Be a Better Family Lawyer in 2022 - Divorce Lawyers in Ontario - Shulman Law Firm
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How to Be a Better Family Lawyer in 2022 (Plus: Tips for Potential Clients!)

Here at Shulman & Partners LLP, we pride ourselves on handling our clients’ Family Law matters in a professional, transparent, and honest way. Over the years, out firm and each family lawyer has built a strong reputation for integrity and client satisfaction.

But to avoid complacency, we are always asking ourselves how to improve. This involves reflecting on the particular tasks that collectively form – and inform – the services we provide to our clients.

We might call this a list titled: “How to Be a Better Family Lawyer in 2022”. And by providing a glimpse of it here, we can achieve a secondary objective: To give our clients (and potential clients) some insight into how they can help us serve them better.

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Because by homing in on the individual aspects of a lawyer’s services and roles, it can help clients think about what they need from us, and what factors go into the important decision of choosing the best representative for them.

Here is some of the items on our list, with client thought-points interspersed:

For Our Lawyers:

Determine Why Clients Might Want to Choose You. Some lawyers are great at litigation; others are better at solicitor’s work, such as drafting agreements and Wills. Still others excel at negotiation, mediation, and conciliation. Figure out what your client is looking for when they hire you, and confirm you are the right person in the Firm to meet those needs.

For Clients to Consider: Know in advance, what you are looking to get out of the process. Does your divorce or Family Law matter lend itself well to mediation or arbitration? Is your Ex the type to be able to negotiate and come to an amicable resolution? Or will this inevitably end in protracted litigation?

Exceed the Client’s Reasonable Expectations. A good lawyer will establish his or her client’s realistic expectations in their Family Law matter very early in the process. Then, the lawyer should strive to exceed those expectations, while keeping the client in the loop at all times.

For Clients to Consider: What are your expectations, as a client, from the lawyer that you decide to hire? What overall approach and personality are you looking for him or her to have? Aggressive, or else conciliatory? What will work best when you are up against your Ex? What will be most effective, to achieve your goals in the Family Law proceedings?

Get Clear Instructions. The client “drives the boat” on how a matter unfolds. With your legal and practical guidance, he or she will provide the background facts and information, make decisions on the objectives and desired outcomes, and steer the course of the proceedings. Make sure the instructions and objectives are clear and agreed-to in advance, and in writing.

For Clients to Consider: What are your objectives in your Family Law matter against your Ex? What are the areas of flexibility and negotiation? Is anything non-negotiable? What will serve the best interests of your children? How far are you willing to go, to get what you want (and your children need)? Do you have a financial budget, for achieving the desired outcome?

Be Organized and Prepared. Needless to say, a good lawyer will be a great organizer. Client information must be stored efficiently, so that it can be retrieved quickly when needed. Client files are the raw materials of any legal proceedings, and can only be useful if they are accessible and easy-to-find. Also, always over-prepare for any contingency.

For Clients to Consider: After you have hired your Family Lawyer, make sure that they have all the information that they need, to do the best possible job for you. Until you provide them with all the key details, your lawyer will be “in the dark” on many important aspects; and it will serve everyone best if you are as forthright and transparent as possible. The more time you spend on organizing your own documents and materials in advance, the less it will cost you – in terms of legal fees for the time your lawyer needs to do it him or herself.

Be Clear and Concise On The Law. Clients go to a Family lawyer to get advice. But getting advice and understanding that advice is not the same thing. A good lawyer will use simple language, succinct descriptions, and tailor the delivery to the audience.

For Clients to Consider: Are you already familiar with the basic Family Law principles and concept that apply to your matter? Or do you need some ground-level explanation on your rights and obligations? Are you looking for a lawyer who can guide you through some in-depth “hand-holding”? Or are you already experienced (e.g. because of a prior separation or divorce)?

Be Responsive. One of the most important skills of a good lawyer is to be meaningfully responsive to the client. Answering calls, emails, and texts promptly is an important part of providing services to clients. This includes adapting to the changes made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic, including making use of remote work and communication capabilities.

For Clients to Consider: What is your preferred method of communication? In-person meetings? Phone calls? Texts or emails? What sort of documentation do you prefer (e.g. paper or electronic)? And what sort of response-time are you expecting, when you communicate with your legal representative? Are you expecting him or her to be available to you during business hours only, or at all hours of the day? And are you comfortable with and set up for adjustments made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as meetings by teleconference?

Consider Litigation Alternatives. One of the key aspects of good lawyering, is to actually avoid court where possible. In Family Law, there are many alternative routes for resolving disputes between former spouses or partners, including Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods like mediation, arbitration, and collaborative law. Consider all the options, on your client’s behalf.

For Clients to Consider: As a client you have several viable options available to you, in terms of how you want to deal with the legal matters that affect you and your Ex. Ideally, you may be able to resolve your disputed issues without having to go to court at all – through the use of ADR. Or, you may be able to address some of the issues, and save the more contentious ones for court. Give some thought to the cost/benefit that might accrue to you both, from trying to negotiate – rather than litigate – a resolution.

As this list will show, the lawyer-client relationship is a bi-lateral one that features many interwoven duties and roles. At Shulman & Partners LLP, our lawyers want to do their best for their clients. Of course the clients who come to us want the best possible legal representation available. It is only by working closely together, that this dynamic can operate most efficiently.

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