Creating the Best Attorney-Client Relationship
On THE Amicable Divorce Expert podcast yesterday, Attorney David Yamamoto joined us to discuss the inner workings of the attorney-client relationship. David practices in Southern California. He litigates when necessary, serves as a collaborative lawyer when appropriate, mediates, and handles out-of-court settlements. David is one of the good guys who doesn’t take a case if it can be handled in a less costly way. Doesn’t create unnecessary work for financial gain, and is straight up and honest. He is a very successful attorney who is well-respected by Judges and attorneys.
So what does make a great attorney-client divorce relationship? Here are some factors to consider:
1. Do Your Research
Know a little about divorce laws in your state before calling an attorney. This will allow you to have a more balanced and educated conversation in the initial consultation. A good attorney will appreciate that you took the time to acquire some knowledge on your own and not completely rely on the attorney to educate you. This will also allow you to have a better conversation with the attorney about their process because you will have some familiarity with what the attorney is talking about.
2. Define Your Objectives
Is the desire to have an amicable divorce and follow the laws of the state without court hearings or a trial? Is it possible to have an amicable divorce from your spouse? If so, avoid attorneys who use language like, “I’ll fight for you. Let’s bury him/her! Let’s paper your spouse to death.” Only consider attorneys who want to make the process as easy as possible while working equitably within the laws of the state.
3. Ask “Why?”
Ask your attorney why each individual filing presented to you is necessary. Doing unnecessary filings, or making unnecessary requests for paperwork from your spouse, equals more money for the attorneys, and it can turn an amicable divorce contentious. Divorce can be a simple process if both spouses want to maintain simplicity, follow the law, and aren’t hiding assets. Understand that you are in a foreign environment when in a legal proceeding.
4. Take Control
If the attorney wants to control your settlement, or refuses to present your settlement offer to the other spouse, say, “No”. If the attorney wants to schedule hearings for decisions that can be mediated, say, “No”. If the attorney isn’t being timely returning phone calls or taking too much time in the next step in the filing, leave. If the attorney needs to be a little more imposing to get your spouse’s attorney to exchange paperwork or to engage in settlement conversations, leave. You control the relationship, not the attorney. The attorney is there to educate you so that you can make decisions in how you want your case to go. The attorney’s role is to support the type of divorce you want to have, or need to have. Yes, a good attorney will bring their experience to your relationship and advise based on courtroom or out-of-court negotiation success. But you have to decide if their suggestions are right for you. If your attorney thinks that you’re making a decision that is ill-informed, and can substantiate it, you do have to trust in your attorney’s guidance, but within reason. Your gut will be your guide.
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