Family Law, Probate Law, and Not Losing Your Head
April 13, 2009
Welcome! Today I’d like to address what’s happening in the legal profession and how it affects you as a client of a family law or probate law attorney.
YIKES! TODAY, IT LOOKS LIKE A CRISIS TO ME
There is no shortage of alarming headlines nowadays about legal matters. Look at these from the “Legal Strategy Review” published by CPA Global www.cpaglobal.com
- The Heat is on (the global economic crisis)
- Disputes on the Rise (There has been a big rise in wage-and-hour disputes)
- Opening the Book on Bankruptcy (Bankruptcy filings are expected to jump)
Here’s what I think after reading the magazine, with my thanks to the publishers for their inspiration.
IS YOUR ATTORNEY FOCUSED ON THEIR STRENGTHS?
The law firms that stay strongest during this economic and social crisis will be the ones planning for it and acting to meet it. One way to do this is for the lawyer to avoid the temptation to grab just any client that comes along. What is the smarter, more sustainable strategy is for the attorney to clarify and focus on what she does best, to help you discover those strengths, and to take the necessary steps to ensure that she can actually deliver what is promised.
Your focused attorney will use computerization, electronic record keeping, and paralegals and assistants to provide subordinate but necessary services to you (scheduling, discovery, document management) for less than the cost of a full blown attorney. They will also bring their strengths to bear on your case. Among these strengths would be:
- Honesty: they tell it like it is, as gently as possible – but the tell it.
- Empowerment: they work on a strategy that meets *your* needs.
- Commitment: they work for your commitment and work to win your case.
- Concern: they really do care about you and your goals.
HOW DO YOU FEEL?
These are stressful times. It pays to be in touch with your rational brain and with your feelings. If you feel an attorney is just not right for you, keep on looking. Think about it, yes, but if it does not feel right it probably isn’t. Some attorneys are pit bulls looking for one pit bull to represent and a third one yet to oppose! Some are not quite so pugnacious although just as effective advocates for your interests, in their own way. This is especially true in the area of family law: divorce, child custody, alimony, child support. Find a lawyer who fits you in every possible way.
YIKES! I OWE MY ATTORNEY HOW MUCH?
Sad but true, nothing is free. If your lawyer is doing their homework, they are thinking about such things as the following in addition to your case and those of their other clients:
- What is my cash flow. How can I increase it?
- What are my expenses. How can I cut them?
- What is my client base. How can I identify and recruit them?
- What are the needs of my clients. How can I meet them?
You will want to hire an attorney who has asked and answered these very questions. You want someone who has taken the steps to ensure, insofar as possible, that they will not be swept away in a flood of bankruptcy, crisis and broken contracts. If that happens, they can’t work for you, no matter how high or low their bill is. If they’re good enough to hire, they’re good enough to pay.
What you want, and what you don’t want, are major determinants of the size of your bill. Are you unwilling to compromise on any substantive issue? It’ll probably cost you more in money, time and anguish. Are you, for instance, bound and determined to get your wedding ring back? Ditto. To get what you want in the face of strong opposition, are you willing to pay your attorney an additional $5,000? $50,000? More? Think it through; talk it out with your attorney, and be reasonable.
I hope you have found this informative. I’m Tom Moore, office manager at Moore Family Law in Plymouth, Minnesota
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