April 29, 2010
I have a colleague who approaches his family law practice like a ministry. He ensures that his clients’ spiritual needs are being cared for as well as their legal needs. I usually refer spiritual matters to my clients’ respective churches, but that doesn’t mean I don’t inquire into the need for a divorce. Sometimes, people come to see me when they wonder what the grass is like on the other side. Sometimes, they wonder if they are going to be shocked with divorce papers. In those cases, my job is to provide a little legal information and a referral to a marriage therapist, if it seems like a good idea. I wonder if maybe sometimes we could avoid the whole drama by living in the moment a little more. This article in Slate.com suggests that we should maybe spend a little more time in our marriage, rather than with our therapist.
June 23, 2009
BIG CLIENTS AND BIG ATTORNEYS
IN A FAMILY LAW OFFICE
As the office manager in a family law office, I have the opportunity to read about, reflect upon, and learn from our daily interactions with clients – and attorneys! – going through an emotional and stressful time. Good thing I like a challenge! Thinking things over, “Bigness” has been on my mind this week.
And, before I forget; I’ve noticed there are a lot of people interested in the child support calculator and child support payment calculator. Here’s a link you can use in Minnesota Minnesota Child Support Guidelines Calculator
Anyway, on to “Bigness.”
The Big World
As I type this I’m listening to the “BBC World News” http://news.bbc.co.uk/ which is full of news about British doomsday planning for nuclear war in the 1980’s (which always ended in launching every nuclear armed missile possible), the disputed election in Iran (numerous persons killed), a subway train crash in Washington, D. C. (nine dead so far) and the bankruptcy of a local auto dealer here in Minneapolis, Minnesota (tax liens against his properties). It gives one pause, and some perspective, while going about one’s daily routines.
OK, here we go. I work in a small firm and I’m not an attorney so naturally I’ve a specific point of view about “Bigness.” My thanks to the American Bar Association magazine, “GPSolo” www.abanet.org/genpractice for inspiration and thoughtful information. These opinions of mine here are just that – my opinions.
Big Ego Divorce Clients
We’ve said this before in this blog, but it bears repeating – you are not the only person involved in a divorce or other family law matter. There’s the kids; the other party; and the law and the processes of the law. Minnesota, where I’m located, is not the best place to go for the jugular in a divorce action — we’re kind of common-sensical here, don’t ya know. Juries don’t normally award big claims in accident cases; and judges, in our experience, usually are truly focused on justice and equity for all involved – especially for the children, whether it be specifically child custody or child support case or not.
Big Ego Divorce Attorneys
Attorneys in our firm often return from court with the most interesting stories! These sometimes involve lawyers for the opposing party who think bluster and arrogance substitute for preparation, careful litigation, a knowledge of the law, and skill. They don’t; though they can needlessly run up the bill for their own clients and for the opposing party in a divorce.
Big Attorney’s Offices
Yes, law firms have been known to dress for success! As the guy who writes the checks around here, my advice is that what you want to look for is a location that reflects competence, success, and sympathy for your legal matter. I have been to law offices located in rundown houses that were slums, really; and to those in a downtown high rise with subtle designer interiors and designer furnishings. My take on this? Avoid the slum for all the obvious reasons. The downtown high rise lawyer might be just the ticket for you – but you are ultimately the one paying the rent and it’ll be reflected in your bill.
Big Law Firms
If you are preparing for a divorce, child custody, alimony, or child support legal action, a big firm might be just the thing for you – I’d like to think my family law firm can handle *anything* but we all have our limits. Do you have a really complex family law case – crossing numerous states, involving numerous family businesses, numerous residences and nearly non-existent record keeping? A large firm might be best for you.
Big Fees for Divorce Lawyers
This is related to the big law firm and the big attorney’s office threads. Let me be blunt. Your divorce attorney can’t advocate for you if you don’t pay the bill. Additionally, would you rather they spend their time hassling with you over what you have contracted to pay them; or spend their time productively working on your case? We don’t do checkbook justice, but you do get what you pay for. This can be tricky. I’d say, as the guy who sends out the bills here, look first for an attorney you can trust, who has the skills you need, and who is interested in your case. Then, make sure you can pay them – remembering that a retainer is usually only a down payment. If you can’t afford this particular attorney, don’t hire them. Find another. In any case, pay your bill; you’ll get a better professional relationship and a better result in your case.
