Interviewer: So of the divorce attorneys out there, I’m sure people will shop around and talk to different ones when they decide. Let’s say you were facing divorce, how would you know which attorney to hire versus which one not to hire? What signals would you look for when you are consulting with various attorneys?
Attorney Helfand Advices Using a Common Sense Approach When Seeking a Divorce Attorney
Tanya: I would go with the lawyer that made sense. If the lawyer promises you too much or the lawyer’s talking about getting revenge or things of that nature, I would stay away from that person because that’s not what divorce is about at all.
The Right Divorce Attorney Should Have Expectations Similar to Their Client
I would look for somebody that seems to care and is businesslike about the process more than interested in hurting the other party. Look for a divorce attorney that seems realistic and reasonable and one that where you’re expectations meet their expectations.
The Right Divorce Attorney Should Share Your Values
I think that’s really important that you and your divorce lawyer be on the same page and have the same values.
The Right Divorce Attorney Will Care More for Their Client than for Billable Hours
Interviewer: It seems like there’s the urban legend of the bloodthirsty divorce lawyer that will help you take the other party for all they’ve got, is that realistic? I mean are there those people out there or that pure fiction?
Tanya: There are definitely lawyers out there that care more about the billable hours than about resolving the case for the client.
There are techniques to try and wrap a case up and settle it more quickly than in a slower fashion. Certain lawyers, their companies, especially some larger firms, have billable hour requirements for their lawyers. You have to bill X amount of hours. So if you can settle a case in a couple of hours you’re not necessarily meeting your quota.
So I think that’s a conflict of interest. I definitely do, and, you know, unfortunately the layperson may not know what is actually occurring in those types of situations.
As a Small Firm, Attorney Helfand Prefers to Concentrate on Helping Her Clients Receive Fair Settlements and Maintains Her Reputation without Worrying about Meeting Quotas for Billable Time
But in my firm, what’s different is for one thing, it is a much smaller firm. We do expect to get paid for our time. Sometimes divorces do take a long time because you can’t settle them right away; however, our goal is always to help people get a fair settlement.
So if it can be done quickly it will be done quickly. I’m not looking to bill out the hours. I’m more focused on my reputation and afterwards, I want somebody to refer me for the next case. I would much prefer to have a referral than accrue as many billable hours as I can on this case.
The truth is also, and I’m not trying to knock big firms, but people get a tremendous sense of confidence from being with a big giant firm, but at the end of the day, it’s really just the lawyer you’re with. It’s not the letterhead.
It Is Advisable to Be Proactive During Your Divorce Case and Work with Your Attorney towards a Settlement
So you have to be proactive in your case. You have to think about trying to settle your case. You absolutely have to think about ways to settle your case. You have to work with your lawyer to try and settle the case, and if the lawyer is responsive, then you are being successful.
I don’t think lawyers that do look to bill hours out without settling the case as expeditiously as possible are going to tell you that straight out. Because I am an attorney, I can tell from my end when they’re doing that. Just as you have to trust your doctor to do the right thing, you have to trust your lawyer to do the right thing as well.
You May Discover That There Is an Emotional Component in Choosing an Attorney to Handle your Divorce
Interviewer: So there’s an emotional component to choosing the right attorney for your divorce case?
Tanya: Yes and you have to go with your instinct and you have to go with what makes sense. And that’s pretty much it. It’s not an easy system. Most divorces are not quick and painless. There is some level of pain that you have to endure, usually.