To help you find a good attorney here are 6 questions to ask:
(look for at least 50% of their business to be from divorce)
2. What percentage of your divorces settle?
(this should be high, 90-100%)
3. What percentage of your divorces go to mediation?
4. Do you use mediators who keep the parties in the same room?
(avoid attorneys who use shuttle mediation and keep parties in separate rooms)
5. How long have you been practicing in Tennessee?
6. Which court do you expect you would file my case in?
(listen for them to mention the two courts, Chancery and Fourth Circuit, and for their knowledge regarding the different
The reason these questions make sense can best be illustrated by looking at the four biggest mistakes people make when choosing a divorce attorney:
1. Hiring someone known as “the best divorce attorney in town”.
2. Google “divorce attorney Knoxville” and take who pops up.
3. Hiring a friend or relative.
4. Hiring someone who dabbles in family law to pay the bills.
Let’s look at these a little more closely.
1. Attorneys become well known for sensational cases. These are cases with big fights, lots of time in court, and tens of thousands in legal fees. Hiring such a person may be seen as a status symbol. It may also make you feel protected because you feel that you’ve hired the best. But top attorneys are quite often people whose egos feed on their bulldog reputation. These are people who can easily take a situation and jack up the conflict – all in the name of protecting their client – which only jacks up the stress and bills you must endure, often with no better outcome then a more pedestrian approach. So if your goal is to take an asset-hiding spouse to the cleaners in a spectacular way, and you don’t mind losing the bulk of your savings in the process, then all means go to the Who’s Who’s list in your monthly City View magazine and have at it. If, however, you seek to Divorce with Dignity, then read on.
2. Google is how we operate today. Unfortunately it is difficult to find good professionals this way. Most attorneys are terrible marketers, so they pay a company like FindLaw to create a static website. These sites all claim the same thing - “Aggressive representation” for clients on the home page, and caring and nurturing service for your family on the divorce page. One firm that comes up prominently for divorce has a site so stuffed with web design tricks (frequent but irrelevant blog posts, hundreds of useless backlinks, key words stuffed throughout) you just have to wonder what their ethics are when it comes to handling actual cases.
3. & 4. Friends, relatives, and many attorneys who are willing to handle your divorce are not good choices simply because they are not divorce lawyers. It is tempting to save money by enlisting the help of a good friend. The problem is, while passing the bar allows an attorney to practice in any area of the law, it doesn’t mean they will be very good at it. People get divorced even when the economy is bad so it is a steady stream of business some attorneys try to tap into when their usual business slows.
I can’t tell you how many times in mediation I’ve seen a party pass up an excellent settlement offer or agree to terms that were terribly unfair – based on the “advice” of their free, but incompetent attorney. It is tough to watch, but mediators assume self-determination on the part of the parties, so if a person makes the decision to hire ineffective counsel that is their right. All I can do is warn you before you make the same mistake.
To avoid all of these your best bet is to contact me at ecooper@DivorceBetterKnoxville.com for a list of referrals. There is a better way!