In this week’s podcast, How to Choose The Right Divorce Lawyer, I discuss the different kinds of legal help and support you should consider and what the terms mean. Lawyer, Solicitor, Attorney and Barrister. If it is not confusing enough, who do you require on your side to help streamline and efficiently get a successful outcome?
Also, what makes a good lawyer, what personal qualities you need to look for and why they can make all the difference to your outcome. I explain in detail the benefits of certain traits, to help you avoid costly mistakes.
In my business, like any industry, I see many wonderful lawyers and some simply dreadful. Picking the difference can be one of the most important things YOU do, but also knowing when to move on because they are not acting in your best interest, is also a very crucial decision and l share a story that cost someone $400,000.00.
And a little known hack to find the best lawyer………….
So let’s get into it:
How to get Divorced, [00:02:00]
Different terms for legal representatives. Lawyer, Solicitor, Attorney, Barrister[00:05:00]
Why a Barrister may be needed to help mediate an outcome [00:06:00]
My dollar cost equation to help you make a better decision.[00:07:00]
So these are the following traits that we really want to look for if we want a successful outcome[00:13:00]
Has a good rapport with people.[00:14:00]
Is not afraid to compromise. [00:16:00]
Who is a specialist not a generalist? [00:17:30]
Comfortable in a courtroom[00:18:30]
Can work with others[00:20:00]
For those wanting to get more help head to my website to download my ebook on How to Choose the Right Lawyer. It includes interview questions to ask and what to look out for.
My book: The Jelly Bean Jar – Empowering Independence through Divorce
How to Get Divorced
Definition of Solicitor
Definition of Lawyer
Definition of Barrister
Definition of Attorney
How to choose the right lawyer
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[00:00:00] Hello and welcome back to The Divorce Angel podcast. This is episode 10.
Welcome to Divorce Angel Podcast and thank you for joining us. Get ready to uncover the strategies everyone can implement for a successful separation and divorce. This will save you valuable time, money, and emotions while learning the secrets to you happily ever after. Now, your host, my wife, Tanya Somerton.
Hello and welcome back to The Divorce Angel podcast. Can you believe it? We’re up to 10 episodes already. Time’s flying. I’m your host, Tanya Somerton. For those of you who don’t know me or haven’t listened before, I’m obsessed with helping clients chart a course through the complex process of divorce and starting a new life. I love putting together this content and receiving the wonderful feedback and emails that I’ve been getting from listeners. So thank you so much for spending your valuable time listening to the content that I put out there. If there’s anything that you are struggling with or something that you think might be really valuable to not only give it to other listeners, please don’t hesitate to send me a message because I’d love to see if I could put something together to help you.
In this week’s podcast, I’m going to discuss something that’s really important, and that’s how to choose [00:01:00] the right divorce lawyer. So in my business, like any industry, I see many wonderful lawyers and some simply dreadful ones. I’ve seen people who just don’t care about their clients and just take money and do very little work. To put it simply, there are good and bad people at every- in every career and what your job is if you’re going through a divorce is, trying to find on a scale a lawyer that is good to excellent. If you can do that, you should be able to get a really good outcome from your divorce. But what you may ask, “Who do I need to support and advise me when I’m ending my marriage?” Recently, I wrote a blog outlining how to get divorced. I’ve put a link to that in the show notes, but if you want to go back and have a look at that because when you have a look at the how to get divorced, [00:02:00] you’ll understand whether you need a lawyer and if so, what sort you might require. There’s a whole lot of different terms out as well. If we think about it, you’ve probably heard terms like solicitor, lawyer, barrister, attorney. Which one of these do you actually need to help you and are they all the same and do they have the same abilities?
Let me provide you with a brief explanation and the difference between the terms. A lawyer is a person with a certificate to practice law. This includes solicitors, attorneys, barristers, judges, and corporate counsel. A solicitor is a person who has a practicing certificate, but is not a barrister or a judge. An [00:03:00] attorney is a term used in the US and is usually what is not often heard of in Australia. However, an attorney, and a solicitor, and a lawyer effectively all mean the same thing. A barrister is a lawyer that has passed the bar examination. They appear in court on behalf of people and they can run technical arguments on behalf of their clients.
