Why Caseload Matters In Your Divorce

Got a Good Lawyer

This is the 4th post, Why Caseload Matters In Your Divorce, in the series called, “Got 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.

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:

    1: Communication:

  • 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?

     2. Personality:

  • 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?

     3. Support Help:

  •  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?

     4. Background Experience and Education:

  • 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…

Why Caseload Matters

“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.

 Support Help

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.

Multiple Law Areas

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…

Time Management Skills

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.

Got a Good Lawyer Series, Post 3

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

Post 1: Intro to Series “Got a Good Lawyer?”

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.

Post 2: Criteria 1 and 2: Communication & Personality

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!
Cluttered Legal Assistant Computer Screen

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.

Great!

Hold up…

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?

Divorce Lawyer Head Shots
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 results?

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!

Sources:

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 Lawyer Series, Post 2

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.

     1. COMMUNICATION:

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.

     2. PERSONALITY:

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!

Sources:

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

Got a Good Lawyer? Intro

Got Milk?  Got a Good Lawyer?

Starting a New Series and it’s called, “Got 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 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!

Advantages of Hiring a Small Law Firm

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.

Advtanges of Hiring a Small Law Firm

4 Advantages of Hiring a Small Law Firm for your Divorce

 

  1. Less Expensive

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.

 

  1. 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.

  1. Personal Connection

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!

Staff Availability

  1. Staff Availability

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.

 

When a Divorce Lawyer May Be Just What You Need

Divorces can be incredibly difficult both emotionally and procedurally.  A divorce lawyer can help guide you through the process.  This includes making it as smooth and quick as possible while still protecting and advocating for your rights.

Reasons You May Want a Divorce Lawyer

The following are some typical reasons you may want to strongly considering hiring a divorce lawyer: 

  • You don’t trust that your spouse will be honest and do the right thing during the divorce 
  • Your spouse has already shown they are vengeful, dishonest, or aggressive 
  • You are concerned that your spouse may be hiding assets 
  • You’re uncomfortable with the divorce process 
  • You’re not sure what to do during a divorce process and feel easily overwhelmed by the large amount of paperwork 
  • Your spouse has a divorce lawyer representing them 
  • Your divorce has special issues that need extra attention, like: 
  • Who will get custody of the children? 
  • How often will each of you spend with the children? 
  • Who will get child support and how much will it be? 
  • Are either you or your spouse entitled to alimony? 
  • How will marital property be split up? 
  • How will marital debts be split up? 
  • There has been domestic abuse or child abuse in the relationship 
  • You’re worried your spouse may become abusive if a divorce is started 
  • You don’t feel comfortable negotiating a divorce alone with your spouse 
  • Either you or your spouse has problems with drug or alcohol abuse 
  • Either you or your spouse has mental or physical health problems 
  • You would be comforted having someone help guide and lead you through the potentially complex process. 

When a Divorce Lawyer Can Help if You Have Children

Children are often hit the hardest by divorces.  Not only do they see their primary caregivers split apart, unfortunately some are put in between the parents in potentially horrible ways.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the divorce process by itself.  This pressure becomes even more enormous when you’re worried about the welfare of your children. 

A divorce lawyer can be especially helpful in the following situations, when your spouse has: 

  • Been physically or emotionally abusive towards them 
  • Used the children to try to manipulate you 
  • Denied you access to your children 
  • Threatened to harm or take away the children if you leave 
  • Has already kidnapped the children

A Divorce Lawyer Gives You Piece of Mind

Ultimately, a divorce lawyer will deal with all of the legally complex issues and arguments that may need to be made during a case.  The lawyer will keep you informed of your options and where the case is going.  Lastly, the lawyer will allow you to go on with your life as seamlessly as possible and help you move on.