To enhance your chances of a successful divorce, your relationship with your attorney must be collaborative. While there is no guarantee that a collaborative relationship will get you what you want, there is a near certainty that without it, you will be deprived of your fair share. Here are ten ways for you to be a better partner with your lawyer in your divorce case:
1. Keep your lawyer updated.
If there are any developments in your life, such as a new job, a death in the family, or any other significant happenings, make sure to advise your lawyer as soon as possible. These developments may or may not have an impact on the case, but it is essential that you keep your lawyer updated in case these events impact the case.
2. Don’t make any major decisions without first consulting with your lawyer.
Don’t quit your job, buy a major asset, sell the farm, decide to retire, or make any other major decisions without first consulting with your lawyer.
Planning is always easier than cleaning up a mess later. There is a reason you have a lawyer: they are a sounding board for your decision-making. Use them to do that.
3. Don’t kick the dog.
While it’s a terrible metaphor for a dog lover like myself, don’t take out your frustrations on your lawyer like “kicking the dog” after a bad day at work. Your lawyer is on your team and trying to help you. The lawyer is not there for you to dump on because your life is not going as you hoped. Treat your lawyer with respect.
4. Be prompt and timely with assigned tasks.
We all tend to procrastinate unpleasant tasks, but there are deadlines and court requirements that need to be met. When your lawyer asks you to complete a task for them, you must be scrupulous in getting it done.
This is also an excellent way to keep your bill down. Constant nags and follow-up from the lawyer will do nothing but increase the cost of an already expensive proceeding.
5. Respect your lawyer’s time.
Your lawyer is busy. You are not their only client. This is not to say that your calls should go unreturned or your questions unanswered. But it does mean that you need to respect your lawyer’s time.
Make sure your questions are specific and get to the bottom line as quickly as possible. Don’t use your lawyer as a therapist or a buddy. Again, one of the best ways of saving money is to be focused and prepared when you speak with your lawyer.
6. Be honest with your lawyer.
This seems obvious, but sometimes people hedge the truth because they are embarrassed or it is unpleasant. This is not unique to an attorney/client relationship and happens with doctors and their patients as well. For a doctor to properly treat you, the doctor needs to know all of the facts. The same holds true for a lawyer. Be honest so that the lawyer can do their job for you.
7. Be responsive and communicative.
If your lawyer has a question, answer it. Don’t put it off because it’s expensive or unpleasant. If your schedule and your lawyer’s schedule don’t jibe, schedule a phone conference appointment or email your lawyer to set up a time to talk. Provide information or answers promptly.
8. Trust or terminate.
You either need to trust your lawyer or get a new one. The most detrimental dynamic to an attorney-client relationship is a lack of trust. If you don’t trust your lawyer, for whatever reason, you should consider getting a new lawyer.
Without trust in your lawyer’s judgment, honesty, or competence, you will have many sleepless nights and likely end up with a bad result. On the other hand, some lawyers are extremely competent, but for whatever reason, your stomach is telling you not to trust them. For everyone’s sake, listen to that voice and get a new lawyer.
9. Don’t avoid the bill.
Undoubtedly your lawyer will not overlook the bill, and neither should you. Divorce is expensive, and the expense can be overwhelming, but ignoring the bill won’t help.
Make good faith efforts to work with your lawyer to make arrangements. If you have concerns about the bill, bring it up and discuss it. But in no event should you ignore the subject.
10. Ask questions.
If you have a question, ask it! It is crucial that you understand the process as you go through it. While it’s important to trust your lawyer’s judgment, it’s also important that you fully understand why an attorney is choosing a particular course of action. Don’t simmer if something is bothering you either. Ask about it. Don’t be shy. Express yourself.
Some people are intimidated by their lawyer’s professional degree, but the relationship is most effective when it is a collaboration. Offer your opinion and suggestions and discuss reasonable differences with your lawyer.
Do your job!
Work with your lawyer and not against your lawyer to help yourself. You are a member of the team, and as such, you have certain responsibilities. The divorce process, while undoubtedly awful, can be more tolerable if you have a good working relationship with your lawyer. Do your part to make that happen.
And, if for whatever reason it is not happening, get another lawyer sooner rather than later.