A solicitor, lawyer, or attorney ultimately can provide you with legal advice on your family law matter. You can provide them with instruction and they can act on your behalf and negotiate for you as your legal representative. They also carry out admin tasks as such: applications to the court, writs, wills, correspondence back and forth to the other side; really anything pertaining to your case. [00:04:00] A barrister is a person who has done further education and been mentored or worked under supervision for an additional period of time. They have expertise in dispute resolution and are normally a specialist in a certain area of the law. Simply put, they cost more because, let’s face it, they know more.
It is not uncommon to have a lawyer and a barrister at court. One will know the ins and outs of your particular case, which is normally your lawyer so they’ve worked with you, they’ve done correspondence back and forth to your ex’s lawyer. They know pretty much everything there is to know about you. But then the Barrister will take over and he will or she will do most of the talking in the court forum as such. [00:05:00] The two of them, in many cases, will work together, and it’s the barrister’s job to try and settle matters before they go to trial.
In most cases, as soon as people hear those word divorce, they think that they’ve got to go to court and it’s not true. Most divorces are sorted via a form of legal mediation, either in person or via correspondence. That can happen when your side and your ex’s side sit down around a, what they call a roundtable discussion, and you will have a conversation about what you’re trying to get to and that the lawyers will pretty much take control of the conversation, and they will try and come up with an outcome that is suitable to both parties.
That’s an in-person mediation, or you can just also have it happen via written correspondence. [00:06:00] In my book, The Jelly Bean Jar, I talk about the legal dance. That’s the correspondence that goes back and forth between all the parties as they try and negotiate where they want to get to and the outcome that they want for their client or that the client has actually told their lawyer that they are looking for.
Most divorces are sorted out via this way. It is only when couples can agree that things get costly and really get out of hand and that’s why picking a great team of professionals around you is so important and having a strategic plan and sticking to it. I also say to my clients that for every dollar that you spent, I want to see a three to five dollar return. What does that mean? If we needed to spend, let’s say, $10,000 on hiring a barrister to go to court and we were fighting [00:07:00] over assets of 20,000. Let’s assume that we already have an asset pool, we’ve got to a certain position, and this normally happens so we don’t often go to court until we’ve done some negotiation and it’s just not getting anywhere. Neither party is giving in and both parties are standing their ground and then that means that there’s no choice but to go to court and get a judge to make a ruling on it.
Now, if we needed to go down that path and we were spending- and I’m just averaging or just making up these figures to make a point. If we were spending $10,000 and it could cost far more than that, but if we were spending $10,000 to go to court, but we were fighting over 20,000 additional in assets, this makes no sense whatsoever. If you think about it, we’ve got a ratio of 1 to 2. For every dollar that we spend, [00:08:00] if we get the outcome we want, we might get another dollar in return but the odds are against us. So why would we do that? It’s a gamble. But if we were going to go and spend $10,000 and be assured of getting 50,000, that’s a whole different kettle of fish, and then that’s something that we certainly need to weigh out.
But let’s just assume that we have an asset pool that we’re talking about which is of hundreds and thousands or millions of dollars. If we are talking about going to court over 20,000 and the overall asset pool is hundreds of thousands, and we already have an agreement on the table where one party is going to get hundreds of thousands of dollars, isn’t that just a waste of time? Why would we put someone through the emotional turmoil and everything else to get ready to go to court to fight over $20,000 if we’ve already [00:09:00] got an agreement where we’re going to get hundreds of thousands of dollars? It makes no sense to me.The only reason someone would do that would be because they’re being encouraged by someone else to do it, or they’ve got a win at all costs mentality and they just don’t care about money and $20,000, they’ll spend it or they don’t care about it because they’re going to spend the $10,000 for a barrister just to try and get $20,000 at court.
But then it could be actual reverse. Just imagine if you’ve only got an asset pool that you’re arguing over, and this happens to clients that we currently work with, where the asset pool is only, you know, let’s say, tens of hundreds of dollars. We might have a whole asset pool of a hundred thousand and we’re talking about twenty thousand dollars. Now, the [00:10:00] difference that $20,000 can make when we’re talking about an asset pool of 100,000 is quite a lot of money and it’s 20,000 that someone could do a lot with, but here lies the problem: There’s no guarantee, if you go to court, that you will get that $20,000. There’s so many variables that no one can control. We’ve got no idea what the other side will say, we’ve got no idea the evidence that they have at hand to support their position, we’ve got no idea the judge that we will get on the day and how they will be feeling or their opinion or who’s been in before them, if they’re tired. Who knows? To be honest, it’s a gamble of sorts, and here we are discussing if we should spend $10,000 to get 20,000.
