Hats off to Chicago Divorce Lawyer Marie Fahnert. She recently posted an article entitled 10 Signs of a Bad Divorce Lawyer on her Divorce Blog. What should you avoid in a Minnesota Divorce Lawyer? According to Fahnert, you should avoid a family lawyer who:

  1. Empathizes too much with your pain. If you have a stomach ache, you don’t want the doctor seeing you identifying with your pain. You want the doctor to be objective and fix your ailment. Same thing goes for lawyers.
  2. Doesn’t listen to you. A good lawyer should have a good understanding of your personality, desires and wishes. This can only be achieved through empathetic listening.
  3. Promises to avenge. Laws are set up to help both divorcing parties establish themselves after a divorce. There is no place in a divorce courtroom for vengeance. Your lawyer should tell you this.
  4. Calls your spouse names. It is common – although not recommended – for divorcing couples to call each other names. It is unacceptable, however, for a lawyer to engage in this kind of conduct. Your lawyer should be seeking to help you view your situation objectively. Name-calling is never objective.
  5. Uses inflammatory language. Over the top language does not help resolve conflict. It won’t help you reach a fair outcome in your case. It only makes things worse. When used by a lawyer, inflammatory language also shows a lack of professionalism.
  6. Excessively criticizes other lawyers. In ideal divorces there is a lot of collaboration and trust between the opposing lawyers. A lawyer who cannot get along with other lawyers could wreak havoc on this balance. Also, these things are usually reciprocal – why don’t other lawyers like your lawyer?
  7. Tells you he’ll “take care” of the divorce for you. There is no divorce lawyer who can “take care” of your case while you sip a martini. Divorce is hard work for everyone involved. There are documents to produce, depositions to attend and court documents to review. Anyone who claims otherwise is not being honest.
  8. Predicts the future. Some parts of a case can be somewhat accurately predicted (child support, for example). Most outcomes are not so clear. In truth, outcomes are often a gamble. A lawyer who tells you they have all the answers may be full of hot air.
  9. Buys your blatant lies. Nobody likes a liar or a cheater. If your divorce lawyer overlooks your bad behavior it is not because they like you. They’ll drop you like a hot potato when you run out of cash.
  10. Does not express his views. It is a lawyer’s job to encourage clients to make the best decisions for their case. This is often in conflict with the path a client feels is best. A lawyer who does not make his views known might be doing you a great disservice.

Great suggestions. I would add an additional criteria: Focuses on trial from the onset. As I share with each potential client, we are fully prepared to try their case if necessary. But, our initial focus remains on positioning the case for settlement. The best lawyers don’t need their cases to go to trial; they have enough work to approach a conflict in a manner most favorable to their client’s (not the firm’s) bottom line.