How to choose a lawyer

From "Emotional Vampires" by Albert Bernstein, good advice about how to hire a lawyer, in this case, a divorce lawyer:
Good lawyers should:
* Return calls promptly. I'm surprised at how many lawyers don't. I'm talking about calls during office hours. Never accept an attorney who doesn't get back to you for days, unless someone from the office contacts you to explain why. Even then, be skeptical. How long does a phone call take?
* Be more decisive than you are. Good lawyers should be polite, but not necessarily nice. The last thing you want is a lawyer who is too conflict-avoidant to deal effectively with the [a-hole] that your ex will hire. You want your lawyer to be stronger and more decisive than you are, not less.
* Be proactive. You do not want a lawyer who counsels you to wait to see what someone else does. The battle goes to whoever gets there first with the most. This is particularly true is matters of custody and visitation. Always ask an attorney what the overall plan is. If there is no overall plan, you don't have an attorney.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Thank you.

Grim said...

Indeed. That sounds like good advice, should I ever need an attorney.

Cass said...

Love the first bullet, and the "emotional vampires". I use "psychic vampires" a lot, but hadn't heard of emotional vampires.

Am not so sure about the next two bullets (at least in this context: a divorce lawyer).

Have a few friends who are attorneys. One of them has said several times that he views part of his job as helping the client not to shoot himself in the foot by escalating conflict past what is necessary.

I definitely agree that if conflict is inevitable, one should go in prepared to win. But in family court, conflict is horrible and ugly and often hurts both parties and the children to boot. Negotiating a fair, solid compromise strikes me as a better tactic than bringing out the tactical nukes and trying to annihilate the mother or father of your children.

Imagine how much better it would be if divorce lawyers were actually able to help divorcing couples step back from all that anger and emotion and see things a bit more objectively? During my brief stint working in family law, I saw a LOT of couples back in court b/c the original settlement still rankled. But maybe some people just like to fight - the whole thing is a mystery to me.

Maybe that's why I'm still married, though :)

Texan99 said...

It does sound a bit as though he were encouraging the escalation of conflict, but another way to look at it is that there's already an irreducible level of conflict (and remember the context here is divorcing an emotional vampire), so you're going to have to decide what you want and take immediate effective steps to go after it, not just react to your ex's tactics. "Being the first with the most" doesn't have to mean pure antagonism: it can mean marshaling the law and facts to support the outcome you want the court to approve, in an early and convincing manner. Even if you remain willing to listen respectfully to your opponent's point of view, you needn't let him frame the debate at every stage.

The "emotional vampire" context is important in another way, too: people who have gotten stuck with one of these types have learned bad habits of conflict avoidance; they'll need someone with different habits to get out of the jam they're in. By "conflict" I don't mean "scorched earth hostility," but a very clear way of firmly saying "there are some ways of interacting I won't tolerate any more. We're going to sort this out and end it, quite soon, not years from now." Reconciliation is one thing, but miserable drift is another. Sometimes we need someone with a "fish or cut bait" philosophy to keep us from wallowing.