What happens if the judge totally [00:11:00] disagrees and then it means that we’ve got to go back to court the following week or it means that we’ve just wasted that money. So 30,000 is now gone because we’ve spent the $10,000 on the barrister and we’ve lost the 20,000 that we were fighting over. All of a sudden, $30,000 is gone and we need to regroup and now consider our options. As I said, it’s either one or two things: We go back to the initial proposal that was on the table and we agree to take that or we’ve got no choice but to go back to court and spend more money again.
This is why I always encourage my clients for every dollar you were going to spend on legal fees, we want to make sure that we have a minimum of a three to five-dollar return. I like to try and consider five, but if we’re talking $100,000 in we’re talking [00:12:00] 300,000, completely different in a 10 to 20-thousand-dollar gamble that I just don’t think is worth taking on. You can see the reasons a good lawyer is so important. Firstly, to be able to negotiate on your behalf and to help you stay level-headed and realistic, but unfortunately, we hear so many stories of the opposite being true and people being encouraged to go to court when really, I don’t see the benefit in it.
You need to decide as part of your strategy where you want to go and to head to. Do you know for certain that your case will end up in court or are you both semi amicable and prepared to compromise? I often hear so many stories and I hear people say, “Oh, I just want a bulldog to represent me.” Right there you are already starting with aggression. Therefore, I can assume you will end in that same [00:13:00] position and it will be extremely costly. The choice is yours, but pick carefully as picking the opposite could get you everything finalized and finished very quickly if you didn’t go for a bulldog, but you went for a really good negotiator.
These are the following traits that we really want to look for if we want to successful outcome. We want to person who is a problem solver, has a really good rapport with people, is not afraid of compromise, who is also a specialist in family law and not a generalist in all other facets of law. You also need someone that is comfortable in court, and if it’s going to trial obviously that will be employing a barrister but you still need for your lawyer to be able to negotiate with another lawyer so they need to have some experience in this arena. You’re also looking for a lawyer who is a [00:14:00] team player and prepared to work with others. This point is critical and I will go into it in a little bit more depth. It’s really important to find a team player and a person who is a problem solver.
Let’s look at each of these categories a little bit closer. Has a good rapport with people. You want a person who talks English and plain English and does not try and baffle you with legal talk or jargon. I recently had a person who rang saying she was scared of her lawyer and felt bullied. She told me that he would turn around and talk to her in a demeaning way and when she tried to explain to him how she felt, he said, “Well, if you don’t like it go find someone else.” What a guy. I said, “Listen to you got as much as your mind and make sure you feel safe, heard, and supported.” The person that you are employing has empathy and shows kindness [00:15:00] yet is also knowledgeable and firm when needed. I suppose what I’m trying to say there is they have a game face that they can put on, but don’t let anyone sit there and belittle you or make you feel like you’re being silly, that you’re not being heard, that points that are really important to you aren’t being dressed. All of this is really important because you only get one chance to do this and you want to do it right.
You are also looking for a lawyer who is not afraid of compromise and this is really important if you’ve got children because they should always be coming first in all of your decision making. Also, just a fraction of common sense. As we discussed earlier with the dollar return, I encourage all my clients to consider the consequences and love it when a lawyer supports me when we have this discussion. It shows that they want what is best for the client and getting the proceedings finished as quickly as [00:16:00] possible rather than prolonging and charging a higher fee. This occurs, unfortunately, so regularly that it makes me sick. Why argue for the sake of arguing? The only reason is so the lawyer can charge their client for more and get their billable hours up. It’s not okay.
