Many moviegoers fondly remember the 1992 hit, My Cousin Vinny. Joe Pesci’s character, the neophyte lawyer Vincent LaGuardia Gambini, seems to do everything wrong. We remember the weird clothes, the thick Brooklyn accent, and the way he fumbles so many of the legal proceedings. Yet—and this is important—Gambini the Lawyer has great legal instincts, appeals to the jury, interviews clients and eyewitnesses flawlessly, and expertly cross examines witnesses on the stand to lay bare their weaknesses. All in all, Gambini the Lawyer, despite dressing like a circus ring master, is a good lawyer.
So if some of Gambini’s transgressions do not make for a bad lawyer, what does? Here are five sure signs of a terrible divorce lawyer:
A divorce lawyer lacking in basic human compassion is no friend of yours. If you hire a divorce attorney who seems merely to be going through the motions, you found a dud. Every divorce inflicts pain on someone at some time. Hire a lawyer who treats you and your children with compassionate concern.
This whole emotional sphere extends to the way your lawyer treats you. Is she or he condescending or aloof? Do you feel coerced into going along with the strategy your lawyer has developed? These are signals of a bad lawyer. A good lawyer should not expect you to be as expert on the law as she or he is. Your lawyer should take the time to explain motions, briefs, terms and strategy.
Be alert not only to how your lawyer treats you, but how your representation treats others. If law clerks, secretaries and paralegals seem to pull back, they have reason to, and so should you.
With the emotional stress and mayhem of a divorce proceeding, everyone needs the lubricating oil of good manners and polite behavior to keep things moving smoothly.
2. Buried by Bills
Billing statements should be accurate and detailed. You may not have realized one telephone call could generate charges of several hundred dollars, but perhaps that call precipitated a flurry of activity as secretaries and paralegals made copies, conducted investigations, delivered documents, or performed other legal services.
You have a right to question the bills, too, and get clear explanations. Some lawyers bill for every contact, no matter how brief. Others attach standardized charges for office expenses.
Ask questions, and if you are unsatisfied with the solutions, consider changing lawyers.
3. Hiding Something?
Your lawyer is your confidant, your safeguard against undercutting your rights, and (often) your last lifeline to keeping connections to your children. If your lawyer is not forthright with you, or unwilling to share the legal strategy for your case, you have reason to be suspicious. Settlement proposals from the other side must be presented to you, even if they mean a smaller fee for your lawyer. Your spouse’s lawyer may offer a perfectly reasonable compromise, but if your attorney blocks it to keep the fee clock running, watch out—you are paying those bills.
Ignoring legitimate offers is not only a terrible legal strategy, it violates your lawyer’s code of professional conduct.
4. Calendars and Clocks
Speaking of clocks, a lawyer who is late, missing filing deadlines, forgets appointments, is sketchy on case details, or who brushes you aside to get to the next client is—plainly speaking—a terrible lawyer. Lawyers operate by court calendars and their own schedules. They have teams of supporting players to keep them on track, on time and on your case. They should not be overbooking their time.
Despite what you see in movies, most lawyers are not colorful, quirky personalities who win with dashing good looks and courtroom miracles. They work hard for their clients, and keep themselves organized.
Lateness and weak memory are not endearing character traits; they are signs of a bad lawyer.
5. Personality Clashes
You may dismiss any slight difficulties with your own attorney as just a personality clash between you two. But what of the lawyer who is overly aggressive without provocation? What impression will that lawyer leave on the judge, on your children, or on your spouse? How much cooperation can you expect from her if your lawyer just attacked her verbally in open court?
If your instincts tell you that you can get along with your lawyer, others probably get along with her or him, too.
The Firm for Men recognizes the warning signs of bad lawyers, so we do not bring any into our practice. We want you to feel comfortable and confident when you engage us to represent you during one of the most trying times of your life, your divorce. Call (757)383-9184 or contact The Firm for Men to arrange an appointment today. We’ve been serving Virginia Beach and the surrounding areas for over 10 years!