expert online series


Attorney Robin West
On Finding the Right Divorce Lawyer


Current Time: Sat Oct 25 19:31:45 EDT 1997

MsgId: jcafe(1)
Date: Tue Oct 21 04:35:12 EDT 1997
From:
At: 168.100.204.58

Please join Divorce Central here at noon EST for a chat with attorney Robin West on finding the correct divorce attorney.
MsgId: jcafe(2)
Date: Tue Oct 21 10:17:42 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central
At: 168.100.204.58

Hi Robin, are you there?
MsgId: jcafe(3)
Date: Tue Oct 21 10:18:35 EDT 1997
From: Robin_Page_West
At: 152.181.152.43

I'm here, Pam.
MsgId: jcafe(4)
Date: Tue Oct 21 10:25:21 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central
At: 168.100.204.58

Robin Page West, J.D. went through four lawyers during her long and
painful divorce and custody battle for her two young children. West
maintains a complex civil litigation law practice that concentrates on
product liability, negligence, and government fraud whistle-blower
cases.

This book will help anyone find the lawyer they need to protect their
interests. In addition to helping you hire the right attorney or fire
the wrong one, West helps you avoid common mistakes and communicate
better with your lawyer. An abundance of appendixes and a legal terms
glossary takes some of the anxiety out of the process. It includes:
sample letters, phone logs, fee agreements, sammple interrogatories,
questions to ask lawyers, lists of resources, and more.

Stay tuned for Robin West at 12 noon EST today.


MsgId: jcafe(5)
Date: Tue Oct 21 11:58:19 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to Divorce Central's Expert Online show. Today, we welcome Robin Page West, J.D., author of "How to Find the Right Divorce Lawyer." Robin is an attorney, but her practice is in civil law. So, like the rest of us, Robin faced the divorce court unprepared for what was to happen to her and her family. She learned some important lessons about the court system and matrimonial attorneys, which she is kind enough to share with us today. At 12:30 you can ask Robin questions, but please hold your questions until then.
Robin, welcome to Expert Online. Could you briefly tell us about your experience with the matrimonial court?
MsgId: jcafe(6)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:02:54 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

Hi, Terry, ready to start.
MsgId: jcafe(7)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:04:31 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

I'm happy to be here and share what I've learned with everyone. Briefly, my experience was that the results you get by going to court do not necessarily correlate to what will happen or to what the truth is...
MsgId: jcafe(8)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:04:32 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Robin, could you briefly tell us about your experience with matrimonial court?
MsgId: jcafe(9)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:06:22 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

In my case, I went through a first trial where the master recommended that custody of both children be awarded to me. That trial lasted about three days. My former husband was not happy with that result, so he took it to a higher level, where a trial judge split the children between the two parents. This judge made the decision to do that without ever even seeing me, my former husband, or our two children, or without listening to any testimony whatsoever...
MsgId: jcafe(10)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:08:07 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

The bottom line was that this judges decision allowed the children to see each other only two week-ends a month, and allowed me to see my son only two weekends a month. And it allowed my daughter to see her father only two weekends a months. You can see from this result that is wasn't reached because the judge thought one parent was a better parent. What wound up happening with two good parents was this bizarre result where the children hardly got to see each other.
MsgId: jcafe(11)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:08:32 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

BTW, I eventually appealed that decision and got it reversed.
MsgId: jcafe(12)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:08:36 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

What conclusions did you draw about the reliability of litigating a divorce case?
MsgId: jcafe(13)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:09:40 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

That there is no reliability. If you allow yourself to be drawn into litigation, you are putting yourself in a precarious spot, no matter how good you think your case is.
MsgId: jcafe(14)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:10:50 EDT 1997
From:
At: 152.163.206.88

Robin, How did the children feel about this split?
MsgId: jcafe(15)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:11:54 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

The children were so young at that point --my daughter was just a few months old-- that this was not the issue.
MsgId: jcafe(16)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:12:02 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Your book, "How to Find the Right Divorce Lawyer" emphasizes the need for a good lawyer, even though the lawyer may be a little expensive. Why is this so important?
MsgId: jcafe(17)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:13:46 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

It's important because your lawyer must focus the judge on the facts that you want the judge to focus on. A bad lawyer will not take control of the case and make it go in the right direction. Lawyers can spend a lot of time working and not accomplish a lot of good for their clients. You need a lawyer who knows how to get from point A to point B successfully, without getting distracted by the judge or the lawyer on the other side.
MsgId: jcafe(18)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:14:50 EDT 1997
From:
At: 152.163.195.242

my problem is not finding the RIGHT attorney but just FINDING
an attorney. i have no money and no car. the budget can't be
stretched any more.
MsgId: jcafe(19)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:15:22 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

