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Hiring a Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer: Should your lawyer be emotionally disassociated from you?

Would it be better as a Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer to remain impersonal? Over the years, the vast majority of divorce colleagues that I know who practice in Rhode Island who have shared their thoughts with me generally adhere to the principle that as lawyers we should be... or are even "required" to be . . disassociated . . . to separate our feelings from our clients in order to represent them properly. The idea, as I understand it is to make sure we keep our legal minds sharp and not to allow them to be cluttered with the emotional quandries that often cause clients to want to take action without legal reason or basis but simply because they are driven by anger, fear, jealousy, hurt or revenge.

In this respect I must diverge from my fellow divorce colleagues. The answer for the Rhode Island lawyer as I see it is much more challenging. It would seem to me that the practice of a good Rhode Island lawyer is to empathize with the client, appreciate and understand your emotions as the client, and to temper the corresponding response to those things with skilled reason.

Below are a few questions for you to ponder and decide for yourself. Just as marriage is personal to you so too the answers to these questions affecting your divorce are matters personal to you.

As a Rhode Island Divorce lawyer, I would appreciate it if you would kindly humor me as I dig a little deeper and draw a picture here.

Imagine you are involved in or contemplating your own divorce. Can you see it?

Do you see your divorce as an ending or a new beginning?

Do you see your divorce as merely the Rhode Island law imposing itself on your life?

Is it a mental, emotional and financial drain on your life and your family?

Frankly, divorce can cause all of these things to occur in your life.

Finding the right Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer is not an easy task for anyone who doesn't already know a good divorce lawyer.

Are you searching for a good Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer?

A good approach may be to consider your own situation and your own answers to these questions. Afterall, isn't your divorce all about your life? It certainly isn't about the lawyer's life, right! It's about you and your life!

So what are your answers to these questions and how might they help you?

1. Do you have minor children whose care and support might need to be addressed by the Rhode Island Family Court?

2. Do you have a business that may be subject to division as a marital asset in you divorce proceeding?

3. Is this your first or second marriage?

4. Do you have children from you first marriage? Did you or your current spouse adopt any children during your current marriage?

5. When you consider your own divorce, what are the most important concerns in your mind?

Can a Rhode Island divorce lawyer properly address your mental and emotional needs as a client and a married person if the lawyer has never been married before? Wouldn't it stand to reason that a lawyer who has been married before might better appreciate your feelings and your needs? Or better yet, wouldn't it make sense that a lawyer who is currently married could understand you even better?

Now, if you consider your answers to all of these questions . . . wouldn't you want your divorce lawyer to be sympathetic or experienced regarding YOUR concerns? It makes sense, right!

So let us say you are interviewing a divorce lawyer to represent you. Would it matter to you that your divorce lawyer is not married or has never been married?

Here's my thought on this. As a client, you decide if you agree. Isn't it at least a little bit more likely that a divorce lawyer who has not dealt with marriage in his or her own life more likely to understand you and your concerns as opposed to a divorce lawyer who isn't married? It makes sense that the married lawyer is more likely to be better able to sympathize or empathize with your feelings and emotions about your marriage and therefore your divorce, doesn't it?

If your divorce involves your child or children, should it make any difference to you that when you are interviewing divorce lawyers that the doesn't have any children?

Let's look at this once again from the practical side of hiring a divorce lawyer. Doesn't common sense tell us that if your divorce lawyer had children then he or she could truly appreciate the importance of your children than the lawyer who doesn't have any children?

What makes a good Rhode Island divorce lawyer? Naturally what I have to offer is solely my own opinion on this subject. Certainly part of it is education. Neither I nor any of my colleagues would be practicing lawyers and trying to help you through your divorce if it weren't for a law school degree. However, I think that in reading this article it may be more helpful to provide some direction regarding what you might want to consider when engaging a Rhode Island lawyer as either your "in-court" divorce lawyer or your divorce coach.

Another facet of what makes a good Rhode Island divorce lawyer is experience, but it is not merely experience in the practice of law but also life's experience.

As I mentioned I have my own thoughts on the subject. It makes sense that a married lawyer might better understand a client's difficulties during a divorce. It also makes sense that a lawyer with children might better understand the nature of a client's feelings and issues if there are children involved in a divorce.

Personally I it's my opinion that experience should certainly be a big consideration in your choice of divorce attorney. However, that should be qualified to some extent because experience simply as a lawyer isn't what I'm referring to here. If you are looking for a divorce lawyer to protect your interests then you should be interested in a lawyer's experience in the Rhode Island Family Court arena.

