Listening to Your Instincts About Your Divorce Lawyer
For example, think about whether a lawyer made eye contact with you, and if not, whether this bothers you. Was the lawyer glib, dismissive, or callous? Did he or she oversimplify the issues or make you feel your cause was hopeless? Did you hear any words of encouragement, or did you only hear about how wonderful the lawyer considers him or herself? Factors such as these and your reactions to them are legitimate considerations when choosing an attorney.
Do not overlook behaviors you find offensive and hope that they will go away. They won’t.
Lawyers who handle divorces come in all shapes and sizes. There are those rare, kind souls who live to help their clients expectations by providing psychological and legal support during a stressful period in their lives. But then there are those who see divorce as a relatively simple, mechanical process that generates income; those who punish and bully their clients’ spouses because of their own unresolved personal problems; and those who, unable to succeed in another area of the law not so fraught with negative emotion, are stuck doing divorces for a living.
Lawyers, like other people, have their own individual personalities and problems. Nothing distinguishes a lawyer from the rest of humanity except the act of having gone to law school and passing the bar exam. Like any other person, a lawyer can be disorganized, careless, irresponsible, overcommitted, vengeful, greedy, addicted, or otherwise undesirable. Like any other person, a lawyer can have ideological perceptions totally different from your own. No state licensing board has screened out undesirable or incompatible lawyers. This is your job, and you must do it while enduring the pain of divorce. It won’t be easy. It will take guts. But by doing your homework, you should be able to make an educated choice about the lawyer who will play a very important role in how you will live the rest of your life.
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PROVING MALPRACTICE -- To prove malpractice, the plaintiff must prove that a lawyer failed to exercise reasonable skill and that such failure was the proximate cause to the damage or loss. This means proving 1) that his or her counsel’s performance fell below a standard of reasonableness; 2) that "this deficient performance did not involve the exercise of judgment, discretion of strategy, or trial tactics"; and 3) that the performance so compromised the action that without these professional errors, the client would have prevailed.
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