Divorce lawyers. Otherwise known as dirtbags, bottom-feeders, thieves, morons--go ahead, you name it, we're used to it. The tirades that often show up here on the Huffington Post, and on other web sites when the word 'divorce' is mentioned, are pretty intense. Yep, lots of people have horror stories and, whether it's justified or not, the matrimonial bar bears the brunt of the hostility resulting from divorce. Think we don't feel the rancor? That we don't know why we're considered the "dregs of the legal profession," as someone commenting on my last post so kindly (uh-huh) put it? We're not quite that clueless, despite outward appearances and all our bravado. Fact is, the "dabblers"-- you know, the lawyers who are either very inexperienced or whose practice isn't at least 80% matrimonial--cause a great deal of the angst and anger. But hey, I know that sounds kind of defensive. So here we go--the things divorce lawyers can do to earn their clients' fury (with attorney explanations in parentheses): 1. Miss deadlines. ("Give me a break, I forgot.") 2. Don't know the law. ("Geez Louise, you expect me to know everything?") 3. Make up facts. ("Everyone else does it. The judge never sanctions anybody.") 4. Don't bother with the billing. ("The retainer check should cover it. Besides, billing takes too long.") 5. Bill the hell out of the case. ("I was thinking about you while I was watching the play-offs.") 6. Nickel-and-dime the client to death with personal and general office expenses. Charge for things like taxis, train fare, meals, telephone charges, per-page faxing, secretarial overtime, just to name a few. ("I wouldn't have eaten any dinner -- ever -- if I weren't working on the case, or taken a cab home when I worked late, or bought another toner when the fax ran out of ink. And you're screwing up my weekend.") 7. Yell at the client. ("Come on, it's my normal speaking voice.") 8. Diss everyone in the case. The client's shrink. His/her parents. Opposing counsel. The law guardian. And, of course, the judge. ("They're all idiots anyway.") 9. Remind the client there are a lot of other cases that need to be handled. ("It's a matter of priorities, and you need to be put in your place. I'm very much in demand.") 10. Keep the client waiting unnecessarily for office appointments. ("I'm more important than any client; work with me here, it's an ego-thing.") 11. Let the client see the lawyer sneaking out for a sandwich when the appointment is supposed to be starting, then waltz back into the reception area with either (i) a brown paper bag; or (ii) a receipt that the lawyer ostentatiously slaps on the front desk. ("Like this needs justification? Get real, people.") 12. Ignore the FedEx packets a client sends. ("Huh? Hope no one tracks the delivery date.") 13. Whenever something's missing--and delivery to the lawyer's office has been confirmed-- blame the staff. ("Sor-ry, got too much stuff to look at as it is.") 14. Always have the secretary place the call to the client, instead of dialing directly. Wait a minute--is that the client calling again? ("Hell with it, I'm busy. All the time.") 15. Why waste time sending the client copies of anything? ("You'll find out eventually.") 16. Don't let the client settle the case, under any circumstances. ("It could ruin my 'pit-bull' rep.") 17. Keep the client out of the loop on what's going on in their case. ("Like I'm supposed to know, too?") 18. Forget to give opposing counsel (or file in court) important documents/information. ("Hmmm, must be somewhere on my desk or in my office. I think. Maybe.") 19. Tune out what the client is saying s/he wants to accomplish in the case. ("Like clients know anything, right?") 20. I saved the best for last: Have sex with the other lawyer. Or the client. ("Who can resist a screeching adversary or a vulnerable, stressed-out client? Hottest people on the planet.") Think I've given angry clients out there whatever ammunition they need, assuming they even needed any, to continue to dump on the matrimonial bar? Nope. Because responsible, knowledgeable, experienced divorce lawyers don't behave this way.
So many people have such rotten experiences that even cool old case reporters can't salvage our rep. And I have a theory as to one of the principle reasons. This article appeared in Huffington Post Divorce on January 19, 2011.
Copyright Terri L. Weiss. All rights reserved.