“I want legal advice. But how do I find the right legal help for my case?”
In This Episode, CEO Erin Levine Discusses:
- Your divorce goals (i.e. leave marriage quickly, get things you feel you are entitled to, etc.) and why it’s key to identify those goals at the beginning of the process.
- If you’re looking for a lawyer to negotiate on your behalf, Erin explains why it’s important find a lawyer who is committed to sharing information, and to problem solving and finding new and innovative ways to help you through your divorce
- Why going to court should always be the last resort.
- How to tell whether your potential lawyer has the right negotiation experience for you, and why it’s important to look for mediation-friendly lawyers who understand how to negotiate win-win situations.
- How you can save money (and avoid mistakes) by working with a legal coach.
- The importance of firms that employ technology and utilize employees who aren’t lawyers but do have expertise in legal documentation and other activities, and how that can save you a lot of money.
Actionable Steps You Can Take Right Now:
- Think through your divorce goals by reading Erin’s piece, This is why you need a strategy for your divorce.
- Download these 5 questions to ask your potential divorce lawyer before you start interviewing attorneys.
- Learn how a legal coach can help in Erin’s article, What is a legal coach and should I get one?
- After you’ve found the right fit, our piece on How and when to communicate with your lawyer will help you maximize your time with your lawyer, while minimizing what you’re billed for that time.
Read the Transcript: How to Find the Right Legal Help for Your Divorce
Today’s topic is, how and where to find the exact legal help that you need for your divorce. Whether you are thinking about divorce, about to embark on one or maybe you’re already in your divorce, but you aren’t happy with the strategy that’s been employed. This is the episode to listen to if you want to figure out how to best get legal help without going further into debt and with having the best results possible.
Now, I expect that this will be a series over time because I can’t possibly go over every type of legal help there is. So as an example – today, we won’t be talking too much about mediation. But remember, mediation is a method by which you can resolve disputes. It is not legal advice and it is not legal coaching. So even if you choose that route, you’re going to want to seek outside legal help. And that is the topic of today’s episode.
So the first thing that I usually tell people is that you want to figure out what your goals are. And while those goals might change a little bit over time, what I’ve seen over the last 15 years is that they generally stay very close to what you initially determined. So maybe your goal is to get out of your marriage as quickly as possible. You’re willing to waive some of the things that maybe you would be entitled to in exchange for having a peaceful divorce. Maybe your goal is to get exactly what it is you are entitled to by whatever means necessary. Or maybe it’s a little bit of both. You’re willing to make some compromises, however, you have needs. Those needs are must haves and you also have some wants and those wants would be nice to have. So you’re willing to give up on some of the wants in exchange for others so long as your main needs are met.
And for me it’s really easy to talk about that because that is generally what people tell they want in our Hello Divorce calls, or even Levine Family Law Group for that matter. Often times what they tell me is, “I want to know what my legal rights are. I want to understand what likely would happen if I were to go to court and then from there I’d like to either negotiate on my own with my spouse or I’d like to hire a lawyer who can do that for me.”
If your decision is the latter, meaning you would like a lawyer to negotiate on your behalf, then what I want you to do is really seek out lawyers who are focused on not only educating consumers, but on problem solving and finding new and innovative ways to help you through your divorce. When I was just getting started 15 years ago as a young lawyer, I had a boss who I idolized. He was a good man, but what he told me, I now know, was completely wrong. He said, “People want finality by whatever means necessary. That’s how you move on. That’s how you get closure. So that means we take everything to court, get a judge to make a ruling. Whatever that ruling is, the client can then take it and move on.”
The trouble with that line of thinking (and believe me, he’s not the only one that thinks that way), that is in essence what we are taught as young lawyers and most of us end up employing some type of variation on that mission. The problem is that the legal system is inefficient, the legal system encourages conflict, and every time you go before a judge, because it’s almost always a judge not a jury, you are releasing your power to a stranger. A stranger who we hope knows the law, we hope has control over biases, but who is still a human and who doesn’t know much about you, your kids or the circumstances surrounding your breakup.
