What Do You Want from Your Lawyer?

Our firm asks our clients to critique their lawyers and our service at the end of their case. We find that their comments help us to improve our procedures, our physical plant and other aspects of our service delivery. Most of these questionnaires are returned by satisfied clients.

However one recently suggested that they felt that my representation had gone beyond the legal aspects of their divorce, as though that were a bad thing.

Divorces are made up a three subject matters; legal, financial and emotional. All of our attorneys are trained in Collaborative Practice, a process that builds a team of lawyers, mental health professionals and financial professions for the clients. This affords the client the opportunity to receive a complete range of services from the best professionals available. However, some clients don't want to hire the additional professionals or don't want them to attend strategy meetings. They rely on their lawyers for advice on finances and emotional issues in addition to the legal issues.

There are also the practical aspects of divorce in all three areas of divorce. I confess that in my 37 years of practice, I have learned a lot of ways to help my clients get through the legal, financial and emotional aspects of their case, and consider the practical ramifications of their decisions.

Am I going beyond the legal aspects of divorce? Absolutely!

Am I delivering a valuable service to my client? I certainly think so. I also hope they understand the added value that I bring to their case, by drawing on many years of experience.

Unfortunately, I don't know which of my client suggested that exceeding the legal boundaries of their case was potentially a bad thing. However, it brings out that expectations were not clear.

In future, I recommend to all clients that they tell their lawyers what they expect of the attorney. However, I also recommend that they permit the attorney to explain why allowing them to go beyond their legal expertise has significant value to them.

Examples are:

Attorneys can help you avoid greater acrimony with your spouse. The higher the degree of conflict, the more the divorce will cost and the longer it will take you both to recover from the divorce. Your children, if you have them, will also have a much harder time acclimating to the divorce if their parents are engaged in more fighting.

Attorneys can help you save money by avoiding taxes or using your retirement funds wisely.

Most people divorce only once. They don't have the benefit of experience when they begin and go through this process. Your lawyer does have the experience to help you streamline the process, when possible. Allow them to help you, but make it clear how much assistance you think you need.