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How Do People Select Rhode Island Divorce Attorneys to Interview?

Let's face it.  Lawyers in general are officers of the court.  We're supposed to be servants of the public.  Yet at the same same we're independent practitioners and we have a job to do for our client that makes money or we don't survive.

It's no wonder Rhode Island lawyers are viewed with skepticism and even synicism, especially when it's time to hire one and you're not sure who to hire or what to do.  Here you are, you have a legal issue that needs to be addressed and you take the time to try to identify an attorney who will meet your needs.

It's easy for questions to surface as to whether the attorney you're interviewing is looking out for your best interests, or simply looking out for his or her own interests and making some money to put food on his or her own table.

It is, in fact, appropriate for you to question the attorney's motives.  The best time to do that is at the time you interview the attorney.

You should know that when you set up an appointment to see an attorney, YOU are interviewing the attorney just as much as the attorney is interviewing YOU. 

So how do people generally go about choosing an attorney? 

1)  A referral from a friend or family member.   This is a good source of referrals for the attorney, but is the attorney right for YOU?  What did the attorney do for that friend or family member who made the referral?  Did the attorney settle a personal injury case?  That's not going to do you much good if you need someone for a family law matter.  If your referral isn't to an attorney that regularly practices in the area of law you need and it isn't from a person who used those same type of family law services  then the referral is "empty", in otherwords a referral should be better than just hunting around in the yellow pages.  It should provide some valuable reassurance that the attorney you've been referred to, can and has already provided valuable an competent services to the person who is making the referral to you, and that those services are in the area of law that you need help with.  Without that criteria, the referral is "Empty".

2)  An advertisement in the yellow pages.  This is of course an even less effective way to select a suitable lawyer to interview than the referral from a friend or family member who did not use the attorney for the same type of legal services that you are in need of.  When you just select attorneys out of the yellow pages you will most likely do like everyone else does.  You select the attorney based on the advertisement itself, particularly its size and its wording.  Unfortunately neither of these are indicators that the attorney is competent or will serve you well in the area of law you are in need of.  Imagine that you are in need of a divorce attorney and you select the attorney's advertisement that is the largest and includes the words "Estates", "Personal Injury Cases", and Divorces, etc... with 15 years in practice".

First, that advertisement probably cost quite a bit since even small advertisements in the yellow pages run $3,000 to $5,000 a year.  From there you can take a guess who has to pay for just that single marketing ad.  That's right...that attorney's clients.  You can almost certainly plan to pay more for an attorney with a decent sized yellow page ad.  Conversely, that attorney might be worth it if you select just the right one.

Second, the "15 years in practice" tells you one of two things.  Either that you are going to pay more for those years of experience or that he has been doing "something" law-related for 15 years.  I know attorneys who have been in practice for 20 years and have handled perhaps 10 divorces in that amount of time.  By the same token the advertisement above wouldn't seem as impressive if you knew that the attorney only handled 4 divorces within his 15 years of practice.  That might not want to be the attorney you want to represent you if you need a Rhode Island Divorce attorney and complex divorce issues regarding pensions, alimony and tax consequences on the sale of a home come into play.

3.  Search for the kind of Rhode Island lawyer you want on the internet.  This is becoming more and more the method of searching for attorneys in the technoliterate sector of society.  Those who choose this method of searching can go to Google.com or another search site of their choice and type in the various terms they want to search on.  Searchers can also vary their search terms if the results  do not suit them.

 
The main benefit to searching the internet to find Rhode Island attorneys to interview is the third party nature of the ranking system.  In a search system such as Google.com, the primary listings are ranked by criteria that are not controlled by attorney.  It is Google's system that analyzes the attorney's websites and/or pages and determines from there whether the attorney's website matches the criteria you are looking for.  In this way you are getting an unbiased selection of attorney websites to review.

Secondarily, if you are searching on the internet for an attorney, you will know if the attorney has a website or not.  This will at least give you some indication that the attorney has kept up with technology.  If he or she has done so then if it is important to be able to communicate with your attorney by email this may be a factor in your decision to interview that particular attorney.  The information on the website of the attorney is also likely to be the most focused regarding what his or her primary practice areas.  In some instances the attorney's website will provide the most valuable information about the attorney in order to decide which attorneys to interview.

Suggested Search Engines to Use are:

Google.com
MSN.com
Yahoo.com

Copyright 2000 to Present Christopher A. Pearsall, Esq (All Rights Reserved.)

 


Rhode Island Divorce Tip: Check with Your Attorney!

For those who haven't been in a Rhode Island Divorce before or who have ignored the single sheet of paper in the Complaint and Service packet called the "Automatic Orders" it's a pretty good idea to check with your attorney before you take any major actions or make any major moves in your divorce.

Though the Automatic Orders of the Court are fairly narrow in scope, it is certainly possible to violate them unknowingly.