What qualities should be we look for when interviewing a divorce lawyer?
MsgId: jcafe(20)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:15:38 EDT 1997
From:
At: 152.163.206.88

Robin, how do you know that this is the kind of lawyer you have?
Delores
MsgId: jcafe(21)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:16:28 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

Some law schools and bar associations have pro bono clinics where they provide free legal services. Call the local bar association in your state or city, or any law schools, to see if you can find such a program.
MsgId: jcafe(22)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:17:05 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Hi Delores, and welcome. Robin will answer your question at 12:30. Thanks for coming.
MsgId: jcafe(23)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:18:44 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Are there certain cues that we should see when interviewing a divorce lawyer? How can we know beforehand if he or she is will be the best for us?
MsgId: jcafe(24)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:19:44 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

Most of my book focuses on answering your question: How do you know you have a good lawyer, and how do you find one. There are many questions you can ask lawyers. For example, you should ask the lawyer how long he or she has been doing domestics relations work. You would want someone who has been doing it for at least five years. You want to know how much time the lawyer spends in court. If the lawyer is in court all the time, you will never reach her on the phone. If the lawyer never goes to court, he may be too scared to take yours to court...
MsgId: jcafe(25)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:21:47 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

What are the warning signs that a lawyer isn't doing a good job?
MsgId: jcafe(26)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:21:52 EDT 1997
From:
At: 152.163.206.88

How do you get to know this from your attorney?
Delores
MsgId: jcafe(27)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:23:49 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

You want to ask how other local divorce lawyers perceive the lawyer you wish to select. Look for the answer: I'm a mean SOB; we all get along great; I don't know any of them and I don't care. What the lawyer says gives insight into their personality. Do you want someone who fits into the club, or someone who does not? The right choice varies depending upon your case and your ex's lawyer. In my opinion, it is always better to get the aggressive lawyer. It is a common misconception to get the conciliatory lawyer for the conciliatory result. The conciliatory lawyer cannot always be aggressive when needed, but the aggressive lawyer can be conciliatory when called for. This is my opinion after having been to five different divorce lawyers.
MsgId: jcafe(28)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:25:29 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

What if I'm not happy with my divorce attorney. Is it worth starting with someone new?
MsgId: jcafe(29)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:25:53 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

To Delores: Just ask your lawyer in a straightforward way. There isn't just a single question, but a long list. You must observe the lawyer carefully. Is the lawyer strong enough, compassionate enough? Go and ask more lawyers the same questions. Let it percolate inside you until you know what you need and can live with. It's like searching for a relationship or a car.
MsgId: jcafe(30)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:28:04 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

The warning signs of a lawyer not doing a good job: He or she is not following the plan of action set forth at the beginning. The lawyer is not communicating with you, not answering your phone calls, not providing satisfactory answers to your questions, lying to you, falsely billing, not accounting for monies you have advanced, being intimidated either by the judge or the other lawyer, being unprepared for hearing or meetings, or giving up your rights without asking you.
MsgId: jcafe(31)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:29:39 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178



What if I'm not happy with my divorce attorney. Is it worth starting with someone new?
MsgId: jcafe(32)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:30:27 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

Should you change lawyers midstream? This is an expensive proposition. What you need to do is look at what it is you are not happy with. If it is something like false billings, terminate the lawyer immediately. If it is something like the lawyer not returning your calls, see if you can resolve it. Can the secretary give you an appointment for your call. If the lawyer does not see that you have a problem, you probably should switch. You need to have someone you can trust and rely on, who will be your advocate. If you do not have that, perhaps you should switch.
MsgId: jcafe(33)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:32:27 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

How should a person work with their lawyer? Many meetings, phone calls, etc., or just call when really important issues arise?
MsgId: jcafe(34)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:35:08 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

You need to take your cue from your specific lawyer on that one. Each lawyer will have his or her own way of gather information and communicating. But I firmly believe that everything your lawyer tells you should be in a letter, so that you can go back and read it as many times as you need to. If the lawyer wants you to come in a meet, you need to do that. If the lawyer prefers letters and faxes, you should work that way. However, insist that all information the lawyer gives you be put in writing. This is especially important if, at a future date, you want to switch lawyers. Documentation will enable the new lawyer to get up to speed quickly.
MsgId: jcafe(35)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:39:08 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

That's good advice, Robin. Now, sometimes, I know, it feels like your divorce lawyer is the only one on your side, the only one who really understands. Should we call our lawyers whenever an incident occurs with our spouses, or if we're just angry or frustrated by the whole situation?
MsgId: jcafe(36)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:42:25 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