It goes without saying that experience as a personal injury lawyer for twenty or so years really doesn't have anything to do with a lawyer's ability to protect your interests in a Rhode Island divorce proceeding. Therefore, experience representing clients in divorce matters should probably be a focus in your search for a divorce lawyer. If you have a choice between a lawyer who represents ten or so divorce clients in a year as opposed to a lawyer who represents fifty divorce clients a year, then that should give you an inclination as to which lawyer is likely to be more skilled in the area of divorce and probably better suited to protect your legal interests in the divorce.

So what might you look for in the way of experience and how should you get the real answer as to whether the lawyer is experienced in divorce or not? You'd think this would be a particularly difficult question to answer but I don't believe it needs to be so complicated. It certainly isn't about listings in the Yellow Pages. That is merely about having the money to pay for the advertisement and selecting "divorce" as the category where the lawyer wants the advertisement posted. The same is true for the Yellow Book and for just about every other advertising medium out there, including sponsored advertising that you see on MSN, Yahoo and Google or where you see "ads by Google", etc..

Do you really want to know if a lawyer is experienced in the Rhode Island Family Courts in the area of divorce? Here's a suggestion. Call the Clerk's office of the Family Court for the two counties that are closest to the lawyer's primary location. When you call, ask the person who answers the phone "Do you know Lawyer X?" Thank the person and say, "by the way how long have you been working in the clerk's office?" If they do not hesitate and they know the person and they have been in the clerk's office for several years, then you have a good indicator of the lawyer's experience in the family court. In otherwords, an experienced divorce lawyer will usually be known by the people in the clerk's office who have been there for a while. If the person who answers the telephone does not know the lawyer, then ask the person if he or she would be so kind as to ask a co-worker or two around them if they have heard of Lawyer X. If you make a couple such calls then you will have a reasonable indicator as to how much time Lawyer X spends for clients at the Rhode Island Family Courts.

Some people have suggested to me that a Rhode Island divorce lawyer's hourly billable rate, the better he or she is as a divorce lawyer and the more experienced the lawyer must be. This is a theory you may want to weigh with a grain of salt. While it may seem to make sense that only a "good" and "experienced" Rhode Island Divorce lawyer would have the audacity to tell you without batting an eye that his or her hourly rate is $300 per hour. This is far from the truth.

Personally, I know several Rhode Island Divorce lawyers who charge an hourly rate of $300 to $350 per hour, yet when push comes to shove I know several other attorneys who charge $200 per hour whose skills are substantially greater than the higher priced lawyers. Additionally, I know some lawyers who charge $200 per hour and have been practicing for several decades but I wouldn't hire them, nor would I recommend them because they are poorly skilled and/or simply don't care about their clients. Once the check is in the door from the client it would seem that they act as though they have done their job, to obtain an income.

Another faulty proposition I have heard is that you can tell if a lawyer is good at what he or she does by his or her lifestyle. This proposition suggests that it is important to look at the car he or she drives, how fancy their office is, how many support staff they have, how many diplomas and awards they have on their office walls, etc... This proposition to put not too fine a point on it simply borders on the absurd. All these things really tell you is that somehow the lawyer you are considering has done well financially prior to the moment you walked in the door.

Think about these questions. Did the lawyer inherit from a rich relative? Did the lawyer marry a rich spouse? Did the lawyer win the lottery? Is the lawyer a great divorce lawyer? Is the lawyer great at bilking clients out of their hard earned money?

Looking at the divorce lawyer's lifestyle tells you absolutely nothing whatsoever about the lawyer's skill or experience.

This article started with the idea that perhaps an divorce lawyer should disassociate from the client and his or her feelings. Essentially it has been proposed by several of my colleagues that you should not allow your personal feelings (i.e. your caring) to come into play at all. You should see each situation and simply address it with whatever procedural steps are appropriate.

In my mind it makes all the sense in the world that a person will do more for to protect and fight for someone they care about. Not only does this make sense but it is no less true for divorce lawyers. If so, then why should we as Rhode Island Divorce lawyers disassociate our caring for the client. Apply this maxim to the divorce lawyer and what do you get? A divorce lawyer will do more to protect and fight for a client he or she cares about! It's beyond logical, it's common sense! This is tantamount to a passage I read long ago from a historical text that contained a statement as follows:

"If I were a betting man, I would bet all I have on a single farmer defending his home and his family against an entire battalion of Redcoats."

It makes perfect sense that eliminating "caring" by disassociating from the client seemingly removes a substantial and powerful edge that a client should be entitled to from the lawyer when paying a reasonably substantial fee.

