Divorce is difficult, and your communication level with your family-law attorney can make you feel secure or insecure. The only thing more important than your ability to communicate with your attorney is the advice and counsel you receive from him or her. Having a clear understanding from your attorney of what you should expect in your ability to communicate with them can make the process easier and can also be a factor in helping you decide which attorney you should retain.
There is a large variation in how divorce lawyers communicate with their clients. Some attorneys communicate by telephone, some by e-mail; some use both modes of communication. Regardless of the form, the speed and frequency with which your attorney communicates with you is most important.
Attorneys who communicate well generally return their phone calls within 24 hours. There are times attorneys cannot communicate with their clients within that time frame because of commitments to other cases. When unavailable, an attorney who is a good communicator indicates this in their voicemail greeting, or has someone from their office let the client know about the attorney’s unavailability, and when the attorney will be able to communicate with the client.
At the initial interview, the client should also ask a prospective attorney who will actually return their telephone calls or other communications. If the attorney uses Associate Attorneys in their practice, the Associates are usually able to communicate faster than the lead attorney and should be competent to answer many substantive questions. Attorneys who have secretaries or paralegals answering substantive question are dangerous. Legal advice should only be provided by attorneys.
The client should also ask a prospective attorney whether they return calls before or after business hours and when they are unavailable during the day. With the overwhelming use of cell phones, many attorneys take advantage of their commuting time to return telephone calls.
Finally, the client should also ask a prospective attorney how they charge for telephone calls, e-mails, and letters. Many attorneys have minimum charge for telephone calls and/or written communications.
Mark P. Gross is a divorce attorney and a founding partner in the Sherman Oaks-based firm of Brot & Gross. He appears in all of the family-law branch courts of Los Angeles County and Ventura County.