COSTLY MISTAKE #1: Failing to hire a lawyer who is honest and reliable. Often, you don’t know much about your lawyer until it’s too late. That’s a terrible time to discover that your lawyer is dishonest and unreliable. Larry Rousseau, a Houston Municipal Court Judge, offered these comments about Michael Villasana: “In the decades that I have known Michael in his capacity as an attorney, I have found him to be excellent and caring in his performance. While he has a gentle and understanding approach to his work, he does not hesitate to professionally do battle when he must, with very successful results. As a person, I find no one more honest and reliable as a friend.”
COSTLY MISTAKE #2: Choosing a lawyer only because you like his law firm’s advertising. A flashy TV commercial or website doesn’t mean anything except that the law firm agreed to pay the bill. Advertising can make almost any lawyer look like an expert. Don’t choose a lawyer solely because you like his law firm’s ad. Ask the lawyer about family law issues and how he suspects your divorce will end. This will give you a good idea about the lawyer’s knowledge and how he approaches family law matters.
COSTLY MISTAKE #3: Choosing the lawyer who promises you the most money. The State Bar of Texas does not allow lawyers to make promises about the outcome of a case. A lawyer can explain the issues that affect a case’s conclusion and offer different scenarios. But never choose a lawyer who promises you a lot of money because that lawyer is unethical and acting in a way the State Bar of Texas forbids.
COSTLY MISTAKE #4: Choosing a lawyer because he promises to settle your case with mediation. Many divorces can be settled in mediation when both parties are willing to work together to decide how they want their property divided and how they want to raise their children. Even so, some spouses find that mediation is not successful. They then turn to the court to decide matters involving property division and child custody. No lawyer can promise that a case will be settled in mediation because even the divorcing parties don’t know what obstacles might disrupt the process. Don’t believe any lawyer who promises you an outcome to your case because when it comes to divorce, too many unknowns exist for anyone to rely on promises.
COSTLY MISTAKE #5: Failing to hire an attorney who provides excellent service. Nearly every large city has thousands of lawyers; and among those attorneys are lawyers who represent their clients competently and responsibly, while providing the highest level of service. Don’t hire any lawyer who doesn’t respond promptly to your needs. Family law is an emotionally charged practice area and you need a lawyer who provides excellent service.
COSTLY MISTAKE #6: Choosing a lawyer who won’t answer your questions. Today, an educational focus is the key to a successful law practice. Your lawyer should provide you with information about Texas state law and about your case. Make sure the lawyer you hire schedules phone calls and meetings so he has enough time to answer all of your questions and address your concerns.
COSTLY MISTAKE #7: Choosing a lawyer who is hard to reach. With today’s technology, you should be able to reach your lawyer quickly and easily. If your lawyer can’t speak with you immediately, at least you can leave a message where he can get it as soon as he is available. When choosing a lawyer, ask how he receives messages and whether he will respond promptly to your needs.
COSTLY MISTAKE #8: Choosing a lawyer whose fees are too low or too high. You don’t want a lawyer whose fees are so high that you can’t continue to pay him. Nor do you want a lawyer who earns so little money that he isn’t fully committed to his law practice. Look for a lawyer who charges fair fees, who gives you excellent service, and has the knowledge and experience necessary to represent you.
COSTLY MISTAKE #9: Choosing a lawyer who doesn’t really care about you or your family. Not all lawyers work well with people. Sometimes, they’re better off in the law library researching cases to help a law partner with his case. You can easily tell by how you interact with the lawyer. Does he watch the clock while talking with you? Does he seem to understand your problems concerns? Or is he more concerned with telling you about himself?
COSTLY MISTAKE #10: Choosing a lawyer because of a referral from a friend. When a friend refers you to a lawyer, be careful. Yes, your friend probably means well, but your friend may not be the best source for a referral. You see, people often select a lawyer because they like him. But you need a lawyer who is much more than just a nice person. You need an attorney who has family law skills and experience to represent you at a very difficult time in your life. So I advise you to thank your friend for the referral and interview the lawyer, if you wish; but don’t assume that this lawyer is best suited to handle your divorce case.
COSTLY MISTAKE #11: Choosing a lawyer merely because he appears successful. A handsome office and an expensive car don’t tell you anything about the lawyer’s experience. Don’t judge a lawyer merely by appearance. Choose a lawyer by whether he has the knowledge, skill, experience, and willingness to competently represent you in your divorce.
COSTLY MISTAKE #12: Choosing a lawyer because of the location of his office. You may be inclined to select a lawyer who has an office down the street from your home or office, but this could be a big mistake because what you gain in convenience you may lose in knowledge and experience. The location of the lawyer’s office should be the last reason you choose him to handle your divorce.
COSTLY MISTAKE #13: Choosing a lawyer who doesn’t have the skill and experience needed to represent you. It’s one thing to know the lawyer, and to like the lawyer, but don’t overlook the most important question: Does the lawyer have the skills and experience he needs to handle your divorce? Ask the lawyer about his background and experience. Review comments from the lawyer’s past clients and professional colleagues. Make sure you feel comfortable that the lawyer you choose is capable of doing the work you need to have done.
COSTLY MISTAKE #14: Choosing a lawyer who does not have deep roots in the community. Select a lawyer who has lived and worked in the city where he will represent you. This attorney cares about his reputation and is more likely to be available in the future if you need help.
COSTLY MISTAKE #15: Choosing a lawyer who doesn’t understand families and family values. Everything in your divorce revolves around your family. If your lawyer doesn’t have a family, then he won’t likely understand the dynamics of how families work together and when they’re broken. Ask lawyers you interview whether they’re married and if they have children. This will tell you something about their background that may prove very helpful during your case.