The next one is who is also a specialist in family law and not a generalist in other facets or all facets of law. We’ve spoken about this before, but consider going to a GP if you needed heart surgery. The depth of knowledge and expertise needed by the heart surgeon is hours and hours of experience, learning, and performing the operation over and over again. It is seeing all different kinds of hearts; big, small faulty, enlarged. You name it, they’ve probably seen it. But if you went to a GP, they may have learnt the procedure [00:17:00] in theory, but never actually performed the life-saving operation. The same can be said about lawyers. Why spend your time working with a lawyer who does not know the ins and outs of the specific law that you require, who has not had previous experience debating or negotiating on one thing that could make all the difference to your life and future. So it’s really important to make sure that you find a specialist.
You also need a person who is comfortable in court because you have no idea where this can lead and you know you can rely on their expertise is so important. We’ve discussed earlier barristers. This is if you need to get serious and have a trial and in a lot of cases, the word court is thrown around but 95% or so, I think it’s 95. It’s something like that. It might be 85% to 95% of cases [00:18:00] are negotiated on the steps of the Court. No one really wants to go to court because there’s too many issues which cannot be controlled, but there’s this strategy that I’ve used before and it’s worked really well. If you think about or you think that you need to go to court, the strategy that I used was before I picked a lawyer, I went around and I asked people that worked within the court that I had to attend such as police officers, other lawyers, barristers, court staff, guards, and I’d said to them, “Who do you think is the most well-regarded lawyer, solicitor, or attorney in this building? Who do you think the judges and the magistrates respect the most and think that they are very good at their craft?” and I would get feedback from all of these people. It turned out. Everyone was saying, “Joe Blow. Everyone loves him. All the magistrates just think he’s so good. He’s so respected in [00:19:00] the halls of this court.” So I rang him up. I asked him would he help and assist and of course, he said “Yeah.” That case was done and dusted really quickly. He walked in, he did what he had to do, but that’s just a strategy that I’ve previously used to be able to get a really good outcome for a client.
You’re also looking for a lawyer who is a team player and prepared to work with others. This is extremely important when considering the complexities of your break up, especially if you have a lot of assets to divide. Recently, my team came up against a young female lawyer who, for some reason, thought she needed to be rude. She wrote the most awful correspondence and it was just terrible. Unfortunately, she was far from perfect, but our lawyer was prepared to share the information that we had to support both parties and get a better [00:20:00] outcome for everyone involved. The problem was, she did not want to loosen and actually said, “What does this have to do with the case?” Because she was looking at it from a legal perspective, not from a financial perspective or an accounting perspective. She was just looking in silos and when you get divorced, you need to look at everything holistically to get a really good outcome.
This is a problem for her client really, because she was portraying herself as looking like she was looking after his best interest yet was not taking into consideration issues like refinancing of loans, capital gains tax, and other tax implications. The assets, especially if you’ve got Investments and businesses, it’s not as simple as just dividing. It requires other professionals to be involved and to get their knowledge from because they’re the subject matter experts on what it’s [00:21:00] going to cost you to sell an asset and when you sell an asset, we’re talking about all of the tax implications, paying out loans, everything else that will be part of the negotiation.
In this particular case that I’m talking about here, my client was able to walk away with all of the due diligence in the work that we did with the team of accountants, mortgage broker, the lawyer, we were able to walk away with a four-hundred-thousand-dollar win pool that really we weren’t entitled to, but the other lawyer just was not prepared to listen. She thought she knew it all and it came crashing down. Because of that, her client has now taken on a mountain of tax implications and to be honest, he’s in a worse place than he really should have been, so clapping hands for us, but it made me [00:22:00] sad to think that we were prepared to share our knowledge, but she didn’t want to listen, and not only did our client’s ex-husband get an undesirable outcome, he also paid, unfortunately, double in legal fees and he, in my opinion, got a substandard service. The problem is he has no idea of these issues and neither would you unless you knew the system.
To make sure the lawyer you pick is a team player and is happy to work closely with other professionals for your best outcome, you need to make sure that they can leave their ego at the door and that they are prepared to work with others
On my website, I have a downloadable ebook on my homepage and I’ve also put it in the show notes. Grab a copy of that, and that’s also got a whole lot more information on how to pick the right lawyer. It’s got questions, it’s got things that you [00:23:00] should be also looking at. You need to make sure that you make the right choice, so please always be mindful of that.
This is it for our 10th episode. Once again, if you’ve got this far, thanks for listening, and I look forward to catching up with you next week. Bye for now.
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