A Good Divorce/Dissolution Attorney Cares, Even About The Little Things
As an extern with the Dayton, Ohio, law firm of Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight, & Mues, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on a number of divorce/dissolution consultations. As my time here is drawing to a close, here are a few truths I’ve gleaned from my time here at the office.
- No two clients are ever the same. Some cry, some just want to get it over with, some crack jokes for most of the consultation. The occasional client will do all of the above during the course of a single meeting.
- Nothing you can say will be shocking or weird or too much. This one may seem counterintuitive based on the first statement, but it is true. Every divorce is entirely unique, but after a while, the different components start to look similar.
- Yes, we do listen to everything you say. Sometimes, I’ve watched clients start to look a little concerned, especially with the amount of notes that Chip or another attorney is taking. Believe me, he’s listening. Those notes also help him, or his paralegal, later figure out what exactly is best for you. A good attorney cares, even about the little things.
- Think about it. Divorce or dissolution can be a major change in your life. Consider your options, and consult the infographic below of the specific things you should consider if you do decide to meet with an attorney.
- Your attorney has a plan. Sometimes the questions may seem like they are in a random order, or that your attorney isn’t entirely focusing on what you want to focus on. Chip has this strategy of ‘circling back’, where he’ll come back to some of the emotionally difficult stuff after asking a relatively ‘boring’ question, like about the cars or living space. By doing this, he’s letting you take a break, while still gathering what he needs for the legal side of things.
- Talk to someone else. Maybe it is your pastor, your therapist, your best friend; just talk to someone else about what is going on. Even the most amicable divorce or dissolution is emotionally taxing. Lawyers can resolve the legal stuff, but the emotional stuff is important too, and you should think about how you want to address it.
- Share everything, and we mean EVERYTHING. No, I don’t mean the name of your cat when you were a child. Your divorce or dissolution attorney needs to know if you, the client, have also committed infidelity or have an addiction problem. By knowing, we can head off any potential issues from the other side.
- We’re counsel, not the judge. This one is twofold. First: we can’t magically make the judge decide in your favor. We can make the best legal arguments, and file all appropriate motions possible, but sometimes, you just aren’t going to win, based on the law and the facts of your situation. Second: your attorney doesn’t really care if you’ve had three or thirty three paramours during your marriage. Your attorney cares because that information may affect negotiations with the other side, but we aren’t going to judge you or make assumptions about who you are as a person. You’re a human being. Humans make choices. Lawyers help sort out these situations. Lawyers don’t judge. (Unless they’re the actual judge, in which case, it is their job.)
- A good attorney cares. While a good attorney won’t judge you personally, an excellent attorney will care about you as an individual. Chip specifically will ask to make sure that you, as the client or potential client, are talking to someone, as discussed above. An excellent will recommend that you are getting the help you need, and not just the legal help that he or she will be providing. A good attorney will be cognizant of the rising costs of legal fees, and not pursue costly measures that aren’t going to get you anywhere. Generating fees is not an objective of a good lawyer.
- Shop around; we’re cool with that. Talk to other attorneys, go to other consultations. We know it happens, and it doesn’t hurt your attorney’s feelings. Picking the right attorney for your situation can be tough, so talking to other attorneys can help you figure out what type of attorney you want or need for this situation. Some attorneys view clients as money makers; others may not have experience with about the type of law involved in your divorce. Once you commit, commit. Know that your attorney, if they are a good one, is doing his or her best to give you the best legal counsel that you deserve. (Pick a good one.)
- You can bring a buddy or come alone. Some clients choose to bring an emotional support person to a consultation; others choose to come alone. Both are entirely fine. Set some ground rules with your buddy, should you choose to bring one. Make sure that your support person knows when they should talk, and when they should let you, the client, do the talking.
- We’re in it for the long haul. Divorces, more so than dissolutions, can take a LONG time. Some cases take months, others take over a year. That means you’re going to get to know your lawyer and other people in the office. For example, the receptionist in this office switches up depending on the day, and the time of the day, and you may actually be talking to the paralegal on your case when you call. A good attorney, like the ones in this office, will check in and make sure you know when and where to show up, but also to make sure that things are going smoothly from your end.
- We’re in it for the long haul for them, too. You are not our only client. Other clients will be calling and emailing and needing documents, just as much as you do. It is important to recognize that your attorney will have more than one client that has needs at a given time, and thus it might take a day or so to get that return phone call, or a few extra hours for that email. Know that your attorney is on top if it, and will make sure that things are filed on time and appropriately.
- We’re still learning. While nothing you can say will shock or surprise us, it may present a unique legal question. Your attorney may not have all the answers immediately. Your attorney will, however, know where to look and how to find that information. Perhaps it might mean consulting another attorney, or having you choose another attorney who is best suited to your situation. We’ll figure it out, or send you to someone who can.
I’d like to thank Chip for allowing me to extern with him this summer, and to all of the lovely humans around the office who’ve made me feel right at home. I’ll miss Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight, & Mues when I head back to classes, and I’m eternally grateful for the wisdom and kindness they’ve shared with me for the past three months.
Publisher’s Note: Lily Mann has been a terrific extern! She will be starting her third and final year at the University of Dayton School of Law this fall. Thank you Lily, for all you have done and stay in touch!
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Lily Mann, Second Year Law Student at the University of Dayton School of Law
Lily Mann was a summer extern for Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues this summer. She will be starting her third and final year at the University of Dayton School of Law this fall.