FIVE REASONS TO FIRE YOUR DIVORCE LAWYER

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

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11 thoughts on “FIVE REASONS TO FIRE YOUR DIVORCE LAWYER

  1. Is there an independent rating agency that puts out some comparative numbers for a lawyers success at Court? Is there also a comparison of actual client end cost, as comparative billing hours may not mean much, when each lawyer may charge many more hours to do the same basic maneuvers?

  2. Paul There are two independent peer review groups. Lawyers are selected for inclusion based on their peers’ reviews. The question asked is “If you could not handle a case, who would you send it to?”

    In the area of family law in Canada about 100 lawyers are selected. The groups are “Best Lawyers in Canada” and “Lexpert”. I am proud to say that I am listed on both sites.

    There is no agency or organization that has access to lawyers’ fees so no comparison can be made.

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. Evil Many clients express that they could have coped better if their spouse had died rather than had an affair and left them.

    Having seen the grief and turmoil that can last for years in a divorce situation, I tend to agree with my clients.

    1. I have a couple of anecdotes along those lines as well and am compiling them into a manuscript regarding the devolution of the US legal system.

      Keep blogging! I love your posts and tweet them to my followers.

  4. Sometimes we cannot predict what will happen in the future with our marriage, that’s why we have to run to somebody to help us. Having an unhappy marriage can be among the worst experiences we could encounter. Thanks for this post, it enlightens me.

  5. Paul@ “Is there an independent rating agency…?”

    Paul…the whole concept is based on the issue of trust. I make certain financial decisions on the advice of my financial adviser. I also make decisions concerning medical issues as a result of advice from my wife’s doctors, who are both in Canada and the US. My relationship with my bank is based on an atmosphere of mutual trust…it is an inherent and required component of any business relationship. As is usual in life, there are no guarantees. Assuming I lose confidence, or trust, in these type of advisers, then I change advisers. It’s basic..

    But…in the unlikely event that I would ever need Georgialee’s services (in May this years it will be 40 years married), she would absolutely be the first lawyer I would contact, Because she has a sterling reputation for competence and integrity.

    You don’t need an independent appraisal…reputation and a track record of competence and excellence, which is easily available, is sufficient for an informed person to make the appropriate choice.

  6. Being a childless stepmom, married to an excellent Dad and husband, but dealing with a HC ex is a nightmare.Getting no where after 4.5 years of legal fees with a lawyer/partner has not helped the situation, financially or emotionally for us or the kids. Any time we have asked for something we have been told no. Everything swings in favor of his ex and she doesn’t follow the court order half the time. We asked for an enforceable order just to make her more accountable….but no…we weren’t allowed to do that either. I think we had one semi-ok outcome looking back to the beginning, in provincial court. But in Supreme and back to Provincial we have had no luck again. Every time she drags us to court its for more money (and little does she realize that the more she does this, the less $ we have for the kids….but the kids are not her focus)…and if we have back up as to why she no longer needs spousal support she comes up with some other lie or “disability” and we get screwed over. I just wish that the Judges could see more of what the good Fathers go through. The Guidelines in Family Court are just not feasible and it should be on a case by case trial. We keep thinking of changing lawyers as honestly it feels as though since she had a child, got partnership and won a semi-hi profile trial for a bio mom she just isn’t fully “with us” any more and I sometimes feel that I could do a better job than her. She is supposed to be a rottweiler but we would love to research other opportunities but were scared as she has all of the back history. *sigh* Seriously, as the bystander here, I have wondered…as your post states….if half of what we have gone through and spent was even worth it. where did it get us? Not to where we had hoped we would be.

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