I recently had to visit my mechanic to have some car trouble repaired and I was reminded of the important but sometimes forgotten point that some mechanics are just BETTER than other mechanics (just like some family lawyers are just BETTER than other family lawyers). Meaning that in probably 95% of the service sector the trick isn’t really finding something or someone doing anything new or unique but rather the trick is finding out who’s the actually the BETTER provider.
Because the better mechanic/golf pro/child psychologist/family law attorney SAVES you money
(even if their base hourly rates are higher).
That’s what happened with my recent car repair situation, my wife had been driving home from Michigan and had some car trouble on her drive back to Chicagoland and had to make an emergency stop in the Milwaukee area to have our car repaired and as long as she was stopped there we had some new tires put on the car too. Long story short, the Milwaukee area mechanic quoted us some $1,000 for a repair related to the car’s air conditioning. Just last month in April as the temperatures around Chicago were finally warming up we decided to finally make the repair related to our car’s air conditioning with our usual mechanic around Chicago and the fix was made for $163. And it wasn’t our local mechanic being cheaper, no, it was the Milwaukee mechanic being wrong about the necessary repair.
Similar situations happen in our divorce and child custody cases all the time, basically, bad lawyers misdiagnose a case (just like the Milwaukee mechanic above) and the wrong advice ends up costing a client more money (especially if a client is getting billed for the lawyers time alone). What’s the cause of our slowest cases? 99% of the time it’s a poor opposing attorney who is just bad and advises his client poorly and then becomes defensive with us as the opposing attorney when I try to correct he or she on how something actually should be done. A bad lawyer causes unnecessary work to be required and just flat-out wastes a client’s time…and those things cost you more money.
How Can You Distinguish Between the Good & the Bad Family Law Attorneys out there??
- Contact a friend who is an active attorney for a recommendation. I know who the good attorneys are in the areas of law I practice in and in fields closely related to family law where I refer cases to regularly like immigration/bankruptcy/real estate. There’s nothing wrong with getting a referral from a non-attorney friend but from experience a lot of non-lawyers tend to recommend people/attorneys they like rather than attorneys who are actually good at what they do.
- Narrow Focus. Unless you’re in a real small town where there are like 3 attorneys in an entire county, your attorney must be very narrow in the areas of law that they practice. Attorneys taking cases like child custody and divorce matters when that’s not their main area of law generally are the exact sort of situation I refer too above that is the cause of our slowest cases. With the abundance of information available on the Internet you should be able to see what this lawyer is advertising as their practice areas online, what does the attorney’s LinkedIn profile list, and what materials is the law firm providing as part of arranging an initial consultation.
- Just Right Size. In addition to attorneys who aren’t focused in their practice areas, we also see the problem regularly of 1-person shops that just aren’t equipped to get anything done. Family law is not an area where you need a huge firm, but, personally I don’t think a law firm can provide real quality customer service and legal representation with less than 3 staff people. In the family law space I think you need multiple attorneys with at least 1 support staff person because family law is quite court-centric. But conversely on the other side of the coin, working with a larger family law firm of say 20+ attorneys really isn’t going to benefit you much more than the 3-person firm because generally any individual client’s matter will be handled by 1-2 attorneys plus 1 staff person even if there are 50 people employed at the firm. The question to consider with the larger family law firms is how do the higher rates you’re paying for all these other staff persons actually benefit you?
- Sample the Intake Process. Call the lawyer and schedule an initial consultation. A good family law attorney is going to have a very professional and polished intake process because this is as important as anything we do. To be blunt, if we can’t effectively sell legal services then we’ll be out of business. So think about it, if a law firm does a crappy job (think getting voice-mail on your initial call to the firm, no meeting confirmation follow-ups) with the most important part of a law firm’s business then what sort of attention does that law firm give to being high quality as substantive attorneys on the direct legal representation.