Category: Attorney-Client Relations

The Heavy Costs of the “Bulldog” Divorce Lawyer

Prospective clients often ask me what sort of lawyer I am:  a high conflict lawyer or a reconciling lawyer.  Of course, they don’t use those terms.  Many times, they ask if I am “aggressive” or “a bulldog”.  Ultimately, what they really want to know is whether I’m going to give them the emotional satisfaction of running their spouse through the proverbial ringer.

Such a stance, however, comes at a cost, both financially and emotionally.  An overly aggressive attorney in a Texas divorce or child custody matter can make it difficult to work out agreements or avoid the need for court appearances.  As attorneys are required to appear in court more often and to do more work to achieve a desired result, the client often finds the cost of their divorce also growing exponentially.

Can a client’s goals be accomplished without resorting to overtly aggressive tactics?  The answer is almost always, “yes.”  On a rare occasion, I come across other attorneys who are being unreasonably aggressive or may overestimate the strength of their client’s case.  Sometimes some aggression in response may help bring such a person in a Texas divorce to the negotiating table when the relative weakness of their case is exposed.  Often times, however, clients find that there is a substantial benefit to working with the other side, collecting information in an efficient and cost-effective manner and making realistic demands of the other side.  In the end, their case takes far less time and the amount spent on attorney’s fees is much lower.

More importantly, however, taking an aggressive stance in a divorce when it is not called for can leave an emotional toll on the parties involved, as well as their children.  Spouses in a divorce often forget that their children can sense when there is conflict between their parents.  This can cause children to perform poorly in school, misbehave or develop social issues which may impact them for many years.  Resolving Texas divorces and Texas child custody conflicts quickly and amicably can minimize the emotional impact on children and the parties involved.

If you are seeking a Houston divorce attorney or Houston child custody attorney who takes a reasoned and balanced approach to such cases, give our attorney, Bobby L. Warren, a call at 713-579-9702.

The Baby Boomer Divorce Boom

A recent article on the Huffington Post raises a very interesting question regarding the cause of the sudden rise in the divorce rates among the “baby boomer” generation:

It’s hard to navigate what authors David and Claudia Arp call “the second half of marriage” — the years after the kids leave. The growing divorce rate among baby boomers has jumped by more than 50 percent over the past 20 years.

But instead of wringing our hands about so-called gray divorces and seeing those long-term marriages as failures, perhaps we should consider marriage as more “till the kids part” than “till death do us part.” The partner we need in our 20s and 30s, when many of us are looking to settle down and raise kids, may not be the partner we need in our 50s, 60s and beyond, when we’re free to explore new passions or reinvigorate the ones we gave up when the kids came along.

Each client that comes to our office in Houston has a different motivation for seeking a divorce.  For some, they have been married for only a year or two and find that they simply are not compatible with their spouse.  Others may be trying to escape an issue with substance abuse or financial troubles.  In the case of the rising numbers of baby boomers seeking a divorce, it certainly has been my experience that many of these clients are waiting for their children to start their own lives before making major changes.

As divorce attorneys, we have to be sensitive to the needs and motivations of our clients.  The more we know about what brought them to us in the first place, the more we will be likely to develop a better attorney-client relationship and, therefore, do a better job for our clients.

Top 5 Tips for Working With Your Family Law Attorney

I know it’s popular to use a top 10 list for various topics, but I really do think the following 5 tips can make your experience working with a family law attorney that much more efficient and productive:

1.  Be completely honest and forthright – Clients are often embarrassed by the details of their case.  They really shouldn’t be so worried.  As family law attorneys, we hear all kinds of sordid details from clients on a regular basis.  It really takes quite a story to make a family law attorney blush or become disgusted.  Also, keep in mind that you’re working with a professional.  They work on a daily basis to set aside their personal feelings and focus on doing what is in the client’s best interests.

2.  Before you pick up the phone and call your attorney, think through how to make the best use of your time – Unfortunately, clients often spend far more money on telephone calls to their attorney than they should.  With the technology we have available to us, it is far too easy to pick up the phone and call an attorney when another person is frustrating us or upsetting us, particularly in family law cases.  Rarely can an attorney do anything for you at the drop of a hat.  Waiting at least a couple of hours, or even 24 hours, before picking up the phone and calling your attorney will give you time to ponder whether the issue necessitates a phone call.  Maybe you can make a list and make one phone call with all of those issues once a week.  Better yet, if you simply need your attorney to know of an issue or incidence, but don’t require an immediate response – shoot your attorney an e-mail.  It will take far less of the attorney’s time to read that e-mail than to listen to you recall all of the details of the incident.

3.  Trust your attorney – Before you ever retain an attorney, you must ask yourself whether you trust this person or can see yourself quickly developing trust in their abilities.  This can be very difficult for someone going through a divorce, as a client’s trust for the person closest to them has likely been recently shattered.  It is absolutely necessary, however, to quickly develop a trust in your attorney’s abilities and judgment.  Without that trust, the attorney is nothing more than an instrument through which you act.  You miss out on the most valuable aspects of legal representation, such as objective counsel, legal analysis of your case, and a second set of eyes on the issues you are facing.  Why spend thousands of dollars on someone you do not trust?  If you find yourself saying the words, “I feel like you’re taking their side…” and don’t immediately realize that you’re being unreasonable in your criticism, it may be in your best interest and your attorney’s best interest to find an attorney you can trust.

4.  Watch deadlines set by your attorney and do your best to meet them – Frequently, family law attorneys will request documents from you and ask if you can produce them by a given day.  If you say you can produce them by that day, do your best to meet that deadline.  If you believe you cannot, let your attorney know as soon as possible.  Both divorce work and child custody work can often be very document intensive.  Between bank records, real estate deeds, credit card statements, report cards, medical records and retirement account statements, you will likely need to produce quite a few documents to your attorney.  Make sure you start early and request documents from financial institutions, schools or the IRS (in the case of tax return transcripts) immediately after you realize they are missing.  Waiting until the last minute increases the chance you will not get the documents to your attorney on time, which can dramatically affect your attorney’s ability to represent you effectively in your divorce or child custody case.

5.  If your attorney has support staff or alternate resources, get to know them and use them when you can – Utilization of support staff or other alternate resources by attorneys is often essential for an efficient law practice.  This may take the form of a paralegal, receptionist, or even technology such as an online case management system.  In either case, determine what support systems the attorney has available and try to use them as much as possible in order to work with your attorney.  If you can upload documents or information to an online case management system instead of mailing them to your attorney, please do so.  This will eliminate the possible need of the attorney to scan the documents themselves, saving time and money.  If your attorney uses a receptionist or paralegal, use them to get basic updates or answer basic inquiries (keeping in mind that only attorneys can provide legal advice).  These resources are often far less costly than requiring the attorney to deal with these issues, inquiries or questions themselves.  In the end, this will benefit you in terms of cost and will benefit the attorney in terms of time management.

I certainly hope that these tips can help you make the most of your attorney-client relationship.  If used correctly, the services of a properly staffed and equipped law office can be a very valuable resource to a client, particularly one going through a divorce or a child custody dispute.