And so while I think that there are always appropriate times to go to court, I hope that most of us will start with the idea that court is a last resort. And if that’s how you feel, what I want you to do is seek out legal help. People who have a focus on their website of educating you, of helping you to understand your rights. These are people who are not hiding behind that fortress of information. They are not afraid that you won’t hire them if they provide you information. Instead, they’re hoping that you do hire them because you are very involved in your case and your life, you want to see a pleasant outcome. These are the best type of clients that good lawyers want anyhow.
Now, if this is the type of lawyer that you’re seeking out to negotiate on your behalf, one of the things that you’re going to want to look for is whether or not the lawyer has experience in negotiation? If they are a mediator or a mediation-friendly type of lawyer, that generally is a good sign that they understand how personality traits work. They understand the triggers, they understand how to best negotiate a win-win solution because divorce does not have to be a zero sum game. And that they can do it without trickery or failing to disclose or any other of the games that some lawyers do.
Because let me tell you, if you have a lawyer who engages in that type of legal warfare, you run the risk of having your divorce judgment be set aside down the road for fraud, unfair practices or failing to disclose finances. You will literally have to start over – and this time with a judge who is not very happy with you. So what I always say is go to somebody’s website, go to their ‘about me’ section, and get to know them. What do they share beyond their accreditations, certifications and awards? Do they help explain to you how they go about resolving your conflict? And if so, does that resonate? Because if it does, then they are probably worth contacting.
Now, if you are comfortable, at least at the start, with negotiating some of the terms of your divorce directly with your spouse or their representative, then what you want to look for is a lawyer who has options other than full representation. So as an example, at Levine Family Law Group and at Hello Divorce, we offer access to legal coaches. Legal coaches are going to help you along the way. They’re going to review and possibly revise the forms that you prepare on your own or through Hello Divorce. They are going to help strategize your best result. They’re going to tell you what your best and worst possible outcomes are. They’re going to help you identify where you have leverage and where you have exposure.
And there are two main types of legal coaches. One are the legal coaches that you access through Hello Divorce. Those legal coaches you purchase in increments ranging from 30 minutes to five hours. And once you’ve finished or completed the amount of time that pay for it’s up to you to purchase more time if and when you need it. And the awesome part about something like that is you have complete flexibility. You can use that time however you want it. You can email, you can chat, you can do a video conference, you can text, whatever works best for you. However you remain in control of your case, it’s up to you to move it forward. And if you’re someone who’s type A or really organized or isn’t in a rush, that is a perfect option for you.
However, if you want a lawyer to take more control over your case, to push you along a little bit more because let’s face it, most of us don’t want to talk or think about divorce if we don’t have to. If you want a lawyer who’s going to remain really up on your case and be able to jump in whenever you need them or a lawyer who could potentially become your full representation advocate, if negotiations break down, then you’re going to want to think about hiring a legal coach on retainer. Retainer meaning that you pay an amount up front, it goes into a trust. And as the lawyer does work, they bill against it.
But remember, even if you do that, you want to make sure that the lawyer is part of a law firm that employs technology and also utilizes staff members who maybe aren’t lawyers but have great expertise in some of the stuff that goes into a divorce besides the actual legal advice. Because if you’re paying your lawyer a one man or one woman show to do those documents, to file things with the court, to schedule calls and so on and so forth, your bill is going to skyrocket overnight.
Okay. That’s all I have time for today, but if you find this interesting and you find this helpful, I’m happy to continue on with the series later on in the month or the season, so please let me know. We are on social media across the board. Our handle is @HelloDivorce. You can always email me, Erin [at] hellodivorce.com. Whether you’re interested in working with us in any capacity or you just need some resources or some support or a referral to someone else, we are happy to answer. We answer every DM and every email, so feel free to reach out. And if you’re enjoying this podcast, please consider rating and reviewing us. That’s all for now. I’ll talk to you soon.