This article outlines the main characteristics to look for in an attorney when seeking representation for divorce or child custody issues. The first rule to internalize is that all lawyers are not created equal. Who you hire will determine the result achieved. Lawyers are like professional athletes in that some are more talented, experienced, skilled, trained and mentally and emotionally fit than others. In short, some punch harder than others. Lawyers are also like professional athletes in that it is not unusual to not get what you paid for. You cannot determine how good an attorney is by how loud they are, how tough they talk, how high they flail their arms or the hourly rate. You have to feel what is right based on your interaction with the attorney. This article is about what to look for in developing that “feeling.” This article is about ensuring you get what you paid for when hiring a divorce/custody attorney.
A lawyer wears many hats. He or she is a mercenary, diplomat, negotiator and legal drafter. He or she is someone who is passionate about your cause and will fight for you. The mental fitness, experience, intelligence, charisma, passion for the case and overall compassion of the attorney, in general, are what you want to look at when making the decision to retain a specific individual. A divorce/custody lawyer must be mentally fit. He or she must be charismatic and persuasive without being obnoxious or overbearing. He or she must be passionate about the work. Divorce/ custody practice is often combat litigation and can get very adversarial. It is not for the faint of heart or the guy or gal that wants to please everybody, not make waves or just go with the flow. Experience in strategic litigation is essential. Not just experience but thinking experience combined with practical common sense and courage that is not reckless or cavalier. Intelligence without laziness is also an integral consideration in choosing your representative.
It is a common misconception that most attorneys are highly intelligent. I do not mean to defame our profession but, factually speaking, that has not been my perception. Book smart is not street smart. A good attorney is both. Attorneys are the same as everyone else. There are all levels of intelligence. And intelligence without motivation and compassion is like faith without works. It’s dead. A good result is based upon paying attention to detail and being willing to go farther, persist longer and do more than the other guy or girl. Good results are achieved by a combination of good luck, smarts and hard work.
The truth is that being a lawyer is not just a job. It is a way of life. There are many easier, less stressful, less time consuming ways to make a living. In Divorce/Custody practice the lawyer needs to be available to the client 24/7 365 days a year. Emergencies surrounding custody disputes happen often, usually during holidays, after hours or weekends and people need to be able to pick up the phone and talk to their lawyer immediately, not on Monday, or tomorrow or even within a few hours.
The Divorce/Custody attorney should be a sensitive and detailed listener. He or she must have great patience, humility and a zest for life and helping others. Divorce clients are in a tremendous amount of pain. For many, it is the worst experience of their entire life. The clients are often angry, afraid, bitter and resentful. A good attorney will have a thick skin. Clients can be notoriously cruel. They periodically will take their frustration (over the process) out on the attorney. This is normal and to be expected and the client should not be made to feel uncomfortable over it. If the attorney is the type that is defensive it will cause dissonance in the attorney client relationship. This is not something that someone who is already in emotional turmoil should have to deal with.
What I have listed above are all important considerations in choosing the right attorney for you. However, the most important consideration is your comfort level with the attorney and what your feelings are telling you. Please feel free to call or email me with any questions about this article or any other legal question. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert C. Biales