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Terri Weiss

Terri Weiss

Posted: December 31, 2010 02:16 AM

Lawyers Check Out Potential Clients

What's Your Reaction:

Surviving the holidays? Biding your time until the kids return to school before you consult a matrimonial lawyer? Reading up on how to pick one? There are tons of articles out there on how to pick the 'right' lawyer and avoid the 'wrong' one.

Whoa. You're not the only one who's doing your homework. Sure, there's your spouse, who may also be considering whom to consult (maybe even knocking a few lawyers away from you by consulting them first, to create potential conflicts). But did you ever stop to think that the lawyer you're planning to consult will be checking you out, too?

Your initial phone call to the lawyer is going to send out a vibe. Here are just a few huge negatives, guaranteed to turn off an experienced matrimonial attorney before you even make an appointment, let alone walk in the door:

  • You argue about, or try to negotiate, the amount of the consult fee.
  • Alarm to lawyer: Doesn't bode well for how you'll pay fees if you become a client
  • You describe how your case is more complicated than anyone else's.

  • Alarm to lawyer: You underestimate the lawyer's expertise and likely will be inordinately self-centered and/or unsophisticated
  • You rant about your case, your spouse, your in-laws, etc.

  • Alarm to lawyer: You're an out-of-control client who won't follow directions, and will run up legal fees with more rants and then refuse to pay the bill
  • You've already seen six lawyers, none of whom understand or are sympathetic to you.

  • Alarm to lawyer: You'll never be satisfied with anyone. Unless the lawyer knows the prior six lawyers were bottom-feeders or horrific lawyers, you won't get an appointment.

Okay, so you don't say any of those things (and you don't say other, equally or even more obnoxious things) on the phone. You're relatively calm, professional, courteous, respectful and to the point. You've gotten your appointment, and you're reading more HuffPost and other articles about how to decide at the consult whether this lawyer is the one for you.

Let's assume you're a 'normal' person--not one of the super-rich, not a celebrity, not a member of the local political or professional elite. No Wiki pages, nothing more than perhaps a Facebook or LinkedIn profile about you and/or your spouse. You should assume the lawyer will look you up online before you go to the consult. In fact, if the lawyer doesn't, that might tell you something about his/her level of sophistication and preparation style.

January is right around the corner. What will turn off your potential lawyer when you go for your consult? Well, the no-no's for the phone consult apply to the consult, too, of course. What else?

  • Showing up late, or not showing up at all (and then expecting to get a new appointment right away at your convenience). It's rude.
  • Refusing to give your and your spouse's real names and addresses. Also refusing to give job and estimated income/asset information. It demonstrates a ridiculous lack of trust.
  • Yelling at the lawyer for telling you something you don't want to hear. Also rude, and a complete waste of everyone's time.
  • Lying or concealing information. Or making things up. If this doesn't bite you in the butt now, it will later. When the lawyer figures out you've been trying to pull a fast one, s/he will probably dump you.
  • Failing or refusing to pay the consult fee. Apart from making yourself subject to collection for non-payment of services rendered? Pretty obvious this is not going to result in a positive attorney-client relationship.

Remember, the attorney-client relationship is a two-way street. You have no obligation to hire the attorney you consult. But the attorney doesn't have to take you on as a client, either.