Things to Look for in a Military Divorce Lawyer and What to Ask (Part 2)

Asking an attorney about his or her “win/loss record” is irrelevant in deciding whether he or she is a good lawyer; particularly in family law cases. Lawyers don’t win or lose cases, they present evidence and argument. It is the strength of the evidence that wins or loses the case. Sometimes, a lawyer does not have enough favorable evidence on his side and the court rules against his client. Often the outcome of a case has little to do with an attorney’s skill or effort.

In the family law context, if a lawyer tells you that he can get you everything you want and you won’t have to compromise he is baiting you.  If the prospective attorney cross examines you on a sensitive issue or questions you closely about the case, he is working for you even if it seems like he is against you.  An attorney cannot properly assess a case without understanding both sides. A lawyer who accepts everything his client says at face value is not helping his client.

In the end, you are trying to determine whether the lawyer has sufficient experience and knowledge of the issues involved in your case.  Does the prospective attorney seem like he or she is going to work hard on your behalf – answer calls and e-mails timely, contact witnesses, review documents, conduct discovery, research the legal issues and prepare for any hearing or trial.

            Your attorney should be prepared and know your case.  When both lawyers are prepared for trial, it is the facts that matter most. However, if one side is unprepared then the evidence takes a backseat to the advocacy (or lack of it). I have been in court many times opposing a lawyer who clearly did not understand the relevant law, did not know the facts of the case, or just did not know how to present his or her client’s case.

Sometimes, the client or a key witness is not prepared for cross examination and comes apart on the witness stand. That collapse is often the attorney’s fault.  The client and key witnesses should be well-prepared to answer difficult questions on cross examination. In the end, effective lawyering is 95% perspiration and 5% inspiration.

Finally, a lawyer is your advocate in the courthouse but your counselor in his office.  In court, the lawyer should be emphatic in his support for his client’s position but in his office the lawyer should be advising the client objectively. If you are wrong or your argument has major holes in it, you should find that out in your lawyer’s office and not on the witness stand in front of the judge. Evaluate whether your lawyer is going to be someone who will tell you the truth about your case. The attorney who lets you go into court with a losing case is not doing you any favors.