Sticking With Your Divorce Attorney’s Plan
Key Points
  • When hiring a lawyer, it is also a good idea to ask your lawyer to write down a plan of action or timeline when things will get done. It is important to not miss deadlines and to accomplish tasks in a timely manner.
  • Having a written plan of action helps you, as the client, understand how your case should be processing and moving along. This way, you can review the plan and if something has not been completed or a deadline is coming up or past, you will be aware.
  • It is important to make sure you are paying your invoices from your lawyer. Unfortunately, sometimes lawyers will stop working on your matter if you are behind on your bill.

A lawyer may have every intention of being assertive, aggressive, and in control of the litigation and then, for whatever reason, fail to deliver on that promise. Take the case of Jeanette. She wanted an aggressive, spare-no expense lawyer. She found someone who professed to be unstoppable, who claimed he would represent her as aggressively as anyone possibly could. He mapped out the strategy he planned to follow in her case and showed her the form interrogatories and requests for production of documents he would file together with the complaint for divorce should Jeanette hire him. Jeanette was impressed with the lawyer’s enthusiasm and hired him immediately.

Jeanette’s attorney filed the initial papers as promised and then started to drift away from her case. The other side had not answered the interrogatories after thirty days, yet her lawyer did nothing. Jeanette wondered what was going on and called her lawyer, who told her he would follow up. He didn’t. The next thing Jeanette knew, she was being asked to answer interrogatories from the other side-even though they had never answered hers. She asked her lawyer why this was so, but he simply advised her to get to work answering the questions.

Even though this scenario does not spell disaster, it does portend problems down the road. After a strong start, Jeanette’s lawyer started losing steam. This could happen for any number of reasons:

  • He could be too busy with more urgent matters and be putting Jeanette at the bottom of his to-do list.
  • He could be avoiding the case because it is not enjoyable to work on.
  • Jeanette may not be paying her bills on time, so her attorney is working for clients who do pay on time.
  • He could be trying to save Jeanette fees because he is pretty sure the case will settle.
  • He could have every intention of getting back to work on Jeanette’s case just as soon as he drums up a few more clients to solidify his cash flow, but right now new client development is taking up most of his time.

Whatever the reason, Jeanette needs to find it out and get to work correcting the problem. She should not stew in silence or hope the problem will go away on its own. The more she allows her case to be ignored, the more it will be ignored. And the sooner she gets rid of an unsatisfactory lawyer, the sooner she can start salvaging her case.

Fortunately, when Jeanette hired her attorney, she insisted that he give her a written action plan listing all the things he planned to do in an effort to win her case, including an estimate of when each task would be accomplished. Without that written plan, Jeanette would have had no clue what was supposed to happen in her case. Jeanette set up a meeting with her lawyer and brought the action plan with her. She pointed out that many of the items had not been accomplished by the estimated dates and voiced concern that there might be insufficient time left before her trial to get ready. In this way, she was able to get her attorney to focus on her case. He set up a revised action plan with new deadlines, and this time he completed tasks on schedule. Jeanette’s action plan enabled her to track the progress of her case. Without the action plan, she might not have realized that her case was not progressing, and she would not have been able to take steps to get it back on track.

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