The answer is no. You should not use your lawyer as a therapist. One reason is that it will cost you a lot of money. Another is that your lawyer is not trained to help you deal with overwhelming emotion. In addition, you don't want to get a reputation with your lawyer as a pest. Then your lawyer will dread working on your case. You do not want to overburden your lawyer with negative emotion. You want to leave your lawyer free to work on the negative aspects of your case. The best way to document incidents with spouses is to write it down and to fax it to the lawyer. Then the incidents are documented and in the file if ever needed at a later point.
MsgId: jcafe(37)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:43:50 EDT 1997
From:
At: 152.163.206.88

How do you handle situations with the spouse when they may do things that can either hurt or help your case? Delores
MsgId: jcafe(38)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:45:08 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

Delores, sometimes it is hard to tell right away whether something will help or hurt your case. The best thing to do is to write down what happened when it happens, and to provide that information in writing to your lawyer.
MsgId: jcafe(39)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:45:54 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Getting back to the legal system, what should be the priority, litigating to get the best deal, or settling?
MsgId: jcafe(40)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:48:07 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

My personal opinion is that it is always better to settle. Then, presumably, both sides are happy with the result. Therefore, the conflict will be over. If you litigate and get the best result, you always face the prospect of an appeal. Then you may lose your wonderful result and have a lot more legal bills to pay on top of it. However, sometimes in order to get a good settlement you must be fully prepared to actually litigate. Because if the other side thinks you want to settle, they can take advantage of that.
MsgId: jcafe(41)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:49:20 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

So, then, what is the most important and valuable thing my divorce lawyer can do for me?
MsgId: jcafe(42)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:50:35 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

One of the things people don't fully understand is the appeal process. If you win the case and then the other side appeals, then you have to litigate the appeal. If the other side wins the appeal, you might need to have another new trial, from scratch. The whole process can take years and be very expensive. It's not just a question of going to trial and getting the best result; that's just the first round.
MsgId: jcafe(43)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:51:44 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178


So, then, what is the most important and valuable thing my divorce lawyer can do for me?
MsgId: jcafe(44)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:52:09 EDT 1997
From:
At: 152.163.206.88

Robin, what do you think about using a mediator in the place of litigation? Delores
MsgId: jcafe(45)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:54:33 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

Your lawyer can help you formulate a realistic goal and then attain that goal for you as quickly as possible without becoming diverted or distracted from the goal. That sounds very simple, but it is actually a difficult thing to do in the context of a divorce. The lawyer must keep his or her eye on the ball and move the case in the direction you want it to go. As an aside, here's what can happen: The other side can be interviewing neighbors, sending interrogatories --long lists of questions for you to answer under oath-- and if all your lawyer is doing is reacting to the other lawyer, then you are paying money and your cause is not being advanced. Instead your lawyer must actively push YOUR agenda forward. Your lawyer may be working hard, but doing what? Responding to the other sides demands, or making demands on your behalf...
MsgId: jcafe(46)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:55:49 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

The lawyer must be able to point to the action plan you have developed at the outset and show how he or she is moving THAT forward.
MsgId: jcafe(47)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:57:04 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

We're coming to the end of our time. Robin, could you please answer Delores' question about the mediator, and the let us know about your website.
MsgId: jcafe(48)
Date: Tue Oct 21 12:58:05 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

On the subject of mediation, it only works when both people are able to behave in a conciliatory way. The problem comes when one person wants to mediate/conciliate and the other wants the best possible result. Then what winds up happening is that the conciliatory party can get steam rollered because that person does not have a lawyer to protect them. But if both sides are genuinely interested in mediating a result that's good for both, then mediation can be a wonderful thing and you can save a lot of money.
MsgId: jcafe(49)
Date: Tue Oct 21 13:00:52 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Robin, thank you so much for joining us today. And thanks everyone has joined us. Our next show, Tuesday, October 28th, will be about Making Stepfamilies Work, with guest Jeannette Lofas of the StepFamily Foundation, Inc. Join us at 12:00 noon eastern time.
MsgId: jcafe(50)
Date: Tue Oct 21 13:01:46 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

My website is at http://www.divorcelawyerinfo.com/


There you can find a general overview of today's topic and, in addition, information about my book, "How to Find the Right Divorce Lawyer." The book includes lists of questions to ask divorce lawyer candidates; places to find names of potential lawyer candidates; profiles of lawyer personality types to avoid; and information on fee agreements. The book also addresses how to determine whether you need to change lawyers, and how to go about it. And it has sample interrogatories and bills as well as a list of bar associations and other useful information for those going through the divorce process.
MsgId: jcafe(51)
Date: Tue Oct 21 13:02:34 EDT 1997
From: Robin_West
At: 168.100.204.58

Thank you very much for having me. I'm happy to help others with these painful issues.
MsgId: jcafe(52)
Date: Tue Oct 21 13:03:27 EDT 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Thank you for that information, Robin.


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