I often say that, when comparing different areas of law, family law may very well be the most emotional and frustrating. Whether to blame it on emotions or the other party, sometimes clients need to get a second opinion, or just flat-out fire their attorney.
In my experience there are three red flags that will signal a client to leave their attorney:
1. Lack of experience
I really don’t recommend being a “Jack of All Trades” attorney. Find your niche in law and stick with it. Along the way, make friends with other attorneys in other areas of law so you can have a referral base.
2. Missing basic deadlines
In most states, when a petition for divorce is filed, there are automatic timetables for certain things to be done. For instance, in Maryland, if there is material change in the information furnished in a party’s financial statement filed with the court (in case where alimony and/or child support is at issue) the party must amend and serve the other party with said amended financial statement at least 10 days before the scheduled trial date.
3. Lack of communication
If responding to your clients calls and emails is not your No. 1 priority, they will know and they will not be understanding. This is probably the most common complaint I hear from family law clients.
So how can you avoid getting fired by your client? Manage expectations.
I always make a point of telling my clients that, going into the divorce process even with the best attorney in the smoothest situation, you will have some frustrating bumps in the road that are beyond the attorney’s control. If clients have unrealistic expectations as to what the attorney can and can’t do, then they are setting themselves up for frustration and disappointment.
As their attorney and advocate, do the best you can to communicate effectively, and prove to them every step of the way that their case matters to you.