Divorce attorneys are generally extremely experienced with divorce cases. Their confidence in their skills and knowledge base is understandably high. Their clients, however are a different story. For most individuals going through divorce, this is their first time experiencing this trauma. For them, everything is new, unfamiliar territory.
Recently, I met with a client “Lisa” who is in turmoil over her divorce case. She’s facing significant financial hurdles and decisions and is unsure about how effective her attorney’s representation is.
I find that Lisa’s story is not unique. I hear from many people who feel out of sync with their attorneys. For the most part, everybody would be happier with with better avenues of communication during this process.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you work with your divorcing client:
1. Does your client feel that you are attentive to his or her case?
It is totally reasonable to let some time elapse after receiving phone calls or inquiries from your clients. In fact, it is unreasonable for them to expect instantaneous responses to all their inquiries. However, if three or four business days pass without any response and this occurs repeatedly, this becomes a major sticking point and ratchets up your clients’ anxiety.
2. Help your client determine what requires immediate attention and what does not.
Your client might be inclined to call after every encounter with their spouse, especially if there is a great deal of anger or bitterness. An interaction with you where you help them decide what events require you to be notified and what is immaterial helps clients figure out what is significant versus what is just annoying and hurtful and will cost them un-necessary legal fees for your time.
3. How does your staff treat your clients?
It’s unfortunate when a client calls the attorney’s office in tears and the attorney’s assistant responds in a curt, uncompassionate manner. For some clients, this interaction indicates that their attorney lacks compassion. Train all staff members who deal with clients how you expect them to handle phone calls, emails and in-person interactions, maybe conducting some staff training involving role playing that helps your staff become more sensitive and learn to inculcate feelings of trust in clients.
4. Discuss the pros and cons of important decisions with your clients and be partners in making decisions.
Don’t just tell your client that it’s perfectly fine for the business accountant to perform a valuation on the spouse’s business without discussing the potential drawbacks of this arrangement. Don’t order your client to accept the settlement the other side is offering without discussing the pros and cons of continuing with litigation. It facilitates communication if you spend time with your client about all the benefits and costs of each decision. In other words, they want to be “bothered” with the details; after all, they have to live with the consequences.
Clients want to feel that they have made the correct decision in selecting their divorce attorney. They are seeking a person with knowledge and leadership, but this process works best when the client and attorney act as partners, both in search of the best outcome. Honest, timely and sensitive communication on the part of attorneys goes a long way towards making the process smoother for both parties, which should lead to a more favorable result.