Thursday, July 21, 2011

10 Tips for Enhancing Your Relationship with Your Attorney

Hiring an attorney and joining in litigation (or Collaboration) is a serious matter. I, and others, have written about how to choose an attorney to hire. After you have crossed that threshold, both you and your attorney should work to maintain a good working relationship.

In the interest of better serving clients, here is a list of 10 tips for keeping and improving your relationship with your legal representative.

1. Listen to your attorney. Pretty much, you should tune out your family and friends who are offering their best legal advice for you. Your attorney is better qualified and more experienced.

2. Follow the attorney's advice. Lawyers don't enjoy trying to help someone who won't follow their advice.

3. If you disagree with your attorney, speak up.
If you think the attorney is wrong, speak up and have a discussion. If you think the attorney is wrong too often, change attorneys.

4. Pay your bills on time. You wouldn't work for free. Your attorney doesn't like to work for free. Attorneys have overhead and living expenses, just like you and other business people.

5. Follow the court's order. You really make your life and your attorney's life more difficult if you ignore or violate court orders. If you don't like the order, talk to your attorney.

6. Don't expect your attorney to be a therapist. In Tarrant County, we actually have one very good attorney who is also a very good therapist, but that is a unique situation. You can't expect your attorney to solve your emotional issues, but the attorney can refer you to someone for therapy, as needed.

7. Be on time and get stuff done on time. Time limits are often very important in litigation. There can be major problems if you miss deadlines. Do your part to make sure things are done on time.

8. Have a clear picture of what you want. Of course, that's easy for me to say. In reality, you probably need to talk with your attorney to formulate what your goals and needs are, but your attorney needs to know what you are aiming for.

9. Don't listen to family and friends. Please. They mean well, but they don't know all the facts of your case, and the experience they draw on is different from your situation.

10. Remember -- every divorce is different. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. You need to work closely with your attorney to plan and carry out your course of action. Don't assume that what happened in a friend's divorce will work in yours!

If you follow these suggestions, you should have a good relationship with your attorney. Good luck.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Zen, Running and Divorce -- Life Lessons

There is an interesting blog, unrelated to divorce or family law, that I like to read that's always full of thought-provoking posts. Yesterday's post in the Zen Habits blog, "Ten Life Lessons from a Reluctant Runner" was about life lessons related to running, but I immediately applied the lessons to divorce situations. I liked the article initially because I am a runner (disclaimer: I admit I'm not fast), but I thought the lessons from running could easily translate into ideas to help ease the stress of dealing with divorce and other family law issues.

I invite you to read the original post. Even if you're not a runner, you can probably appreciate her view of life. For this post, I am taking her lessons and applying them in another context. See if this makes sense to you.

"1. Sometimes things that suck are also awesome." Ever hear the phrase, "behind every cloud, there's a silver lining"? It's often hard to see the silver lining when you go through a divorce or other family law conflict, but change often leads to improvement, even though it's painful at the time. Being forced to confront your financial situation may help you plan better for the future and even change course to look for better opportunities.

"2. It's all mental." I don't know that I would agree that a divorce is 100% mental, but how you approach a situation mentally sure does have a major impact on whether it is upsetting to you or doesn't bother you. People really can choose how they will react to difficult situations. Focusing on the negative and thinking about how terrible you have it will not be helpful. It is much better to be looking forward.

"3. There's a discernible difference between pain and discomfort." Some things are major pains and require a re-analysis and new direction. Most things are more at the discomfort level which you can quickly overcome, if you allow and encourage yourself to do so.

"4. Equipment matters -- find what works for you." This is not a direct comparison, but you need to have a lawyer to help you through the legal process and you should make sure the lawyer has the knowledge and experience needed and that there is good chemistry between you and the lawyer. If you try one attorney and it doesn't seem to work out, go ahead and make a change.

"5. Take joy in small accomplishments." All issues are not alike. Keep in mind that not everything is life or death in divorce. Making small progress toward the outcomes you want should be considered a good thing. You rarely make giant-sized progress toward your goals. You should feel good for every small step that goes your way (and don't obsess about the things that don't work out!).

"6. Inconsistency is OK." Don't expect things to go smoothly or to flow all in the same direction. If judges are deciding issues, there can be inconsistent result on different issues for a variety of reasons. Don't worry about it.

"7. It feels good to pick up your pace at the finish." Most people are anxious to finalize their divorce once they get near the finish. Don't slow it down by bringing up last-minute, annoying issues that simply prolong the fighting. Keep your major objectives in mind and don't get caught up with minor battles.

"8. But, slow down at the beginning, already." Sometimes, you don't have a choice about how fast you have to act at the beginning, but remember that a divorce takes time. Don't be impatient to finish up something too quickly that will affect you the rest of your life financially and in terms of family relationships.

"9. Play is critical. Always." Don't take everything too seriously. Stop and try to relax and not think about the divorce all day long. Get involved in exercise and physical activity. Volunteer and help others. Do something fun occasionally. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money.

"10. It's OK to trick yourself." Sometimes it's hard to face a big project, and that makes it easy to avoid. One way to attack it is to commit yourself to working on something for just 15 or 30 minutes or an hour. If you stop then, you are that much farther down the road. Often, though, it becomes easy to stretch the time as you discover that the work is not as hard as you thought it would be. The trick is breaking it down into small pieces.

Hopefully, you can apply some of these life lessons as you run or work your way through a divorce or family law issue.