Lastly, it certainly makes sense that a divorce lawyer who has been through a divorce himself or herself is likely to be a substantial benefit. I admit this is a bold I am making here. However, I must admit that as a Rhode Island Lawyer who has limited my law practice exclusively to Rhode Island Divorce and Post Divorce Issues it has been perhaps the greatest benefit to my practice in Rhode Island divorce law that I went through my own divorce before I became an attorney in the State of Rhode Island. That experience alone has given me a perspective that I would not otherwise have and which has enabled me to connect with my clients in ways that I do not believe that other lawyers are capable of doing effectively. It has been one of the most challenging trials in my life that has created a positive effect on my practice and my ability to relate to and help my clients.

Since this article has turned into more of an exercise addressing ideas surrounding various aspects relating to the hiring or an experienced Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer it may be appropriate in closing that I summarize the suggested conclusions of this article.

When seeking to engage a Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer it is probably best to consider hiring a divorce lawyer that

1. Is married;

2. Has children, if you have Minor Children;

3. Has personally gone through their own Rhode Island divorce, if possible.

4. Has Rhode Island Divorce experience such that he or she regularly represents clients in the Rhode Island Family Court and may be known to people at the Rhode Island Family Court;

5. Charges a reasonable fee for his or her services based upon his or her divorce practice experience;

6. Exhibits caring for his or her clients in their divorce proceedings (i.e. does not disassociate from his or her clients);

7. Is not based simply upon paid advertising medium; and

8. Is not based on a lawyer's success merely by the appearance of the lawyer's lifestyle (i.e. car, suit, office space, support staff, house, etc.)

Let me be very clear that this article is meant to help you find a good lawyer and determine whether or not you think your divorce lawyer should be "disassociated" or not.  I have my opinions, my thoughts and my theories. I have presented them to you based upon what I have heard from others and I have tried to show you the logic or lack of common sense behind each. The idea in any event is NOT in any sense to judge my fellow lawyers. Even I must admit that no matter what set of criteria you put together to identify a good Rhode Island Divorce lawyer, there will be exceptions.

I'm not perfect. I'm not the right Rhode Island Divorce lawyer or coach for everyone. I don't charge you $350 per hour. I don't drive a BMW, my 1998 Chevy Cavalier gets me where I want to go faithfully and looks reputable. You won't find me wearing expensive suits because I don't want my clients paying for such extravagances. You'll find me in a respectable suit coat, dress pants, dress shirt and tie. You won't find a fancy office with plaques and degrees lining the walls because my Rhode Island divorce practice isn't about me and what I've achieved . . . it's about YOU and YOUR LIFE! Lastly you won't find me paying support staff unless its absolutely needed for your case because I don't want you to pay for someone who is a convenience for me more than you.

What you will find is an honest, caring man who has personally been through a divorce with children, assets and debts who is now happily married and has wonderful grandchildren. You will find me equipped with today's technology to do everything I need to do for you as economically and professionally as possible to save you money.

Most of all, You will find me caring about your case and charging rates that some colleagues and judges have found absurdly low for my experience. And . . . should you ever want to know I will be happy to explain to you why the last decade of my life has been dedicated exclusively to practicing Rhode Island Divorce and Post-Divorce issues in the Rhode Island Family Courts throughout our state.

The economics aren't complicated. If there is less overhead in my law practice and, I maintain a lower personal standard of living, then I can pass on the savings to you and do more for you. Ultimately I have a different philosophy than many lawyers. My law practice is not about divorce, nor is it about how much money I make from you. My practice is about how many good people like you that I can guide successfully to a better tomorrow.

I invite you to consider what I have to offer. You just may be pleasantly surprised .... if not shocked.

My best to everyone going through a divorce or post-divorce family law situation in Rhode Island or contemplating it. Whether you call me or not, I know how hard it can be.

Remember . . .  I've already been there!

Authored By:

Christopher A. Pearsall, Attorney-at-Law

(C) Copyright 2010 (All Rights Reserved.)

Rhode Island's Full-Time Divorce* Lawyer is Now Rhode Island's Only Divorce and Family Law Coach!!

*The RI Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law and has no programs for recognition of specialization of lawyers in any area of law. Please note: This is not legal advice but is a public service to those in need.  

Disclaimer:  Information provided on this website is in no way a substitute for legal advice provided by a competent Rhode Island Divorce and Family Law Practitioner who has had the opportunity to meet with you and question you regarding ALL aspects of your case.  Contact with Christopher A. Pearsall, Esquire through this website does not establish an attorney/client relationship.