MSBA TOP 10 TIPS FOR CHOOSING THE RIGHT DIVORCE ATTORNEY

MSBA TOP 10 TIPS FOR CHOOSING THE RIGHT DIVORCE ATTORNEY

The Maryland State Bar Association tries to post helpful “top 10” lists from time to time. This one caught my eye, because everyone struggles how to find a divorce attorney in Maryland, regardless of whether your case is in Howard County or elsewhere across the state.

Below are thoughts from the MSBA, and my thoughts on some of these appear afterwards, in bold.

  1. Rapport – There must be a rapport between the client and the lawyer in order to build and establish a relationship in which there is trust and confidence. Without this rapport, there will be an inability to communicate and achieve clearly defined goals for the client. I agree with this. A great deal of people come to me as their second divorce attorney, because they have communication issues with their prior divorce attorney. You should find out whether your divorce attorney answers calls within a reasonable period of time, if there are others who can answer questions, whether there is email communication, etc…
  2. Objective Advice – It never serves the client for an attorney to tell the client what he/she wants to hear. Providing objective advice will allow the client to choose a cost effective and practical approach to resolve the marital issues. Too many attorneys use the initial consult to say “hire me and I will tell you my strategy.” If you hear that, just walk out. We should be listening to you, understanding you and then providing you with an education and your options. After that, it is your choice whether to hire us.
  3. Defined Goals – Defining goals early in the attorney-client relationship will allow for clarity as to appropriate and effective course of action.  Another attorney once referred a case to me, because the client wanted “everything,” and the attorney did not want to get involved with that expectation. I met with the client and informed her that I would try to get her everything, but I told her I was going to pen a letter to her, telling her that getting her everything was not likely. By the way, the day of trial, I got her everything. 
  4. Management of Expectations – Management of the client’s expectations will allow for a more practical and realist approach to negotiations and litigation.  See above. 
  5. Effective Communication – Establishing a communication protocol with realist response times will allow for the client to be kept timely informed of important matters, yet manage expectations of instant responses for non-emergency matters. Last week, I received an email from another attorney at 2:40 AM. What effect would that have on you, my client? I am not sure it would be positive.  
  6. Open and honest Communication – It never serves a client to withhold information, whether embarrassing or not, from the attorney that may arise later in the process (negotiation/litigation) as the attorney will not be fully prepared to deal with the “surprise” which could prove damaging to the client’s case. You never want me to give you a rose-colored view of your results. I believe it is important to provide you with your worst and best case scenarios, as well as the range of what is likely. 
  7. Long term goal approach – It is important to consider where the client will be/wants to be in “5 years” rather than focusing only on the present. This approach lead to long term security rather than instant gratification. This is all part of allowing for divorce to help you plan your life forward. We will always be talking about where you should be in 5, 10, 25, and even 50 years from now.
  8. Getting your “ducks in a row” – Thoughtful advance planning with the attorney, i.e. information gathering, securing of monies, etc., will put the client in a better position when notifying the other of his/her intent to divorce/separate and allow negotiation/litigation from a level playing field. This is so true!! The more prepared you are for me, the better job I can do for you.
  9. Affordability – Choose an attorney that you can realistically afford for the entire process and/or make appropriate payment arrangements. It does not serve you well to start with an attorney only to have to end the relationship mid litigation/negotiation because you cannot continue to afford his/her representation. Affording an attorney is tough. We are all expensive. Always ask for the rates of each attorney, how the division of labor works and how you can participate to keep your costs reasonable. Do not ever be lured in by a low retainer, because it could actually be leading to bigger charges down the road. 
  10. Selection – Don’t just hire “the most expensive lawyer” or the “meanest lawyer, etc. just to intimidate your spouse. Instead, hire someone that you can communicate and work with. Well, I am not so sure I believe this. There are some attorneys, and I am one of them, with reputations for being extremely aggressive. Sometimes these reputations are deserved, but not always. I will fight for my clients for them to have their best result. I will always provide opportunities and education for exit strategies, as well, so that my clients are always in control.

I hope this helps you to choose the right divorce attorney for your case!

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