I often tell people that one of the biggest challenges of litigation is that people are coming to you unhappy. Unhappiness can rarely be a good starting point, particularly in an adversarial system. That is why it is important to choose an attorney who is not going to intentionally increase that unhappiness, and hope the opposing party does the same.
I once received an inquiry from a person who retained an attorney that has greatly increased his unhappiness. He wanted a different attorney, but the damage has already been done. When I reviewed their online record of actions, what stood out most to me was that both sides were fighting – a lot. Moreover, those fights were over procedural technicalities not important issues of the case, like the best interest of the children. When attorneys use the Court as their vehicle to fight, it costs you more. That is why it is important you consult with an attorney prior to retaining them and prepare questions that can assist you in determining if he or she is a good fit for your case. Some questions you may want to ask include:
- What’s your general approach to family law litigation
- What’s your general position on alternative dispute resolution?
- Do you think there are issues in my case that can be resolved without Court intervention. If so, what issues and how?
- What facts do you think weaken my case?
- Have you represented parties in cases similar to mine? If so, what were the results?
- How do you view the position of children in relation to the lawsuit?
As a lawyer my job is to be upfront and honest with a client about their case (the good, the bad, and the ugly), advocate firmly for his or her best interest, and assist as much as possible in minimizing damage already done, whether emotional, mental, or financial. That is definitely easier to accomplish when there is an attorney on the other side who believes in the same approach. Unfortunately, there are a number of attorneys who think fighting over the minutiae is how to “win” a case. That’s why it is even more important you take the time to qualify an attorney who is going to work best for you.