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Should You Fire Your Divorce Attorney? Ten Signs Your Attorney Is A Sh*thead


Should You Fire Your Divorce Attorney?

Your marriage may not be the only relationship you need to end while going through a divorce.  Attorneys can be a sordid bunch.  Especially in family law, which isn’t known to draw the most ethical, intellectual, or competent attorneys.  It can be difficult to know whether you’ve hired the wrong attorney.  (For tips on how to hire the right attorney – click here.)  Sometimes great attorneys simply make mistakes.  Sometimes no attorney on earth can save a bad case.  In this article, we’ll dive into ten signs that you’re attorney is a sh*thead to help you decide whether you should fire your divorce attorney.

They can’t recall important facts about your case.

Hardly any attorney is going to remember the name of your adult children’s third-grade teacher who may or may not recall that only you showed up to the parent-teacher conference.  Every attorney, though, should recall the pertinent details of your case – how long you’ve been married, what you and your spouse do for a living, the names and ages of your children and where they go to school, etc.  Having to tell them two or three times is one thing.  Recounting important details for the fifth or sixth time is a problem.

They don’t send you every communication.

It is required that you receive every settlement offer from your spouse or your spouse’s attorney.  You should also receive a copy of every pleading and paper that your attorney or your spouse’s attorney files in court.  Every letter sent or received by your attorney should also be sent to you.  Ideally, you’d like to receive every e-mail chain and other communication from your attorney.  If you’re not, reconsider your attorney.

They make decisions without consulting you.

There are some decisions that, as the client, are yours to make – whether or not to settle your case, whether or not to hire an expert, whether or not to spend money in your case.  There are other decisions that are your attorneys to make – what questions to ask in a deposition, whether or not to file a motion before addressing the issue with opposing counsel, what witnesses to present at trial.  Regardless of whether or not your attorney has the authority to make a decision, they should always seek your input.

They don’t counsel you about the likely scenarios – both good and bad.

With every decision that must be made, every potential outcome should be discussed.  This not only includes the good outcomes, but the potential negative outcomes as well, regardless of how remote.

They do not respond within 36 hours.

Some firms promise responses in less time and some articles and commentators advice that replies should come in 24 hours or 12 hours.  Do you have any idea how busy great attorneys are?  Sometimes it’s simply not possible to respond within twelve hours.  If you were the client in the midst of a two week custody trial, would you want your attorney spending his lunch break answering another client’s e-mail about who’s responsible for taking out the trash or focused on your trial?  If, however, the communication is persistently slow, there’s an issue.

They miss a deadline, however small or insignificant.

Some deadlines are biggies – the court’s deadline for filing a pre-trial order, the deadline to answer requests to admit, the deadline to file an appellate brief.  Some deadlines may have some leeway.  But all are important.  There is no excuse for your attorney missing a deadline.  It doesn’t matter if their paralegal was on a coke binge and abducted by a Colombian cartel and didn’t put the deadline in the attorney’s calendar.

They get called out by other attorney or the judge for mistakes or unethical behavior.

Read the letters sent between attorneys.  Read what’s filed with the court.  Is your attorney perpetually being called out for being unethical, for lying to the court, for fueling the fire of the divorce, for misciting cases?  Attorneys believe in the infallibility of their positions and that their opposition is always wrong, but if you’ve been keeping up in your own case, you’ll know when it doesn’t compute.   

They’re sloppy and unorganized.

The best trial attorneys are buttoned up, systematic people.  This doesn’t just apply to their profession.  It’s embedded deep within them.  They have a grocery system, an e-mail system, a house cleaning system.  If your attorney’s life, personal or otherwise, seems to be in disarray, there’s a small chance that it won’t bleed into your case.  This is doubly true of trial.  Did they show up without their exhibits marked?  Did they show up late or rushed?  You want an organized and buttoned up attorney, simple as that.

They make perpetual billing errors.

Every attorney gets a time entry incorrect at one time or another.  Most are relying upon a secretary or receptionist to read their chicken scratch and enter it into some billing software.  But review each bill.  Are these errors a common theme?  Is your attorney billing for tasks that a secretary or a paralegal should be doing?  

They’ve Been Wrong Every Time.

The judge ruled against them on their motion to compel.  They lost the interim hearing.  They lost that interim appeal they convinced you to file.  Do you really want to ride with them to a final trial with your life hanging in the balance?   

Deciding whether to fire your divorce attorney can be a stressful decision.  Just remember, you have the power at anytime to end the relationship.  As a word of caution, one change of attorneys or even a couple is not reflective on your case.  Once you go beyond, though, and have changed attorneys numerous times, it starts appearing to the judge as if the problem may not be the chefs but the recipe.

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