Some women walk into an attorney's office with trepidation. Others can't stand to pick up the phone after finding a number in the phone book or online. They are frozen with fear. Fear of the situation, and fear of talking to a complete stranger who will send you lots of big bills when you are barely keeping body and soul together. How do I know? I have stood with my hand over my phone, frozen in fear, more times than I can count.
But once you conquer that fear, you slowly build a raport with that legal mind on the other end. They get an idea of how you act and what your goals and fears are in relation to this thing we call 'divorce'. But sometimes, things with that legal eagle don't go like you've seen in Matlock. Maybe it's time to look for alternative legal counsel.
I'm going to assume you aren't aware of my situation, so long story short I've been through the ringer with my divorce/custody case. "Worst case scenario" is a pretty accurate description for the last four years of my life. And through all this, I've had three attorneys. Attorneys from CA who dealt with my legal issues there while I lived on the East coast. So this was a long distance relationship on top of all else.
The first one, Mr. P, was a good attorney. He was probably not as bulldog as I would have liked and as a result I probably didn't handle things as firmly as they should have been handled. If I had, my story might have been a lot easier. When he finally closed his practice, he referred me to my 2nd attorney.
Ms. G was a nice seemingly steady woman in her late 50s. She even seemed chatty, would buy me lunch when I was in town, and overall I thought she was good. Then the **** hit the fan. My ex filed ex-partes and told horror tales of how I and my partner were abusive to my daughter. Every time we were in court or on a telephone conference, my lawyer's hands would shake. She'd act panicked. The woman had been practicing 20 years, but when push came to shove she gave me NO confidence. The straw that finally made me fire her was when she turned to me and said "I think you need to prepare yourself to lose custody". What a laugh. I was so scared and angry, but I knew that there had to be someone out there who could save the situation.
I found my third attorney, Mr. C, by looking for the nearest large city and going through the phone book. I cold called several and finally found one who was a bulldog. He heard my tale and where things stood and told me not to worry. He even sent a letter informing my 2nd attorney that she was fired and that she needed to send over my records. He pulled my case back together, got the judge to reverse himself on some temporary orders by using laws my other attorney hadn't even thought to bring into play, and saved custody for me.
Even with this there have been times I've thought of firing him. He isn't so great about staying in touch with me since I'm living 3000 miles away in a different state. He sends more bills than correspondence and his staff doesn't always seem familiar with my case. There is a lot of angst in my mind about how much he cares about my case, but everytime things have hit the fan he's saved my family. It's not perfect, but it works.
Remember, your attorney works for you. There might be an attorney out there who's perfect. I haven't met him/her though, so I can't point you to them. But if you get advice that is contrary to your best interest, or hear something that makes you lose complete confidence in your attorney..walk. Find a different or a better one. Divorce and custody change your life. This is not like a bad paint job. As soon as you find yourself worried about what your attorney is going to do or say next [as in it may hurt your case]...run to the yellow pages. Do some searches online for your attorney's name and "review".
If you can't find anything, try looking for an attorney who does get good reviews. Look for someone who has reviewers who may not give 2 thumbs up, but walked away with their lives in tact and custody. You can't win every battle, and any attorney who says you can is lying. But if you are a good person dealing with someone who's gone off the deep end, you should be able to walk away with 80% of what you ask for.
Be aware of your legal rights in regards to professional treatment from your attorney. If you don't know what your rights are, google your state's Bar Association. They will have a page dealing with attorney conduct and ways of reporting them to the bar if it comes to that. Most Associations will try to mediate issues you may have with your lawyer.
To date, I've wondered if I should go after my 2nd attorney for malfeasance, but I don't have the money to pursue it really. You may not have that problem, and if your new attorney thinks you have a case you should consider pursuing it. It's your life. It's your case. Take charge. You've got this.