When clients search for a divorce lawyer or solicitor on Google, they tend to put in keywords such as “aggressvie divorce lawyer,” “top divorce lawyer” and “tough divorce lawyer.” They want someone who they think can best represent their interest and get them the best outcome in divorce court. They are not going to search for things like “peer reviewed divorce lawyer” or “peer endorsed” divorcer lawyer and stuff like that. They want to know what other clients think. So they might look at client reviews and search for things like “divorce lawyer rating” and “divorce lawyer reviews.” Divorce attorneys probably already know this is the game. And they try to present themselves in the most favorable light by managing their online reputation as best they can; advertising with Google to reflect the best keywords and otherwise doing all they can to distinguish themselves from the competition. But at the end of the day, what is it that divorce lawyers want to be? They simply want to be a good lawyer. So that is why I thought I would write this post to give divorce lawyers advice on how to be a good divorce lawyer. But how funny is it that I am giving this advice? You can call this post “A neophyte’s take on what it takes to be a good divorce lawyer.” Here are the rules according to moi:
1. As a divorce lawyer, you are an advocate not a mediator. Your client is your job and getting the best result for your client should be your focus.
2. You must remember that this is an adversarial proceeding so prepare always for the possibility of having to go to trial even while trying to reach a settlement
3. Remember to have empathy for your clients but that is not your main goal.
4. Don’t take the case if it’s over your head; either farm it out or get competent help
5. Make sure your paperwork is excellent – many motions are decided just on the presentation of your paperwork; where possible use blue-backs.
6. Charge according to your expertise and competence but don’t gouge your clients.
7. Don’t be an instigator. If the client wants to settle the case, try to settle the case.
8. Don’t let the system swallow up the kids if you can help it.
9. Return the client’s call with 48 hours, no excuses.
10. Get to know the judges in your jurisdiction and make sure they think well of you.
11. Get to know your adversaries and remember your relationship with them usually outlasts your relationship with your client. So find a balance between advocacy and maintaining a good professional relationship with your colleagues.
12. Accept that sometimes you have to play the role of shrink, friend and social worker and just do it.
13. Don’t get swallowed up in the madness; have a life outside of work so that you don’t burn out in the middle of the case.
14. Take relevant CLE’s
15. Learn from the greats. Seek them out, watch them, listen to them and copy them.
16. Have a conscience.
17. Remember their kids’ birthdays and send a card.
18. Notwithstanding #1, be a good mediator.
19. Understand the the client is the boss but you’re steering the ship so make sure you make good judgment calls.
20. Accept that not every client will be a good fit; sometimes you’re better off not taking that case for the sake of your license, health and reputation. Know when to send the client to somebody else.