Divorce Lawyer and Client Compatibility: Why a Divorce Lawyer Won’t Take Your Case
I believe everyone going through a divorce should have access to information about the process, which is why I slave away writing articles for my blog. Contained in my ramblings are actually pretty helpful tidbits. (But please do NOT ever mistake the helpful information on my website as legal advice, because it is not. Each case has specifics and without a detailed consultation, a lawyer can never properly advise you.)
However, while I offer a treasure trove of information, and spend every moment I can to help educate the general public, there are only 24 hours in a day, which means I must choose my clients wisely.
Why Won’t You Take My Case?
The first step to hiring my firm is completing an Family Law Intake Form 2020. My staff will send you this form, or you can access it on my website. Let’s say you have faithfully completed this form and sent it in, but my staff cannot schedule you. Why would that be?
10 Reasons an Attorney Won’t Take Your Case
1. Conflict of Interest
Most of the time, it’s because I have already consulted with your spouse. I am thus conflicted out.
Attorney-Client Privilege prevents me from telling you that your spouse came to see me. (It also prevents me from telling your spouse that you called.)
2. Domestic Violence
My firm no longer handle cases fraught with domestic violence, whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional abuse. We are a small firm and I evenly divide my caseload between collaborative law, mediation, and litigation cases. If your case is high conflict, or involves domestic violence, we will refer you.
3. You’ve Already Had Several Lawyers
I’ve worked in this town for over 20 years, and I know many family lawyers. Sure, some are pretty awful. But, several are excellent lawyers. If you have had problems with several lawyers before me, chances are, it’s not the lawyer.
4. One of Your Prior Attorneys Filed a Motion to Withdraw
Attorneys are not indentured servants. When you hire them, you promise to pay for their services.
Some people mistakenly believe that once they can come up with a retainer to hire a lawyer, the lawyer becomes their slave, even after the retainer is exhausted.
That’s not how it works. Divorce lawyers charge by the hour.
The retainer is only an upfront deposit on a select number of hours. For example, if you pay a $7,000 retainer, and your attorney is $350 per hour, you are only paying for 20 hours of work.
Your contract with your attorney will specify that once your retainer is depleted, you will replenish your account, or relieve them.
You promise that when you can no longer afford them, or for any reason if the lawyer no longer wishes to represent you, you will sign a Substitution of Attorney relieving them of their services. If you refuse to sign, the attorney will file a Motion to Withdraw as your lawyer and the Court will relieve them.
When my staff checks a pending case (your divorce case is public information), and they see that the prospective client’s prior attorney filed a Motion to Withdraw, this is a red flag. My staff is instructed to turn down any cases where any prior attorney had to file a motion to get out of the case.
5. You Are Rude to My Staff
People have called and yelled at my staff, treating them like scum because my staff won’t let them talk to me. Some yell at them because they’re not attorneys! News for you: if you’re calling a law office, you probably won’t get a LAWYER on the phone unless you pay for it. Don’t yell at my staff – it’s not their fault they can’t give you what you want.
The members of my staff are my gatekeepers. If you hire me, you are hiring them. If you are rude, they will not let you through.
One time, a racist man called asking to speak to “a lawyer”. When apprised of our consultation policy and fee (we never offer free consults) , he screamed at my staff, “Tell that f*cking Asian bitch to go back to China where she belongs, I am not paying a cent to speak with a f*cking lawyer.”
This racist man actually had the nerve to call back, and was much nicer this time.
Well, we are not dummies. For conflict purposes, my staff keeps information on all callers. Unfortunately, if you are ever rude, I will pass on your case, even if you decide to be a little “nicer”. Do not be rude to my staff.
6. You Are Self-Victimizing
7. Boundaries Against Toxic People
Or maybe you’re someone that just won’t listen to the law. Get REAL. A lawyer does not help you CHANGE the law. You can’t pay a lawyer to take custody away from a perfectly good parent. Or “protect” against your spouse receiving his or her fair community share. You cannot prevent community property. If you want to prevent community property from forming, the time to address this issue is PRIOR to the marriage, via a prenuptial agreement. If you are getting married, PLEASE consult with a lawyer.
Although I generally empathize with every person going through divorce, there are people who are too toxic for me to help. Divorce is life’s single biggest stressor – it affects your health. I have been practicing family law for 20 years, and experience has taught me what cases are toxic. If I feel that taking your case means I am enabling you, or compromising my health, I won’t do it.
Sometimes it just costs too much time or money for me to take your case. Perhaps it’s a case with lots of discovery and court motions, which is more appropriate for a firm with more resources.
Like any relationship, divorce lawyer and client compatibility is important. Sometimes it’s not a good fit, but we will help you find someone that can help you.
9. I Googled You
I am a mama bear and fiercely protective of my staff and my firm. This means I will never endanger them. If after googling you, I discover things that are of concern, I will not accept your money or your case.
Divorce is stressful. I hope you will find the support you need to get through and restructure. Your family is counting on it.
10. Your Case is Messed Up (FUBAR)
There are people who mishandled their own case, or had previous lawyers who screwed up. For whatever reason, they believe paying a new lawyer will help them.
Sometimes we can fix your screw-up – although it will be time-consuming and expensive. But most of the time, it’s too late. If I cannot help you, I am not going to take your money or waste my time.
Personal Choice – Choose Wisely
Taking on a divorce client (much like hiring a divorce lawyer) is a very personal choice. Because I will be working so closely with you, I will have access to your finances, your emotions, and your deepest darkest secrets. I am loyal to a fault and if I pick a bad one, it affects my health (and the rest of my clients). As such, I choose my clients wisely.
If I cannot help you, I will try and refer you to someone who can.