Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Is Expensive Legal Help Worth It?

Choosing the right attorney to help you with a legal problem is almost always a difficult decision.  Part of the problem is that there are so many attorneys to choose from.  Cost is just one consideration, but often a major one. 

If you are given the names of two or three attorneys who are recommended, how do you choose the best one for you?  Ultimately, chemistry, or your gut feeling, may be the most important factor, but cost is still involved.

When you are deciding to go with the more expensive attorney or the more affordable one, here are some points to consider about the value you may get with the more expensive attorney.

1.  The attorney and staff will probably be more experienced.  Usually, attorneys raise their rates over time as they gain more knowledge and experience.  That will probably, although not always, translate into better representation.

2.  You should receive more personal attention.  That should lead to customized solutions to problems.  You can ask questions, always a good idea, and get thoughtful responses.

3.  The case should move along.  The attorney and staff should be efficient because of their experience, so they should know what to expect and how to respond to issues.

4.  There should be quality staff supporting the attorney.  That's very important, but service can be more efficient and you may save some money by having an assistant handle certain steps in a case.

5.  The attorney and staff should be willing to do all necessary work.  Sometimes lower-charging or flat-fee attorneys cut corners because they aren't getting paid for extra work.

When you are hiring an attorney, there are many factors to consider.  Cost is one of the primary ones. My suggestion is to not automatically write off an expensive attorney, as long as you can figure out a realistic way to pay the fees.  You should commit only to what you can afford.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Collaborative Law Compared to Mediation: Which is Better?

Mediation.  Both Collaborative Law and mediation are dispute resolution processes.  Mediation is commonly used in divorce litigation and in other contexts.  I am a mediator and I strongly believe in the value of mediation.  It is great for settling litigated cases of all types.  Almost every divorce case, and most other family law cases in Tarrant County go to mediation before the Judge will consider letting them go to trial, and almost all will settle in mediation.

Collaboration.  Collaborative Law is a great process for settling divorces, but it approaches settlement entirely differently.  While mediation occurs late in the process, often just before a trial date, Collaboration begins at the start of the case.  There are a series of relatively short meetings in Collaborative, rather than one big day of mediation.

There are some other significant differences between the two processes.  Here are some to consider.

1.  Mediation relies on a sole mediation usually, while Collaborative Law utilizes a team approach with a neutral therapist and a neutral financial advisor.  In addition, in Collaborative cases, the attorneys commit to a different role, working together to make sure no one is taken advantage of, than they follow in mediation.

2.  There are essentially different goals.  In mediation, the bargaining often involves staking out extreme starting positions so the parties can move to an acceptable middle ground.  In Collaborative, the parties explain their goals and needs up front and then both sides commit to helping the parties each meet their goals.

3.  In Collaborative, the parties freely share information; in mediation, the parties generally get their information through Discovery and often use motions and hearings to get information.

4.  In Collaborative Law, the parties agree at the beginning to not take advantage of mistakes.  In Mediation, that's not the case.  The parties have to look out for themselves and be as careful as they can be. Mistakes happen in litigation and mediation and it's too bad.

5.  In Collaborative, single, neutral experts are routinely used.  That only happens occasionally in litigation and mediation. The parties work together with their experts in Collaborative.

What all of this means is that Collaborative Law is a safer, more flexible process that is tuned to the needs of both parties.  If you are using litigation for a divorce, get to mediation as soon as possible so you can get the case settled.  If you are just starting on your divorce, look seriously at using Collaborative Law for a better process and a better result.