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How to choose the right lawyer

InPurgatory posted 11/15/2020 18:33 PM

I need some help from the collective wisdom on SI. I have interviewed 3 lawyers and ruled out one. But for the life of me, I cannot seem to move forward with making a decision on which one to choose. It's like I'm frozen with fear.

I know that part of this comes from a fear of failure (part of my own FOO problems), but part is that I don't know what the best strategy would be with my WH. He is likely BPD/NPD, based on history and the assessment of my therapist, and I'm terrified of making a critical error at this stage. I don't want to be engaged in a long-term battle when there are no custody issues to consider.

Lawyer #1 is intellectual, organized, all-business and was the first lawyer I spoke to, back when I was still very emotional about the whole situation. She comes highly recommended, has a reasonable number of years experience, but I felt really discouraged after talking with her because she didn't seem to think that I would be able to keep the house (a very important issue for me, for financial reasons). Even though WH makes twice what I do and could afford to move anywhere, he will likely fight for the house as well. Her rates are reasonable (middle of the road in our town, as far as I can tell), and she has a paralegal and a younger lawyer working with her.

Lawyer #2 came up on a list of local lawyers who deal with high-conflict divorce, and has a number of videos on her website dealing with different issues. I was not able to get a consultation with her directly, but rather with a junior lawyer in the firm (there are 2 juniors). Her videos show a bolder personality and recommendations state that she is very successful in the courtroom. Her rates are also reasonable (although slightly higher for her, lower for using the junior lawyer). She also comes highly recommended. In fact, both of these lawyers have written recommendations for each other on Avvo. However, there is something I can't put my finger on that makes me feel uncomfortable with the lawyer (I truly don't know why, it's just a gut thing), but I'm afraid to let that influence my decision.

A little background: I live in an at-fault state where the judges are somewhat conservative. I'm told that there is precedent for rulings that favor betrayed spouses. But that only helps if we end up in court, which I'm hoping not to do.

Lawyer #1 has the same fees for uncontested/contested, with the retainer running about $3000 to start with uncontested. Lawyer #2 has a flat-rate fee of $2500 (for junior lawyer) for an uncontested divorce (this would be $5000 for the senior lawyer) that can be wrapped into a retainer for contested (I was quoted around $5-10,000, depending on whether it is junior or senior partner).

There's nothing negative about either one that I can find. I'm stuck. I really could use some insight, or at least some support. If anyone has any thoughts about things I should be considering, I would greatly appreciate it.

Countingsheep65 posted 11/15/2020 21:33 PM

I had seen three different attorneys, finally felt like I had made the best choice, but has proved not to be so.

They donít really care at all, I have recently signed legal separation papers and she did not represent me in some issues to be in my best interest. I called her paralegal out on it, didnít even respond to it. From day one the paralegal has made numerous mistakes, $6,000 in, papers signed.

One thing to watch for is they seem to intentionally make mistakes so the e-mailing goes back and forth, which you are being charged for.

Maybe the hesitation your having making the choice is just the fear of it all. What about interviewing some others?

JanaGreen posted 11/15/2020 22:08 PM

Trust your gut. I'd interview some more, but definitely don't go with the second.

Ask around. Ask divorced friends. I have two ex-coworkers who used the same lawyer I did. No regrets with her.

InPurgatory posted 11/15/2020 22:44 PM

The hesitation definitely comes from fear of making the wrong choice and screwing up my life even further. I know, logically, that it isn't as simple as the right or wrong lawyer, but I know that it can make a huge difference in the outcome. I interviewed three lawyers (and only lawyer #2 offered a free consultation with the junior lawyer), so it has already cost me some money (which I had to squirrel away a few dollars at a time) and it was difficult finding a way to meet with them and not have WH know about it. I don't want to tip him off because I'm afraid of how he will respond regarding the house, finances, etc. I could try and talk to one more, but I guess I'm not sure if anyone else will be any better. The third lawyer I talked to, I ruled out only because he was not a very good communicator and I didn't get a good feeling from meeting with him, even though he basically told me the same things as the other two. He's also known to be a bulldog in court and his name was suggested primarily so that WH wouldn't have the chance to hire him.

I got the names of #2 and #3 from the only divorced friend I know (yeah, weirdly enough I don't know that many divorced people here in town). There is one friend I haven't seen in a long time who went through a very difficult divorce, but it has been a long time since that happened and I don't know if the same lawyers would even still be around. Part of my difficulty here is that I don't have anyone to talk with that has been through this, so I'm relying on SI for advice.

My problem is that I tend to second-guess (especially these days) my decisions. I always used to think I was a good judge of character. Now, not so much.,

Catwoman posted 11/17/2020 07:26 AM

I'm not a big fan of asking friends for attorney recommendations. Everyone's case is different and what may be successful for one individual's situation may be disastrous for another's.

Most large metropolitan areas have a local magazine and most of those local magazines publish a "best of the best" where they rate doctors, dentists, real estate agents . . . and attorneys. That's where I would start. You should start seeing the same attorneys and firms over and over once you dig in. Then do your on-line research. Look at the attorney's information--what is their involvement with the local or state bar? Have they held office? Written materials (my attorney wrote the guidebook for attorneys on how to "do divorce" in my state, for example). In short, you want to gauge their professional involvement as well as their ability as an attorney. Judges tend to respect those who hold office in local or state bar associations (it's a lot of work).

There are other websites you can access . . . unfortunately, I'm not able to post them here, but you're welcome to PM me and I will give them to you.


Tigersrule77 posted 11/17/2020 07:30 AM

I agree with JanaGreen. If you aren't sure yet, that's OK. Talk to a few others until you are ready. Unless you are in a hurry to start the process. Choose the one you are comfortable with. It will be worth any extra money you pay if you can sleep at night.

InPurgatory posted 11/27/2020 14:32 PM

Thank you to those of you who took the time to respond. I've been agonizing over this so long that it's hard to see things clearly.

I decided to go with Lawyer #1. I felt that she was competent and I just need to get this started. Today was the final straw (again), and it finally "took". WH pitched another one of his famous tantrums, broke some Christmas lights in the process, and suddenly I was ready to pull the trigger. Emailed the lawyer and will put down the retainer next week.

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