For instance you might have a car that is up for sale at the time the constable has your papers to serve your spouse with.  You sell the car and spend the money before your spouse is served. 

Congratulations, you have just violated the Automatic Orders of the Court.  It may be a minor thing conceptually but depending upon the value of the car, the court might see it as a big thing because as the filing party you were bound not to sell any assets at the time you signed your Divorce Complaint.

Rule of Thumb!  Before you do anything in a divorce proceeding make sure you are familiar with the Automatic Orders and keep in mind their underlying purpose. . . to preserve the status quo.

It's never a good idea to start off your divorce on the wrong foot by violating the court's Automatic Orders.

All My Best to You on Your Journey Through The RI Family Court,
Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall a.k.a. "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach"™

Rhode Island Mediation: What it is NOT!

More and more prospective divorce clients are being approached about mediation in Rhode Island.  Previously I wrote an article about Divorce Mediation and what it is.

Not too long ago this scenario came to my attention.  It illustrates what cannot and/or should not be done and how any trust that remains between you and your spouse can backfire on you if you're not careful.

Brady has fallen out of love with his wife.  He strikes up a relationship with another woman and moves out of the marital home and in with this other woman. 

Brady doesn't file for divorce right away and tells his wife that maybe they can work things out.  His wife, Gail, has a good head on her shoulders and she isn't convinced.

Brady and Gail talk about dividing up their assets and debts briefly.  Then Brady suggests that they go to mediation to resolve the division of their marital estate and Gail can file for divorce after the holidays to make it easier on their daughter who just turned eighteen (18).

Brady says he'll pay for the mediation and even for the divorce filing.  This sounds agreeable to Gail though she has a bad feeling about it.

Brady sets up a mediation a few days later but doesn't consult Gail and doesn't tell her who the mediator is.

Luckily, Gail consults an attorney to understand the concept of mediation.  She gets solid information during her consultation and is given specific questions to ask Brady to make sure things are on the up and up.

It's a Tuesday and Brady had scheduled the mediation for Wednesday evening.  Gail calls Brady after work.  The dialogue went something like this.

Gail:  Brady, I already know you have an attorney so could you please tell me who it is?

Brady:  Why?

Gail:  Brady, what do you have to hide?  I'm going to know who it is as soon as we start the divorce anyway.

Brady:  I don't have anything to hide.  My attorney is Terrance E. Parkins.

Gail:  Okay.  It just makes me feel more at ease, that's all.  And we have mediation tomorrow night at 173 East Park Place in Cranston, right?

Brady:  Right!

[Brady gets distracted so Gail looks up the address for Attorney Parkins on her iPad.  Attorney Parkins has his practice at 173 East Park Place in Cranston, RI]

Gail:  And what time was that?

Brady:  Um 7:00 p.m.

Gail:  But Gary that can't be right.

Brady:  What can't be right?

Gail:  Your attorney can't be the mediator.

Brady:  I didn't say he was but why do you have a problem with it.

Gail:  Because an attorney is prohibited from representing one parties' interests and still acting as a mediator.

Brady:  Where did you hear that?

Gail:  I consulted a lawyer about my rights.

Brady:  Well are you still willing to go to the mediation.

Gail:  I'll go and I'll listen to what you and your lawyer have to say but I'm not signing anything.

Brady:  Okay, fine.

The next day Gail is served with divorce papers from Attorney Parkins at her work.

Since Gail didn't fall for Brady's attempt at a one-sided mediation Brady just went ahead and had his lawyer file for divorce.

Thanks to her consultation with the lawyer Gail got enough advice to be informed and prevent what might have been a disasterous situation.

Gail is now informed that the mediator is always a separate attorney that doesn't represent either parties' interests yet helps the parties reach a settlement resolution that both parties believe is fair to each of them.

All My Best to You on Your Journey Through The RI Family Court,
Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall - "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach"™

 


Rhode Island Divorce: Free Consultations . . . you get what you pay for!

There are a few things people should know about consultations.

Sadly, they don't apply just to Rhode Island divorce consultations. . . . rather it would seem that it is a trend that it applies to most free consultations involving any area of law.  So what is it?  It's the lack of good, solid legal advice.

Certainly this blog article sounds cynical.  Here I am a divorce lawyer and of course I have my own opinion on things and I'm certain their are exceptions to my way of thinking and what I have witnessed . .  . in fact, I am one of those exceptions.  Yet I see very few attorneys who are quite like me.

You've heard the saying..."you get what you pay for", right?!  Well, assuming for a moment that in a Rhode Island Divorce matter or any Rhode Island legal case for that matter that you have a "free" consultation that is given by a  Rhode Island lawyer, what kind of advice do you think you are going to get from the attorney that is not getting paid for giving you valuable advice in the profession that is intended to put money on the table for him and his family and pay the bills.  You can draw your own conclusions here.  My answer is the simple one... you get what you pay for... you pay nothing  . . . you get nothing.

