you look for in a divorce lawyer?
- Or what qualities make a good lawyer?
Please check back next week to see our next post in the “Got a Good Lawyer” series. Please take a moment to add to the discussion by commenting in the section below. Look forward to reading what you have to say! Thanks!
Mehrabian, Albert; Wiener, Morton (1967). “Decoding of Inconsistent Communications”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 6 (1): 109–114.
Mehrabian, Albert; Ferris, Susan R. (1967). “Inference of Attitudes from Nonverbal Communication in Two Channels”. Journal of Consulting Psychology 31 (3): 248–252.
– Author: Rachel Rogers, Editor: Matthew Majeski on behalf of Majeski Law, LLC
Starting a New Series and it’s called, “Got
Milk a Good Lawyer?”
Last week, I discussed 4 advantages of hiring a small law firm for your divorce in Minnesota. However, when you’re looking to hire a lawyer for your divorce, it’s important that you’re evaluating more than just the size of the firm. Therefore, as promised last week, I’m going to identify the additional factors you should take into consideration when deciding who to hire as your divorce lawyer. In fact, this post serves to introduce you to the “Got
Milk a Good Lawyer?” series. Ok cheesiness aside with my title, I’m writing this series for a couple of reasons:
- First, I hope to spare you some of the hassle and time that goes into finding a divorce lawyer in Minnesota.
- Second, although no divorce lawyer in Minnesota (regardless of who you decide to go with and how much money you’re willing to spend) can guarantee a certain outcome in your divorce, your divorce lawyer should advocate for your needs and treat you with respect. By focusing on these additional factors, you’re increasing your chance of that expectation becoming a reality.
- And lastly, unless you’ve been divorced before or have extensive experience with lawyers, there are simply things that wouldn’t cross your mind, that I believe would be helpful for you to know about a head of time.
So with that aside, I’m going to start with the bottom line right from the get-go…
Most Important Thing to Consider when Hiring a Divorce Attorney
If you want to ensure that you’re getting the best representation for your divorce, the most important thing to consider and ask yourself is this:
“Is this lawyer a good fit for me and my divorce case?”
Now you might be thinking to yourself, “Well yeah, I already knew that!” But I’m going to take the chance that you’ve never actually sat down and taken the time to think and come up with the exact criteria that you will use to judge whether this divorce lawyer or that divorce lawyer is a good fit for you. So that’s exactly what “Got a Good Lawyer?” series will be all about! In the following posts, I will identify 10 specific criteria for you to use to make it easier for you to find the best lawyer in Minnesota to represent you in your divorce. Next week, we’ll get started with number 1 and 2. Thanks so much for reading and see you soon!
So you were served with divorce papers, your spouse already has a lawyer, there are children involved, or you’re in any of the other situations previously mentioned in the article When Should I Get a Divorce Lawyer.
Now do you hire a small law firm for your divorce in Minnesota or go with a big law firm?
There are definitely some advantages to hiring a small law firm, which we’ll look at here.
4 Advantages of Hiring a Small Law Firm for your Divorce
Perhaps the most significant advantage of hiring a small law firm for your Minnesota divorce is cost.
Small law firms have less staff to pay. They also have less organizational overhead, lower advertising costs, and less expensive office space rentals. In any law office, these expenses will inevitably be pushed off onto the client, usually in the form of higher fees.
For example, big law firms in downtown Minneapolis charge a minimum of $400 an hour with paralegal fees of $300 an hour for divorce and family law cases, and be prepared for a significant initial retainer.
Focus on Divorce and Family Law
Small firms often, although not necessarily, are more likely to specialize in the practice area they work in.
Usually you can tell, through the firm’s advertising, website, or after calling, what areas they practice in and deal with on a regular basis.
It’s also easier to figure out how much experience and practice the lawyer that will be representing you has had with divorce when you go with a small firm.
When you work with a small firm, you meet all the staff.
Along these lines, you always know who is working on your case. Unfortunately, just because you meet with the partner of a big law firm, doesn’t mean that s/he will actually be the divorce attorney working on your case.
Do you really want to take the risk of your divorce case getting passed off to a less-experienced associate or bouncing from one attorney to another throughout your case?
Instead, with a small firm, what you see, is what you get! Staff at a small firm get the opportunity to know you and your case on a personal level. That’s exactly what you want from your divorce attorney considering the fact that your divorce case is a personal matter!
Because there are less people to get through and because staff will not be working on a high volume of different kinds of cases that they may not be as familiar with, staff are easier to get a hold of and more quickly available when you need them. This includes being able to directly communicate with the lawyer working on your divorce.
Please keep in mind that these are the common differences between small law firms and big law firms.
There are additional factors you should take into consideration as well when choosing your divorce lawyer.
Next week, we’ll get into the details and show you how to get the BEST representation for your divorce.