Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Top 7 Divorce Lawyer Secrets

There is much truth in the following points by a Divorce Lawyer. My ex racked up close to $30,000.00 in legal aid fees (imagine if it had been at the Lawyer's regular tariff)  and he dropped her before trial because legal aid ran out so she had to represent herself.MJM

No. 7

 Minimum billings contained within your retainer agreement for specific services are the fast way to eat through a client's retainer.

Many lawyers place minimum billings for certain services within their retainer agreements.  For example, some attorneys charge 1 hour minimum for each time they are in court.  These minimum billings are well known to be a fast way to eat through a client's retainer, while spending the least amount of time on the case.  For some attorneys, eating through your retainer balance as fast as possible is important, because by the time you figure out you should fire your lawyer, he or she does not have the responsibility to refund unearned fees; they are all gone.

No. 6

Lawyers love the trigger words of "custody" or "order of protection" when they first meet with you.

When first meeting with clients, lawyers are accomplishing a few things all at once.  Obviously, they are writing down the facts of your case to make a determination of the best route in order to best represent you.  But many spouses are unaware that the lawyer is also thinking about what he or she will charge you on an hourly basis, and how much he or she will require from you in the form of an initial retainer.  How much you earn and your assets have a lot to do with this process.  However, key trigger words of "custody" and "order of protection" will likely result in the attorney asking more in the way of his or her hourly fee, and more for your initial retainer.  Therefore, to keep the fees down, try to avoid telling the attorney that you really, really, want an Order of Protection, or you believe that this will be a custody battle.

No. 5

What most spouses do not realize is that their lawyer and the lawyer for their spouse, despite all their arguing and animosity for each other, are buddies behind closed doors. 

The only reason they do not act "chummy" in front of you is because of their fear that you do not trust them, and you and your spouse will fire them and hire different lawyers.  The reality of your case is that the lawyers likely get along famously behind closed doors, and they compare their personal notes about your case, even after your case is over.

No. 4

Your lawyer knows upfont whether or not you can afford a trial in your case. 

The biggest mistake that spouses make within a divorce process is believing that their attorney will stay in the case from start to end.  This is a fatal assumption.  When you first hire attorney, that lawyer will immediately size you up; they will know from experience whether or not you are going to afford the entire process, and if they believe you cannot, which many spouses cannot (unless you earn $300,000 per year), that lawyer has already set into his expectations that he or she may not prepare your case for trial (because you will not be able to afford it).

No. 3

Hourly rates and retainer amounts are arbitrarily set by lawyers only after hearing about your case, your earning potential and how much you have in assets.   
 Some spouses seek out and retain lawyers that charge the most per hour or the most for a retainer because they believe that he or she must be the best lawyer in town.  The reality of the situation is those spouses are victims of the oldest form of lawyer's marketing.  Many lawyers increase their rates because other attorneys have, or it has come up in discussion within a Bar Association Meeting.  Others set super-high rates so that prospective clients think that they are getting the best.  Having your client think you are the best accomplishes two missions.  First, that client is more likely to pay on their attorney fee bill when they believe the services they receive are superior.  Second, the lawyer has little to worry about what's called client control, because clients will more likely take their lawyer's recommendations.  What clients should be doing is listen to their own inner and likely better judgment.  Because this attorney's secret costs clients a lot of money, it is rated No. 3.

Divorce lawyers can drop your case (while you are in the middle of it) with a simple and fast process.
Most spouses in the divorce process have no idea that during the process, for just about any reason whatsoever, their lawyer can drop their case and them as a client by showing the Judge a simple motion.  Lawyers sometimes drop a client and their case because the client is too difficult to deal with; however, the typical withdrawal is when a client refuses or fails to pay on their lawyer's fee bill.  I am suprised at spouses I meet that thought their lawyer couldn't drop the case, even if they didn't pay.

The withdrawal of attorneys in the middle of a divorce case is fairly common, fairly routine, and you can count on it if you fail to replenish your retainer.  That is why I always suggest to spouses that when you hire a lawyer, see if he or she will agree to a payment plan (IN WRITING), once your retainer deposit has run out.

And the No. 1 divorce lawyer's secret:
Unless your case is uncontested (meaning you and your spouse have already agreed on everything), the average case will cost each spouse over $10,000.00!  Most people do not realize how fast attorney's fees accrue in a divorce. . .well, divorce lawyers do.  Divorce lawyers will not tell you this upfront, because they know it is NOT what you want to hear, and they are fearful that you will not retain them.  Most spouses will evetually hire the lawyer that makes them feel more comfortable about the fees.  Expressions like "we can wrap this up for about $2,000 to $3,000" are false.  The truth is that if some support issues are at issue, you could easily spend $10,000 each for fees.  If custody complicates things, the case could cost close to $40,000 or more.  If the case involves a number of assets and custody, your fees could easily grow to $100,000 or more.  No kidding.



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