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10 Signs of a bad divorce lawyer

Do not hire this guy.

A public defender recently posted on her blog a horrifying video of what I believe to be a legitimate divorce lawyer advertisement. I’m not posting the video here because I do not want to be associated with the video.

The ad showcases some of the signs of a bad family lawyer. Below are some signs to watch out for when hiring a family lawyer in Chicago.

You should avoid a family lawyer who:

  1. Empathizes too much with your pain. If you have a stomach ache, you don’t want the doctor seeing you identifying with your pain. You want the doctor to be objective and fix your ailment. Same thing goes for lawyers.
  2. Doesn’t listen to you. A good lawyer should have a good understanding of your personality, desires and wishes. This can only be achieved through empathetic listening.
  3. Promises to avenge. Illinois laws are set up to help both divorcing parties establish themselves after a divorce. There is no place in a Chicago divorce courtroom for vengeance. Your lawyer should tell you this.
  4. Calls your spouse names. It is common – although not recommended – for divorcing couples to call each other names. It is unacceptable, however, for a lawyer to engage in this kind of conduct. Your lawyer should be seeking to help you view your situation objectively. Name-calling is never objective.
  5. Uses inflammatory language. Over the top language does not help resolve conflict. It won’t help you reach a fair outcome in your case. It only makes things worse. When used by a lawyer, inflammatory language also shows a lack of professionalism.
  6. Excessively criticizes other lawyers. In ideal divorces there is a lot of collaboration and trust between the opposing lawyers.  A lawyer who cannot get along with other lawyers could wreak havoc on this balance. Also, these things are usually reciprocal – why don’t other lawyers like your lawyer?
  7. Tells you he’ll “take care” of the divorce for you. There is no divorce lawyer who can “take care” of your case while you sip a martini. Divorce is hard work for everyone involved. There are documents to produce, depositions to attend and court documents to review. Anyone who claims otherwise is not being honest.
  8. Predicts the future. Some parts of a case can be somewhat accurately predicted (i.e., non-custodial parent of 3 will have to pay 32% of their income in child support). Most outcomes are not so clear. In truth, outcomes are often a gamble. A lawyer who tells you they have all the answers may be full of hot air.
  9. Buys your blatant lies. Nobody likes a liar or a cheater. If your divorce lawyer overlooks your bad behavior it is not because they like you. They’ll drop you like a hot potato when you run out of cash.
  10. Does not express his views. It is a lawyer’s job to encourage clients to make the best decisions for their case. This is often in conflict with the path a client feels is best.  A lawyer who does not make his views known might be doing you a great disservice.

Last, but not least, do not buy into any prospective attorney’s song and dance routine. Your attorney’s skill and credentials should be enough. There should be no need for a hard sale.

For more information on finding the right divorce lawyer for you please see Best Divorce Lawyer in Chicago? and The Right Divorce Lawyer for You.You might also be interested in David Wolkowitz’s post on finding a good divorce lawyer in Chicago.

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Brian Burke July 23, 2011, 4:14 pm

    This list is very good. It includes signs that are not obvious to people who are about to hire a lawyer or who have doubts about the lawyer they have already hired. The list indicates specificity to Chicago, but it surely applies to any jurisdiction in the United States.

    Once an attorney is employed here are some signs that you’ve got a bad one.

    1. The lawyer talks or writes in a way that sounds like s/he actually witnessed something s/he didn’t. S/he writes: “And then your client did such and such to mine,” instead of the more professional: “My client has reported to me that on such and such a date, Mr/s did such and such.”

    2. When preparing declarations for witnesses s/he includes opinions, accusations, or information of which the declarant could not have first hand knowledge.

    3. You do not get copies of all correspondence.

    4. In correspondence or documents submitted to the court, your spouse is accused, either directly or by implication, of conduct you believe is unlikely.

    5. Your lawyer has not inquired about your beliefs and values that you would use to make decisions about the management of your case. If the lawyer doesn’t know what you believe and value, decisions will be made on the basis of the lawyer’s values rather than yours.

    6. Divorces take time because the parties need to grieve. Cases reach a point where they are ‘ripe for settlement.’ Beware of the lawyer who wants to expedite the process. It leads to higher fees; it rarely works, and when it works it leads to agreements either or both parties regret with the passage of time.

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