How to Avoid the 12 Most Common Mistakes When Hiring a Lawyer

I don’t like to see people being taken advantage of, nor do I want to see them suffer because they chose the wrong lawyer. Perhaps these are the two reasons I became a lawyer to help people in such situations. Clients who were left without representation for years have been my experience. There were complaints that lawyers would not inform clients about the status of their cases but would bill clients if the client called. There have been complaints that lawyers took money from clients and didn’t clearly explain the expectations.

It is also a pain to clean up after a lawyer has done it. It’s much easier to help a client avoid potential problems and to fix damage caused by choosing the wrong lawyer. I have witnessed poorly written prenuptial and separation agreements. I was called upon to help with a failed annulment. I was called upon to help with a failed divorce.

I am reminded of a woman’s story of woe. We call her story “The Tale of the Nine Year Divorce” in the office. An attorney was hired to represent her in a Virginia divorce case and counter-sue her for divorcing. The attorney was paid a substantial retainer as she was out of state. There was no written agreement. She chose a lawyer who seemed afraid of the opposing counsel, and she did not do anything to help the case move forward. The lawyer actually allowed the case be dropped from the court docket because she was inactive.

This basis does not allow for the dismissal of cases without notice to the counsel. The lawyer did nothing to notify his client about the possibility of dismissal. The court did not notify her of the potential dismissal. It was only then that she learned what had actually happened. Client was involved in an auto accident that left her hospitalized. She also had multiple surgeries. She trusted her lawyer to protect her interests. However, she didn’t understand or know what was happening and she wasn’t informed by the court that the case was dismissed.

The lawyer was able to reinstate the case after the client reached out. The lawyer was able to represent the client’s interests only after the opposing attorney withdrew. The lawyer let the husband of the woman run away with most of the marital assets, and he was not subject to the court’s jurisdiction. Although the lawyer obtained an order for spousal maintenance, he did not do anything to enforce or collect the order against the defendant.

The lawyer actually allowed arrears totaling tens of thousand of dollars to accumulate. The lawyer requested and received a $10,000 court award from the husband for attorney’s fees. The lawyer saw that the husband had spent the money, and that the attorney fee award was not easily collectible, and began to ask for money from his client. She was disabled and had not received any support award. The lawyer refused to pay her and withdrew her case from the final hearing. Needless to mention, all this left her with a bad taste for lawyers.

The woman found out about me through a friend and decided to seek my help despite her previous bad experiences. We were able finish the divorce and property division that had been initiated 9-10 years ago. Then we started enforcement of the support award by attaching her social security and retirement income.

Our efforts helped to collect the funds and a stream of income began to flow to our client. We were able to defend the woman against her husband’s attempt to stop her support payments and to recover some of her personal property that had been given to her by the court. The lawyer, who demanded more than $10,000 and hadn’t credited the retainer that the woman had paid at the start of the representation, sued the woman.

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