The first thing you hear when faced with divorce is "Do you have a good lawyer?" Everyone is emphatic about it. I wish at this point that someone had taken me by the shoulders, thrown a glass of cold water in my face, asked me if I was listening, thrown another glass of cold water in my face, and asked me again if they had my attention, and told me that lawyers will drain you of every cent you have if you let them. Lawyers are not your therapist or your friend. They will listen to everything you say because every second is money in the bank for them. You are charged for anything and everything that they have to do with you and it will add up so fast it is terrifying.
I chose my lawyer versus all the other ones I met mainly because a good friend took me in by hand to meet her and in the confused state I was in, that felt like a safe choice. Any one of the lawyers I met seemed like they would be good, but what did I know. Given that we weren't that deep pocketed, or called Chatsworth home, I didn't feel I needed the "best" known divorce lawyer in town, but I did need a good one. By this point though I owe so much money to my lawyer, I wonder had I had "the best" how much more could it possibly be? When I met the one who "is the best, and handled so-and-so's divorce," he told me what his hourly rate was and I gasped to which he said if I reacted like that over what he charged then he probably wasn't the right choice for me. Who knows.
The problem for me at the time that I needed to get a lawyer is that I was in shock, traumatized by the betrayal, grieving. Anyone with a sympathetic ear heard every little detail and often times that was my lawyer. On top of which the advice I was getting was always, "Ask your lawyer," or "See what your lawyer says," so what do you do? You go to your lawyer. I was wounded and confused and wanted my lawyer to be my protector. The person I would have gone to first to get support would have been my husband, and now he was the very person I needed a lawyer for. I was overwhelmed with processing everything. I realize now that when my lawyer asked me if I was understanding all the parts of the agreement, I didn't. I liken it to an astrophysicist explaining how a rocket reaches space and you nod, "Yes, I understand," but there's no way you could unless you worked at NASA. I relied way too much on my attorney to take care of me because I was pulling myself up from the rubble.
Going through the process of divorce to arrive at the agreement was like being at war, complete with surprise attacks and continual assaults by my husband and his lawyer. It was surreal. I was in a daze trying to comprehend how my husband, my best friend, could do this to me. When brought out into the battlefield, I prayed my lawyer could divert the missiles heading toward me. Letters in the form of a surprise attack would appear before me and she sent letters back to counterattack. There is so much preparation for the Deposition and research necessary for Discovery that I had to produce, and all the while I would wonder, why am I doing this and sob, only to soldier up and fight the fight. Meanwhile, just like the Defense budget, my bills were racking up and amassing. Going through all these moves for a war I didn't want was disorienting. I was trying to understand what in God's name was happening, how my husband could be so different and be doing this to me. I had taken a trip that year to Rwanda, where the guide at the Genocide museum had told us how the boy who grew up next to his family, who his father had treated like a son, had brutally killed his father and brother during the war. That is an extreme example but emotionally it's the same disbelief how someone can turn on someone they had affection for. It is bewildering.
There's no easy answer about lawyers. Get whoever is the most confident and clever who you feel understands you and will be a brave defender. And go in knowing that lawyers make the most money in the drawn out battle. Divorce is an emotional process, and as my lawyer said, the settlement does not heal the hurt. Remember, the more worked up and emotional both parties get the more the lawyers have to do and the larger your bills get. When hiring a lawyer, post a huge sign where you can't miss it to remind you not to treat them like a therapist, or your friend, and keep your time with them to a minimum. It could save you a lot of money.