Since you’ve read past the headline, maybe you’d like to?
Have you ever thought?
- Why are the lawyers making this so complicated?
- OMG this is costing me a fortune;
- My lawyer never returns my calls;
- I’m terrified to ring my lawyer because of the cost;
- My lawyers letters are full of mumbo jumbo;
- I’ve got no idea where this is going;
- This is taking forever;
- I don’t think my lawyer is listening to me;
- My case is obviously not important enough for my lawyer;
- My lawyer is too busy;
- Doesn’t my lawyer understand that my ex is mad/bad/sad/angry/crazy!!
My guess is that you have thought some of these things. Separation is never easy, and feeling some frustration or irritation about your lawyer or the legal process is common. But it’s not inevitable.
Sacking your lawyer is a big deal, because you have to find another lawyer, you have to tell another lawyer your story, and you have to pay a new lawyer to play catch-up. So if you feel like your lawyer is doing a good job, but the cost, delay, or feeling unheard, is the issue, it is worth trying to fix that.
If your lawyer is actually doing a poor job, then that is a whole other story. But in my thirty plus years in this work, I’d guess that more than half of the reasons people feel unhappy with their lawyer is to do with communication rather than the quality of the lawyer’s work.
Tips for Getting Back on Track with Your Lawyer
- Think about what works best for you: email, phone, old fashioned letters, or face to face meetings, and let your lawyer know that’s how you’d like to work;
- Write a brief email to your lawyer, asking for 5 minutes of their time at no charge; set out concisely in dot points what you are unhappy about, and how you would like those things to be fixed. This should be no more than half a page. Sleep on the email and read it again the next day to make sure it is clear and to the point;
- Ask your lawyer if they can give you a guideline about how long it will take them to call you back or reply to emails;
- All sensible people know that their lawyer has more than one client, but when your lawyer is talking or meeting with you, they do only have one client. That’s you. If you don’t feel that, then maybe they are not the right lawyer for you;
- Take a friend or relative to meetings. Two memories are better than one;
- Ask your lawyer to send you an email summarising meetings and actions you are both going to take, or make your own notes;
- Give your lawyer polite feedback about things that didn’t go well; they are unlikely to guess how you feel, remembering that they don’t really know you or what it was like to be in your marriage;
- Give your lawyer positive feedback when appropriate. Like every other human being, they like a pat on the back too, and they are affected by the sadness and anger in their client’s lives, and they also feel lots of frustration at times;
- Be the client your lawyer wants to talk to, not the phone call they dread. Treat your lawyer like you want to be treated. If that doesn’t work, maybe it is time to move on.
It’s easy to tell the world when we are unhappy with a service, but the world won’t tell your lawyer what they need to change. If you change lawyers, pay it forward and let your lawyer know why you moved on.
These tips are from Marguerite, a veteran of the business.