Another consideration is how much time the Rhode Island Divorce lawyer is giving you during this "free consultation".  Is he or she willing to answer all your questions?  Does the attorney provide you with clear cut answers to the questions he or she will answer or do they muddy the waters and say that there are too many "variables" to give you a definitive answer without explaining what those legal variables even are?

Most people get a referral from a friend, family member, the internet or the yellow pages to find a divorce lawyer.  Hey, you have to start somewhere, right?  And there's nothing wrong with that.  The second part of the process is usually to ask if the Rhode Island Divorce lawyer provides free consultations (at least in my experience my client's and prospective clients stated that they asked this during their search).

The bottom line is not only common sensel but it is a practical answer.  Attorneys give legal advice and representation to clients for their living.  That is what puts the food on the table, pays for the car payment, keeps the kids in ballet and martial arts and pays the house mortgage.  Now consider that if an attorney gives you legal advice that you rely upon and the attorney is wrong...the attorney has liability and it's entirely possible that they could have a malpractice lawsuit coming their way.

Now think about that.  You are coming in the Divorce Attorney's office for a free consultation.  The attorney is going to get NOTHING from this consultation and you will be taking up his or her time which is used to pay his or her mortgage, car, etc..    AND....if the attorney actually does give you solid legal advice about your legal rights and happen to make a mistake when you rely on it, they have the joy of knowing that you can sue them for legal malpractice.

So what does this tell you about the attorney who offers free consultations if he or she is REALLY going to give you usable information?  It tells you that you have one extraordinary attorney there. 

Why?  Because this attorney is going to take time with you for NO MONEY.  During that time this attorney is going to give you valuable legal advice that should cost you $200 an hour.  Then when you leave that attorney has to be certain that he or she was right otherwise the attorney could end up on the receiving end of a lawsuit for legal malpractice.  And what did the attorney receive for that pleasure?  NOTHING!  No compensation!  No guaranteed client!

So what is the moral of this article?  Shop around. It is a very bad idea to cast attorneys aside who charge a fee for a consultation.  If they are going to charge you a fee don't you think that the attorney expects to give you valuable information you can bank on?  Absolutely!


Authored by:

Christopher A. Pearsall, Esquire
PEARSALL LAW ASSOCIATES
571 Pontiac Avenue
Cranston, RI  02910
Phone:  (401) 354-2369

NOTE:  The postings on this website are NOT legal advice, DO NOT create an attorney/client relationship and are NOT a substitute for a detailed consultation with an attorney experienced in the state where you have your legal issue.  This site is presented for the convenience of the internet public.

* The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law and has no procedure for recognition of specialty in any area of law.


Rhode Island Divorce Lawyers - Why the Good Hearted are Scarce!

Picture of Attorney Christopher Pearsall
Atty Chris Pearsall

Authored By:  Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a.  The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠

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It wasn't until yesterday that I realized why good-hearted Rhode Island Divorce Lawyers like myself are scarce. 

First, let me clear up what I mean by "good-hearted".  When I say that I am referring to a Rhode Island Divorce lawyer that is good-hearted I am thinking of one who cares about the person and not just their case. 

A "good-hearted" attorney cares about your family, your case, your financial situation, both your legal and non-legal issues, and your mental and physical health.

Good-hearted lawyers are willing to work with you on their fees and payment plans.  These lawyers are patient to some extent when you make excessive calls and he or she understands when you may be a bit more emotional and a bit less reasonable.  This type of attorney doesn't bill for every single minute of every call when you call to vent, complain about your spouse, or even about the attorney's own performance.

So why aren't there Rhode Island Divorce lawyers like that all over the place?  Why is it so scarce to find one who really cares about and may even be willing to compromise their own time, their fees, etc... because they care about you as both a client and a person?

I discovered the answer in the mail sometime ago. 

First, a little background is appropriate.

I undertook a client for a substantially reduced fee.  The work involved was substantially more than anticipated, especially at the beginning of the case as my client got into some difficulty as emotions ran high in the divorce.

By the time the client received the first invoice I was owed me another $1,500 in addition to what I had been given, even after I reduced my rate by almost 50%.  That will give you an idea of the amount of time that was required.

The client was understandably upset as a person helping to support two children and seeing a bill for monies that weren't readily available.  I felt horrible.  I know how hard it is to struggle for money.  I know how hard it can be with two children.  I know money can be tight.  I was moved by the client's situation and so I made the choice to compromise for the betterment of the client, for the children, and since I didn't want to hurt a good family I made the client an offer.

As a good-hearted Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer, I told the client that if the $1,500 was paid immediately I would consider it a flat fee and not charge the client a single dime thereafter for my services no matter how long the case lasted.   The client was agreeable to that.

