Some psychologists compare a divorce to traumatic events like the death of a loved one. In many ways, a divorce is a huge loss to anyone who goes through it and anyone tells you it is not has no understanding of it. Of all the qualities I advise people to look for when hiring a divorce lawyer is empathy. Empathy can often trump other qualities in a divorce lawyer. Yes, you want your lawyer to be smart, well-prepared, and return phone calls, but you want a lawyer with empathy.
Why empathy? Because that trait is a good indicator of overall behavior. A caring lawyer knows the financial and emotional costs to the client and seeks to minimize those. A caring lawyer does not file a motion or paper that serves no purpose but to hurt someone or drive up the costs of litigation. A caring lawyer will return your calls and emails, because he or she knows that the process is painful and you need an ally. A caring lawyer will actually say he or she is sorry when a call is not returned or a court hearing interferes with a scheduled meeting or call.
Wait, you say, you think you want the meanest, nastiest lawyer that you can find to put the other party in their place and teach them a lesson. If that’s how you feel you are not alone. Many people feel that way in a divorce. But that mean and nasty lawyer may have the same reputation with the judges in your county, and they may have had it up to their ears with the lawyer. Of course, a judge won’t say that he or she can’t stand your mean and nasty lawyer, but I have seen how judges react to the blowtorch of the bulldog lawyer versus the calm, self-assured, and kind lawyer. It makes a difference for clients. Empathetic lawyers help their clients look at things a different way. They understand how they present to other people and help their clients be their best in front of the judge.In addition to finding the lawyer that cares, find a lawyer that has been doing the kind of thing you need help with for more than a few years. The more years the better. I’m not saying this just because I’ve been doing this for almost a quarter century. I believed it when I was fresh out of law school too.
Experience has value. You want experience. Experienced lawyers will keep you from wasting money. They will tell you when you should settle. They will tell you when you should fight for more. They know what the judges in their county are likely to do.
Finally, find someone who you don’t mind spending time with because you will be spending time on the phone and in meetings. If the lawyer you are interviewing annoys you, do yourself and the lawyer a favor and find a lawyer you trust.