When in doubt, get a second opinion!

Posted on Apr 29, 2024 by Katie Carter

I had a consult the other day where something happened that had never happened to me before.  I spent a very pleasant (for me) hour talking to a prospective client about her upcoming divorce.  (I say it was pleasant for me because I liked her; I assume much less pleasant for her, though, because although I think we got on quite well and mutually enjoyed each other, she’s still going through an unexpected divorce – and that’s not pleasant.)

She said, and I’m paraphrasing a bit, “Just, in the spirit of full disclosure, I want to let you know that next week I’m also meeting with ________,” and she gave me the name of another local family law attorney.  She said, “I don’t know whether I’ll hire her, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to get all the information.”

She said it apologetically and I was surprised by her frankness.   No one’s ever told me they planned to get a second opinion before, at least, not so soon and not without me suggesting it first.  I do suggest it, from time to time, especially when I have to give advice that I know my client won’t want to hear or when I feel like there’s a bit of a breakdown in the relationship.

It never happened to me before, at least not like that, but I was impressed, too.  I appreciate truthfulness and forthrightness, and I think most attorneys will agree with me on that.

Hey, no hard feelings!  You SHOULD get a second opinion!

Building a relationship is difficult for a divorce lawyer and divorcing client.  It’s hard for a number of reasons, but in general we have to talk about a lot of sensitive topics: your finances, the state of your marriage, your parenting, and sometimes even your sex life.  Its not particularly embarrassing for me most of the time, but it may be difficult for you.

Not only that, but I then have to give you advice.  You’re probably not entirely unemotional about the whole process, so what I tell you might make you feel some kind of way.  You might think I’m an idiot.  (It’s okay; it wouldn’t be the first time, and I really don’t take it personally.  Actually, that’s a lie and I don’t know why I said it.  My feelings absolutely CAN be hurt by my clients, but I’m also aware of what they’re going through and am able to put on my empathy sunglasses and push my hurt feelings resolutely to the side.)

A lot of times, the advice we have to give is not necessarily what you thought it would be or it doesn’t jive with what you feel, in your heart, is right.  That’s fair.  I would say that, in a lot of cases, the law is not intuitive, so it doesn’t necessarily reflect the way I think things should be, either.  It’s also not that accessible, so you may be laboring under some completely false ideas about what it is and how it operates.  That is also not uncommon.

If you have any heartburn at all – or, even, if you don’t! – it’s smart to get a second opinion!  I want my clients to get a second opinion because, even if it just reinforces whatever I’ve said, it means that both me and my new client will go hand-in-hand into our new relationship sharing many of the same understandings and expectations.

If the other lawyer says something different, and you like it better, by all means, hire that person!  So much of what we do as lawyers is the ‘practice,’ of law which, as you can imagine, means that its shaped by what we’ve experienced.  I think that literally every case brings a new dimension to my understanding; I know I’ve not experienced everything that either the law or life has to offer.  If someone else thinks things might go down differently and you like that viewpoint better, maybe you’d be better off working with that person.

You want to have a good relationship with your attorney.  You want to trust what she says.  Otherwise, what the heck are we doing here?

I want to have good relationships with my clients, too.  It makes me like my job more.  It makes me do a better job.  At the end of your case, I want to feel like we’re friends!  Like, if you saw me in public, you wouldn’t duck away but, instead, come out and say hi.  Shake my hand, maybe.  Sit with a cup of coffee (or tea, if that’s your preference – it’s certainly mine.)

To tell the truth: I’m not a hugger.  But I’d happily hug some of my clients anyway because it feels like we’ve been through so much together.

I appreciated this prospective client’s honesty, but I also wanted to say – to her, and you, and anyone else who might read this – that it’s great for you to get a second opinion.  You can share that information with your attorney, if you want, or you can do it secretly, if that makes you more comfortable.  But the end game is to get the best possible result and for you to feel like you’ve complied the best team possible.  That’s not to say we’ll win every single issue – hey, it’s family law; I guarantee we won’t! – but having a strong relationship with your attorney can go a long way.

For more information, to request a copy of one of our divorce or custody books, or to schedule a consultation (whether a first or second or third opinion) give our office a call at 757-425-5200.