Later the client called and was coming in with the $1,500.  As the client spoke with me, my heart strings were tugged as the client asked me to reduce it to $1,300 and please wait for the other $200.  I verbally agreed.  By the end of the conversation the client had reduced the amount being offered for me to continue my services to approximately $1,050 with a promise to pay the remaining $400+ as soon as possible thereafter but no later than the entry of the Final Judgment of Divorce.

Good-hearted, I overextended myself and I agreed.  Remember, that at this time I had already performed that work for 1/2 my rate and it was already due me for my services.  Now I was waiting for $400+ and trying to finish the case for her and get a good result.

A year later, the divorce was put through after preparing for trial on four (4) separate dates that were spread apart.  Dozens of hours were spent.  During that time I didn't see a penny.  During that time I followed-up on the client's calls and issued subpoenas at my expense for the client's case.

Finally, the Final Judgment did not enter because the Marital Settlement Agreement which was to be formalized in to a document and presented to the court was not agreed upon with opposing counsel.  Disputes arose regarding the terms of the agreement, who was responsible for what, and which person was in contempt of an Order which was now only on the record of the court and not in a court Order.

On more than eight hearing dates after I had made the agreement with the client, I hoped I would receive the last $400 that was done a year prior.  Nothing came.  On about ten (10) occasions the client told me that the agreement we had made was not fair and the client promised to compensate me for me all my time after the house was sold.  The client continuously repeated that I would be paid the 50% reduced agreed upon rate when the client received compensation from the proceeds of the sale of the parties' house.  I told the client that I was very happy to hear that and I would continue representation.

Without getting into detail I developed a medical issue during the case.  Though I was determined not to let it affect my practice, the possible medical consequences were such that it was apparent that ignoring this "sign" (for lack of a better term) could cause me some severe medical issues beyond what was already occurring.

I made the mistake of mentioning this to the client, believing that the client would respect that I was providing the information to her by way of information and explanation for not getting back to her as quickly as I normally would.  By this point in time had the client paid me per our agreement her bill would have been over $6,000.  Yet I had been waiting for a mere $400 in what ended up being a bad business decision though also a caring one for the client's situation.

Finally, a disagreement arose between myself and my client.  The client was being rather unreasonable under the circumstances.  The client's expectations were well out of line with what the client could reasonably expect a court to order under the circumstances or a lawyer to do to try to achieve.  They were also out of line with what any attorney should be expected to do with a year of work without compensation and another $400+ still owed from a year prior for what amounted to something merely vindictive against the spouse.

Of course lawyers are only people. I tried to discuss it reasonably with the client.  The client's unreasonableness at this juncture caused prevented me from objectively and zealously advocating for the client's interests.  

I determined that I had to withdraw from the case since I was no longer willing to act as the client directed.  Though there were many issues and other incidents that lead to the disagreement with the client, it was this last triggering event by the client's demands that caused a rift that prevented me from representing the client as was required by my ethical code of conduct.  I filed a Motion to Withdraw as well as a Motion for a Lien on the House Sale Proceeds to obtain the remainder of what I was owed.

One day the mail came.  The client filed a Rhode Island Disciplinary Complaint against me.  Essentially it is the client's position that (1) I did nothing for her, (2) that she paid me for my services in full, and (3) that I am a liar.  Lastly, she disclosed that my problem with her and my withdrawal was unethical.

Why aren't their more good-hearted Rhode Island Divorce attorneys out there?  This could be is precisely why!  The amount of work I did for this client was tremendous.  The amount I charged this client was ridiculously low. Some of it was my own family time.  

In the end, what was the reward for my efforts, for my good-heartedness, and for the substantial hours of work I performed without being paid?   It was a Disciplinary Complaint.  Wow!  So I was forced to defend my reputation and spend additional time responding to her claims that I am a liar and clear indication that the client does not even want to pay me the remaining $400+ that I was owed over a year ago. 

In the end, I received an informal reprimand for cutting over 66% OFF this woman's actual bill to try to help her during a tough financial time.  Can you imagine receiving a reprimand for trying to help someone?  In the end I received nothing for all the extra time and costs of my services.

So ask yourself, how much does a good hearted lawyer have to go through before the good heartedness is drained.  It's an interesting question.  

It's a question I will certainly ponder because I know there are still good people out there. I also know there are those out there who are takers and who are "entitlement" minded.  I don't make a fortune and though I'd like to, I refuse to do so at the expense of good people who are going through the turmoil of a divorce. 

My sympathies go out to those clients who need an attorney who is good-hearted but they can't find one because of people like my former client have destroyed most of a lawyer's faith in human-kind.

Could this be why they are scarce?  Possibly.  This is only one of many stories I could tell.  I know of many other attorneys who are no longer good hearted due to similar situations.