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SECTIONNote that answers given in this section cannot take the place of independent, legal or financial advice. Please read our disclaimer.

"What if I don't agree with my lawyer regarding tactics and strategies? Can I get a second legal opinion without firing my lawyer?"

In general, a lawyer has numerous professional responsibilities to a client. The lawyer is required to abide by the client's decisions concerning the objectives of the representation; the lawyer is required to consult the client as to the means by which those objectives are to be pursued; the lawyer is required to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing the client; the lawyer is required to keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the case; and the lawyer is required to explain matters to the client in order to help the client make informed decisions concerning the representation.

To successfully represent a client in a divorce or custody case, the lawyer should have:

  • an extensive knowledge of family law;
  • many years of actual experience representing clients;
  • the ability and dedication to listen carefully to all of the client's concerns and questions, and respond to them with a genuine understanding of the client's needs.

Ideally, the lawyer and the client should work together as a team for the client's benefit. In these very personal cases, communication is essential, and every client is entitled to take an active role in the case.

If the client doesn't understand the lawyer's tactics or strategies, or disagrees with them, he or she should discuss it with the current lawyer in order to reach an agreement as to the manner in which the case should be handled. However the client may choose to obtain a second legal opinion, at any time, concerning any matter.

The client can obtain a second opinion before or after retaining the initial lawyer. The client may seek the advice of the second lawyer privately (without informing the first lawyer), or may choose to tell his or her lawyer about wanting a second opinion.

No lawyer has all the right answers to every question of law, tactics or strategy. Getting a second legal opinion may help the client achieve a more informed understanding of the law, the judicial process, and the client's choice of legal counsel.

Steven D. Gerage, J.D., practices family law including divorce, financial, and child custody litigation with Rinella and Rinella in Chicago. He also devotes his practice to negotiating and drafting premarital, postnuptial, and marital settlement agreements.