There are often points of disagreement or a moment in your case that stands out as to where it started to go downhill or instances where you wished you made a different decision or choice that could have changed the outcome of your entire matter.
Below is a list of steps to take to get the most out of working with a lawyer and how to best be on the same team with them.
- Listen to your Attorney – The single most important piece of advice I can give is to listen to your attorney. On top of devoting our lives day in and day out to the practice of law, taking continuing education classes, and using our skills daily, we spent a minimum of three years in a law program, and all passed that grueling California Bar Exam. I hear it most often that my clients spoke to a friend or family member or a cousin who is an attorney in a completely different area of law and while its tempting to take the free advice, your attorney is the one with the legal background/education and are suggesting things that always have your best interest in mind. Hiring an attorney and not taking their advice is both counterintuitive and costly. I guarantee we are open to discussing why what we are advising is in your best interest and why we feel this is the best road to take. Please keep in mind that attorneys are human too, we are emotionally involved in your case and well-being and want the best possible outcomes for you. I understand that sometimes our advice can be harsh or hard to understand in the grand scheme of things, but I promise, we have the bigger goal in mind of getting you the light at the end of the tunnel in your case.
- Organize and provide documents to help assist with your case – Prior to hiring an attorney or having an initial call with us, you should organize your paperwork, evidence, thoughts, etc. If the paperwork is organized and efficient, it takes far less time for us to sift through and determine what next steps are needed in your case. The worst thing you can do for your pocket/wallet is send countless emails with random documents attached. We need background information, why these documents are relevant, and other information to determine whether they are important or will help with your case. Most of the time, you are hiring an attorney to file a motion for you or in family law, a Request for Order, with that comes a declaration drafted in your point of view regarding the situation and what led you to have to file this motion. While I wish I was a magician or mind reader, we are not. We need assistance in filling out the background information, where your case is now, how you got there, where co-parenting went wrong, why you think custody should be split in the way you are requesting, etc. I know this may be time-consuming on your part, but it will make your case smooth sailing and cost-effective.
- Plan out questions and have a goal in mind – The first question I ask in a first phone call is “what are your goals for your case.” Believe it or not, Family Law often becomes about the principal of the matter or revenge… you’re often feeling angry still from an event or scenarios that led to the divorce, or you are upset that co-parenting is not going the way it should be. However, we need a clear, attenable goal to assist you in your case. We must be able to quantify what you’re asking or request the court take a specific step or action to get you to your end goal. Family Law attorneys charge by the 1/10 of an hour, meaning every 6 minutes is a .1. You will find your money is well-spent and feel better about your interaction with your attorney, if you are both fully prepared before a phone call. Have a game plan and a list of questions planned out – this will save you money in the long run. We will be able to answer those questions and have a clear goal in mind so that we can together formulate the steps needed in your case. I also recommend drafting an email with a list of specific questions. You may get a more informative answer if your attorney has time to think/research a more well-prepared response, rather than being caught off guard on a phone call. I love when Clients send me a list of questions prior to our telephonic appointment to discuss, that way I can prepare and have answers ready and a plan of action to present.
- Manage your expectations – We do not have a magic wand and we cannot make all your problems disappear, but what we can do is give you an honest, realistic breakdown of your case dependent on the facts you give us and the documents presented for our review. You may not like those answers, but you hired us to give you that honest opinion of your situation or how assets will be split, or the custody percentage you’re likely to receive. Attorneys must follow the law and we are restrained on our ability to help under the law. We must work with the facts presented and pursuant to California Law, while preparing for a Court Hearing or drafting your paperwork. We can only make happen what is available to us as an option under the Law.
- Communicate effectively – While your attorney is handling a very important part of your life and we should be held accountable to returning your calls, emails, or texts within a timely manner, we also ask that of you. If we reach out requesting a document or further explanation of facts, we need a prompt answer, otherwise we may have to turn to investigating on our own, requesting documents from the Court amongst many other expensive options to answer our questions. Your delay in communication with us can push your case back while we wait for a response. The second part of communicating effectively is telling us the truth when we inquire about a scenario or facts of your case. You may not wish to tell us about events in which you can be perceived in a negative light, but there is Attorney Client Privilege – anything you tell us is confidential. We need to know every fact, scenario, and information asked to help us better help you. We only have your best interest in mind and that is almost impossible to do without truthful and healthy communication between lawyer and client.
- Seek Counseling/Therapy – Lastly, I would suggest all parties in a family law matter seek counseling. While we are sympathetic and compassionate towards your situation our advice ends with the law. We see more than not feelings of hurt, anger, revenge, resentment, betrayal, etc. in family law matters. We get it! You are having your entire life laid out before a Judge that often sees you in 20-minute increments and that does not know much about you or your case, it can be anxiety ridden and cause all sorts of emotions. These emotions, while your attorney understands, is not the best person to give advice regarding those emotions or how to stay mentally stable and sound during your proceedings. We care about you, your children, and your Family Law matter, but just like you wouldn’t hire a doctor to give you advice in this scenario, you should not expect your Lawyer to give you mental health advice. We do our best to mitigate you feeling the stress, but sometimes, its impossible to completely shield you from. Before calling your attorney, think… is this a legal issue? Can I afford to pay my attorney for this time? OR is this a matter of emotion that would best be dealt with elsewhere? Seek counseling or talk to a friend or family member to vent, while we appreciate you and the rough situation you are going through, our advice ends with the law.