Unless you live in small town Canadiana, there are plenty of divorce lawyers to choose from when your world comes crashing down and you become a victim of divorce. It is no exaggeration to say that in many cases a divorce is worse than the death of a spouse.
In major centres the menu of legal styles is unlimited. You can choose a pit bull, a basher, a shark, a collaborator, a nurturer or a paper-shuffler. No matter your choice, it is also true that many divorcing spouses hire multiple lawyers, often going through as many as three or four lawyers by the time their divorce is completed.
Why do clients of divorce lawyers change lawyers so frequently? It’s because they are caught in an emotional vortex, facing the unknown and dreading the journey. However, there are legitimate reasons to fire your divorce lawyer. Consider the following:
1. YOUR LAWYER PULLS A BAIT AND SWITCH
This occurs when you hire a lawyer with a big reputation and never see him or her after your first consultation. Many busy, successful lawyers work with junior lawyers and paralegals and this is beneficial for a client. The usual, mundane paper-pushing can easily be done by a junior and at a far cheaper rate than “big lawyer’s” rate. However, if this is the way your lawyer works you need to know up front. I always tell my clients that what they need from me is strategy and courtroom presence. The rest can be done by others with my supervision. Far better to have basic family law forms filled out by a junior who bills $250.00 an hour than by “big lawyer’s” charge-out rates. If you can’t accept your lawyer’s work style, time to find a new lawyer.
2. AFTER MANY MONTHS YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOUR BEST AND WORST CASE SCENARIOS ARE
After a few months your lawyer should have received from you or your spouse’s lawyer certain financial documents and information and if you have children, details about your kids and the parenting arrangements during the marriage. You have every right to expect that once a clear picture of the family finances emerges and the roles of each spouse in the marriage is elucidated, your lawyer will tell you the good, the bad and the ugly. I am often asked to provide a “second opinion” and am always surprised when the client cannot tell me what their lawyer’s plan is to resolve the case. If four months have passed and you have no idea of where you stand, it may be time to challenge your lawyer.
3. YOUR LAWYER HAS NEVER DONE A COSTS/BENEFIT ANALYSIS
Unless you are a multi-millionaire and money is not an issue, you will want your lawyer to consider the financial viability of unleashing the hounds of hell on your spouse. By now, everyone knows how expensive court is and not just court, but the cost of two business valuators, two property appraisers, two child development experts, two accountants and the list goes on and on. If you are fighting over a sum of $100,000 but it will cost you $150,000 to litigate, you would be a fool to proceed to court. Ah, but what about custody of kids? You can’t put a price tag on that. Yes, you can and you should. The worst battles of all are over children and usually the outcome does not justify the “go to war” tactics and accompanying costs.
A good lawyer will do everything he or she can to find a way to compromise on children’s issues, short of court proceedings. If you have not had a realistic “money” talk with your lawyer, beware.
4. YOUR LAWYER PROMISES BIG, BUT DELIVERS SMALL
An experienced, competent lawyer should be able to give you the odds of success for any court application he or she brings on your behalf. Legal cases are decided on decisions made in earlier legal cases, called precedents, and your lawyer should be fully aware of how cases like yours have been decided. While you cannot expect lawyers to guarantee a particular outcome, before you can make an informed decision as to whether to proceed to court you need some idea of the lawyer’s opinion of the likelihood of success. If your lawyer promises the sun, the moon and the stars, but delivers space junk you may want to think twice.
5. YOUR LAWYER NEVER SENDS YOU A BILL
While at first blush this may sound like the perfect lawyer, it is not. A lawyer who is unable to bill you is a lawyer that is likely highly disorganized, overworked, has taken on too many clients and is generally overwhelmed. No one likes surprises, and when you finally receive your bill, and you will, it will come as a big shock. Insist that your lawyer bill you monthly so you can see how much this is costing you. Usually lawyers who fall behind on their billing, also avoid conversations about cost and benefits obtained. Not a good combination.
A divorce lawyer’s day is never boring and yet most other lawyers agree that divorce lawyers do the hardest work of all, they work with clients who are emotionally devastated who may become financially spent in the process. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang