I don’t think my family law attorney is fighting for me
It’s hard to entrust so much of your life to an attorney – any attorney – but it’s probably even harder than normal when it comes to divorce and custody cases. After all, there’s a lot (as in your whole entire life!) on the line. But what do you do after you’ve made the decision to hire an attorney, and they’re just not quite living up to your expectations? It happens more than you’d think, and if you find that you’re suddenly (or maybe not so suddenly) disenchanted with your attorney, what are your options?
What should I do if I’m unhappy with my family law attorney?
Well, first thing’s first. If you’re unhappy with your family law attorney, or feel like your attorney just isn’t fighting for you the way he should be, it’s time to have a conversation. Discuss your concerns with your attorney, and raise any particular expectations that you’ve had that have not been met. It’s possible that your attorney has a very good reason for taking the steps that he has taken, and maybe hasn’t communicated his choices to you as well as he ought to have done.
As an attorney myself, I can say in our defense that it’s often difficult to tell exactly how much a client understands, strategy-wise. I find that my clients are happy to tell me yes, I can go ahead and do something, but then they turn around and ask me a question later that makes me question whether they understood the choices I was making at all. It’s totally fine, of course; no attorney expects you to be an expert on family law (after all, if you were, you wouldn’t need to hire an attorney), but just to keep in mind that it can be hard for us to tell exactly how much expertise you have. If you don’t understand, ask questions! It’s fine – in fact, it’s encouraged!
It’s important to take this step, though, to ensure that any misunderstandings that may have taken place have the opportunity to be corrected. After all, you likely have a lot of money invested in your attorney, and it’d be expensive to hire someone else in their place. Chances are, any dissatisfaction you feel can be corrected, or at least explained.
Keep in mind, too, that there’s often a time and place for fireworks. Most clients want an “aggressive” attorney, but it’s not always necessary to be aggressive in each and every circumstance. Sometimes, you have to sit back and let a situation play itself out, or bend over backwards to be the nice guy. There are lots of reasons you might make different strategic choices, and different cases warrant different decisions throughout the case. Talk to your attorney about it, and see if he can’t explain it a little bit better.
I talked to my family law attorney, and I’m still not happy with his representation.
Unfortunately, not all attorneys are good, and we hear pretty frequently that things just didn’t work out between a new client and her former attorney. Whether he isn’t responsive enough to your emails and requests for additional information, or whether he has made poor decisions about your case, you should know that you can fire your attorney at any point.
I wouldn’t recommend firing your attorney right on the eve of a big court appearance (generally speaking, any attorney is better than no attorney, and you’re certainly not guaranteed a continuance – ever), but if you’re unhappy, you should try to find someone who can meet your expectations a little bit better.
How can I choose a better family law attorney the second time around?
Don’t despair. Lots of people are unhappy with their first attorneys, and go on to hire a second. You’ll make a better choice this time, because you’re armed with much more information.
If you’re wondering how to make the decision about which attorney to hire (or even just which to meet with first for an initial consultation – because, after all, those appointments typically cost money), request a copy of our book. It has all sorts of information about what questions you should ask an attorney, how to see through attorney marketing attempts, and discusses do it yourself divorce, if you’re interested in moving forward at this point without hiring an attorney.
It’s a big decision, but now that you’ve been unhappy, you’ll pick a better attorney, more suited to give you the kind of outcome and experience you were looking for (but maybe weren’t able to articulate) the first time around.
Ultimately, if you feel like your attorney isn’t fighting for you, you’ll want to find someone who can do a better job of representing your interests and ensuring the kind of outcome that you need to see in your case. Having an open, honest conversation about all your goals (even if discussing some aspects of it are uncomfortable for you) can go a long way towards ensuring your satisfaction.
Ask your attorney, “How quickly can I expect a response to a call or an email?” “What would your plan look like for a case like mine?” “What kind of results do you expect?” “How do you bill? What’s your hourly rate?” “How much experience do you have in family law?” “How often are you in the court I’ll be in?” Asking these questions can paint a picture that give you a better idea what to expect, and set you up for success the second time around.
It’s also a great idea to request our free book like I already mentioned! We’ve got lots of other free resources on our site, too, and can help you get loads of information that’ll help you make a better decision the second time around. It’s also not a bad idea to go ahead and attend one of our divorce seminars so you can ask your questions live to a licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorney.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.