Everyone who goes through a divorce wants a great divorce attorney – someone who is on their side, gives them awesome advice, and guides them through the divorce process with confidence and ease.
Yet, while most people have a pretty good idea about what makes a great divorce attorney – expertise, knowledge, negotiating skill, courtroom ability, empathy – not too many people ever think about what makes a great divorce client.
Why You Need To Care:
OK. At this point you are probably asking yourself: Why should you care? I mean, YOU are the client! You are paying your lawyer to work for you. It doesn’t make any difference what your lawyer thinks of you!
If that is how you are thinking you are, of course, absolutely right … up to a point. As long as you pay on time, you can be the biggest jerk on the planet and you will still be able to get some divorce lawyer to represent you. If you have a lot of money, you can be a jerk and even get a really good divorce lawyer to represent you. But, if you are nice, not only can you get a lawyer to represent you, but you can usually get a lawyer who is willing to go the extra mile for you – sometimes for a lot less money, too!
The Secret Lawyers Try to Hide:
I know there are those who aren’t going to believe me when I say this, but the truth is: Lawyers are human, too!
We have thoughts, and feelings, and opinions. We have families and lives and people we care about. Yes lawyers – like everyone else I know – need to make money. But lawyers, at least most of the lawyers I know, honestly want to do the right thing for their clients. They care about things like right and wrong, and following the law, and getting the best deal they can for the people they represent.
The problem is, when you are representing someone who is a pain in the rear end, someone who is mean and nasty and difficult to please, you aren’t exactly motivated to go out of your way for them. Yes, you will zealously represent that person even if you absolutely despise them. That is your job as a lawyer. It is what you signed on for … up to a point.
But, when representing someone becomes too difficult, you stop. You bale. You tell them to get a new lawyer because you just can’t take it any more. Then that person has to get a new lawyer and start all over again. The more lawyers that person goes through, the more difficult it becomes for them to find another lawyer who is willing to represent them.
How to be the Perfect Divorce Client:
So, what can you do to make your lawyer WANT to work for you? It is actually not that hard.
1. Be Nice. Yes, we know that no one is at their best when going through a divorce. We are not looking for perfectly mannered people who never lose their cool. But, don’t scream at us! You don’t need to be rude or mean to get our attention. As a matter of fact, the more ill-behaved you are, the longer it usually takes us to respond to you.
2. Be Reasonable. You do not have to agree with everything we say. You do not have to accept any settlement offer your spouse makes, regardless of how outrageous it may seem. But you also can’t demand that the judge, the lawyers, and your soon-to-be ex spouse, all do everything your way. You are not going to get everything you want, when you want it, and the way you want it. Divorce just doesn’t work that way.
3. Follow the Rules. If there is a court order requiring you to do something, please … do it! Do not make us stand in front of the judge desperately trying to concoct an argument that will persuade the judge not to throw you in jail! Trust me, we understand that you may not agree with the court order. The judge may be totally wrong. That happens sometimes. But, when a judge tells you to do something, do not flat out refuse and then expect us to save your behind!
4. Give Us the Documents We Need to Do Our Job. Divorce is a document-driven process. You can like that, or you can hate that, but you are not going to change that. So, when we ask you to produce your income tax returns, bank statements, etc., etc., please, just do it! We know it is a hassle. We know how much time it takes. (Remember, after you give us that mountain of paperwork, we have to read it too!) But, the court rules require you provide certain documents. So, please, do it.
5. Tell us what is going on. There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a hotly contested court hearing and hearing for the first time that your client did something that s/he never told you about which changes everything! It is also not fun to learn from your opposing attorney that your client lied, cheated, had an affair, or did something else that makes a huge difference in the case and never told you about it. We can’t defend you if we don’t know what is going on.
6. Listen to the Advice We Give You. Listen when we tell you what the law requires. Listen when we tell you what the likely consequences of your choices are going to be. You don’t have to take all of our advice, nor do you have to do everything we say. But you should at least listen to what we have to say, preferably without arguing with us about how stupid and unfair it is.
7. Pay Your Bill … On Time. Lawyers need to eat too. We have expenses to pay and businesses to run. We are entitled to be paid for the work that we do the same way that you are entitled to be paid for the job that you do. Yes it is true, we are not always able to get you everything that you want. We don’t always win. But, you knew going in that no one gets everything they want. You agreed to pay us for doing a job. When we do that job, you need to hold up your end of the bargain and pay what you promised.
Having a great divorce lawyer can make all of the difference in the outcome of your case. Being a great divorce client is the way to get a great divorce lawyer to do his/her best work for you.
For more divorce advice and information from Karen Covy, go to http://karencovy.com
What you need to know about divorce attorneys: