The usual attorney sales pitch starts and ends with the attorney’s credentials, the attorney’s education and attorney’s accomplishments.  It proceeds through a proven sales formula involving fear of loss, a fear that is already front and center for most of you.

But if you’re like me when I got my divorce, you’re already feeling afraid and overwhelmed.  A consultation with many attorneys will make these feelings worse, not better, especially if they have the fear of loss strategy.

Many attorneys approach the initial consultation as more of a sales opportunity than a chance to help.  I hear many stories of divorcing people being asked to tender a credit card before an attorney will even even talk to them.

Listen, us lawyers do need to make a livingBut when your family’s on the line, a great bedside manner can make a huge difference in your level of satisfaction after the judgment, when satisfaction really counts.

Make your choice based on your values and goals.

As with every other decision, your attorney selection should be governed by your own personal goals.  For some of you, making sure you don’t get taken advantage of is your primary concern, and money is no object.  If that’s you, look for the sites that tout credentials, certifications and an aggressive approach.  You’ll be able to tell these attorneys by looking at their websites, which typically feature pictures of law books, granite columns and gavels. These lawyers seek to create a certain mystique.  For these lawyers, get ready to put down a hefty retainer and to replenish that retainer frequently.

Elsewhere I have discussed the importance of taking stock of your values when making decisions, and this decision is no different.  Do you want to

  • Avoid conflict that can harm your ability to parent or let go?
  • Have some money left over to rebuild your family after the case is done?
  • Finish the case quickly?
  • Avoid the negative head rush of pain and anxiety of court hearings and trials?

If this describes your divorce goals, I recommend that you avoid the gavel and granite pillar law firms.

What is the lawyer’s style?

When I was practicing in the insurance and personal injury arena, I learned from my mentors that the best way to settle cases and increase client satisfaction is through taking aggressive actions, filing extreme pleadings, and in general creating risk for the other side.  I was taught to spare no expense in preparing every case as though it is going to trial, so that you can settle from a position of strength.

This is sage wisdom for most litigators, but it’s old school and and doesn’t work well when dealing with families.

The bullying approach, that of fostering fear to muscle your adversary into a resolution, is likely to increase costs as lawyers pursue extensive discovery, multiply motions and prefer going to court over a common-sense, problem-solving approach.  It is also likely to drag the case out and keep you emotionally stuck.  If you have children, the bully approach will harm ability to cooperate with your ex in child rearing.

Go with the attorney who cares about your family.

If your friend tells you that you have to get the attorney he used, ask him how much he spent on attorneys fees.  If the answer is over $10,000, consider choosing someone who will keep your costs down.  If it’s over $20,000, run like your hair is on fire.

I recommend that you go with the attorney who puts your family ahead of his or her own interest in dragging out the case.  Go with the lawyer who suggests win-win solutions during the initial consultation.  Go with an attorney who will keep you out of court and only involve the court when necessary.  Avoid those attorney’s who try to impress you with their own prowess—remember, your fees help pay for those granite columns.

I remain …

Thomas D. Ferreira, Esq.

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