June 16, 2009
Meeting Your Attorney
The Initial Consultation
When you are dealing with any legal matter, — divorce, child custody, estate planning, or something else; you will of course have to meet your lawyer. While every attorney handles this meeting in his or her own way, here is one take on how that meeting would proceed.
First, you’ll have to find their office! Be sure to ask, or to map it, or to get directions on the phone. You do not want to be late to this meeting or arrive flustered by a frustrating chase around unfamiliar streets looking for an office. Some attorneys do make house calls or visit you at some spot convenient for you, but most prefer to meet you in their office. That this is “their turf” and not yours may be part of their approach, in order to ensure that you are capable of making some commitment to what can be an exhausting, long-term, and expensive relationship – hopefully resulting in you prevailing in your lawsuit, obtaining your divorce, drawing up and instituting your estate plan. Your prospective attorney may want to see if you’re up to at least some inconvenience and effort on your own part.
First Impressions Matter to You – And to Your Lawyer
OK, you’re in their office. Pay attention. Are you greeted immediately and courteously? Are you expected? Is this place like the offices on “Boston Legal” or “L.A. Law?” Probably not! So, being realistic, you’ll want to assess this first impression when you decide to employ this attorney – or not.
The first person you meet may be your attorney, a paralegal, or an office staffer. You may be handed a form to fill out, offered coffee, tea, or bottled water. You may be asked if you have brought any paperwork relating to your matter. Eventually – hopefully soon! – You will be invited into your prospective attorney’s office.
Bear in mind that the law is not just about statute, litigation, and precedent. It is also a very psychological matter – so you’d be advised to be aware not only of your intellectual, mental interaction with this person; but also of how you feel about him or her. Do you have a battle ahead over, say, child support? If so, do you want a lawyer who is a compromiser / nice guy; a battleaxe / bulldog; or something unique you can’t quite put your finger on yet?
How Your Family Law Attorney Might Proceed
She would ask what brought you to her, giving you a chance to expand upon your motivation; and asking more directed questions to bring out what might be important to your cause. It’s a back and forth question and answer format. The law can be abstruse and non-common-sensical at times, so by all means ask questions back. The point is to build some trust between you now, if possible.
She will talk about the attorney – client relationship and confidentiality.
She will outline what she sees your case to be and give some generic raw legal advice. You cannot expect her to lay out her entire role for you here – especially since the initial client interview is often free to you. This is an interview in both directions, actually: you are trying to see if she is the attorney for you; and so is she.
She will talk about the legal process you face. In some jurisdictions and for some types of law this can be very standardized; in others, not.
She will talk about two basic strategies in almost any case: settlement (no trial) or trial. Neither one is perfect and both typically involve both some work and some compromise.
The attorney will explain the business of the law. You have to pay the fee to get the advocacy you need.
Finally, the lawyer and you will end the interview. He or she will let you know what follow up you can expect – usually a letter or email.
Is This the Lawyer for You?
That’s it! Now, it’s time for you to make a choice – this attorney? Another? Drop the whole plan? Good luck!
June 16, 2009
JON AND KATE DIVORCE?
There’s been a lot of news about Jon and Kate Gosselin, the parents of sextuplets and twins who have documented their life on TLC’s Jon & Kate Plus Eight (http://tlc.discovery.com/tv/jon-and-kate/jon-and-kate.html). It’s juicy gossip. Jon is accused of infidelity. Kate is accused of having a volatile temper. It appears they are headed for divorce. Lime Life reports they spent their 10th Anniversary apart. http://www.limelife.com/blog-entry/Jon-and-Kate-Gosselins-10-Year-Anniversary-Apart/6438.html. The National Register claims that Jon wants to quit the show. http://www.nationalledger.com/artman/publish/article_272626504.shtml
Would Jon Get Child Custody?
It’s all great gossip. What makes the potential for divorce particularly enticing for the gossip mill is that there is a good chance that Jon, a stay-at-home father, would assume primary custody of the children. Kate has been spending a lot of time away from home on business related to her books and publicity for the show, while Jon has stayed home to care for the children. Kate is also rumored to be a less than ideal parent–although I have a hard time judging anyone’s parenting skills, much less a mother of eight young children.
What About Jon and Kate’s Marital Property?
In all likelihood, Jon’s infidelity is less important to a court than Kate’s parenting skills. But, how do you value the Gosselin estate? How do you split it up?
As we obtain more information, I will attempt to interpret it here.