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Q&A with Bryan and Sam - How Do I Choose an Attorney?

 

Episode 18 - Q&A with Bryan and Sam - How Do I Choose an Attorney?

Welcome to the top Texas Lawyers podcast. This podcast is brought to you by the law firm Abercrombie and Sanchez PLLC.

Your hosts are Bryan Abercrombie and Samuel Sanchez. Bryan has been practicing law for 18 years and his board certified that sort of legal specialization in the area of family law. Sam has been practicing for 13 years, is licensed in both Texas and Florida, and is a certified mediator. This podcast is for informational purposes only and all views are the opinion of the hosts. It's not designed to provide legal advice for your particular legal matter, and it should not replace the advice of competent counsel. Welcome. And we hope you enjoy the top Texas Lawyers podcast..

Good day and welcome to the top top Texas Lawyers podcast. I'm your host, Bryan Abercrombie and with me, as always, is my talented and handsome co-host Mr. Samuel Sanchez. How you doing, Sam? I'm doing well. Definitely still have a face for radio. All right. So we finished up our five part series, so we're going to change topics today. We've gotten a few listener questions, and one question that popped up several times is we're going to try to answer that question today is how do I choose my divorce attorney? So we're gonna kind of go through the ins and outs of that. That's kind of where we're going to take this show today. But let's talk a little bit about what's going on in the celebrity divorce world. Sam, what do you think?

Well, I can't tell you that COVID has been kind to celebrities. Bryant You know, we have a Texas girl, Kelly Clarkson, in her man, Brandon Blackstock. They have called it quits. That June after seven years, they filed on June 4th. They both have kids. So sad to see that go. But obviously there, you know, one of many victims in the celebrity world in relation to LA. They got young kids to like a six and a four year old or something like that, right? Yeah, they absolutely do. So it'll be interesting to see how that's manage. Obviously, she's a Texas native, but I think her primary residence is in California. So contributing to a California divorce that should be. But there are some allegations flying around about emotional abuse and different things. So that would be one to watch.

Yeah. And so, you know, that ties right into our subject, which is like obviously she didn't anticipate that she would be there. Most people don't anticipate that they're going to be involved in divorce proceedings when they go out and say their nuptials. They're looking for, you know, forever or longer. But how, if that happens, do you pick a good counsel?

Yes, that's the question du jour, the question of the day.

How do you pick? If you're going down that road, you know, depending on what your particular problems are, your particular issues, how do you pick good, competent legal counsel?

It's more challenging than it sounds. You know, it really is, because obviously, you know, we're lawyers and so we know a lot of lawyers. And I would love to say that everyone that we know is great, but there's definitely a variety of qualifications and a variety of kind of tendencies and predispositions that attorneys have that can make them a great fit for you or make them just the worst possible fit. And so, you know, I would encourage everybody who's listening in to this specifically answer the question how do you do it? Well, first and foremost, I think you have to really understand yourself. Know thyself. Exactly.

And in that, you have to understand, when I say know yourself, you understand what your goals are for this process, because every lawyer has kind of a niche that they fall into. You and I, brother, well, we've been warriors in the trenches for a long time. For a number of years. We were trial lawyers. We're litigators. That's where we spent the majority of our career. That's where we're most comfortable. And so, you know, if you're looking at something that you anticipate is going to turn into a fight, well, OK. In your mind, you have to know, do I want to fight if it's going to turn into a fight? Do I need somebody who is going to be able to respond in kind? You know, you don't want it to be an emotional decision where you sit down and say, well, I just frickin hate her. She's such a bitch. And so I just want somebody to go out and chew on her leg for a few months, OK? Some people do choose a lawyer that way they'll go out and find some barker, you know, what I call the dog and pony show, which is that horrible barker. Yep. They just go out there and they hire somebody who's going to thump and thunder and, you know, spend a lot of money and cause a lot of scars and injuries. And, you know, those take years, if ever to heal. But if you look at yourself in the mirror and you say what I want is for somebody to kind of manage this process to fruition as economically and judiciously as possible, maybe even keep it out of the courtroom. These are things that you have to know in your own mind, and it's a lot easier to say than it is to figure out unfortunately.

I totally agree. And what you have to look at is, you know, you have to really sit down and have an honest conversation about what your goals are in the divorce process. What do you want it to look like after this is over with? If you have younger kids like Kelly and Brandon, then you probably want to. I mean, honestly, from experience, you may want to keep that out of the courtroom if you possibly can, because there's a lot of years of co-parenting to deal with each other long after these lawyers are dead and gone. You've got to be dealing with the other parent. And if you got a six and a four-year-old, you're talking about a minimum of 14 years before the last child turns 18.

So that's a lot of Christmases, a lot of school plays. That's a lot harder. You know, a lot of kickball, t-ball games, Girl Scout, whatever it is. That's a lot of activities that a lot of school functions. That's a lot of trips with a lot of family reunions. That's a lot of things that you could possibly be dealing with where you have to deal with your ex and you really, really, really want to make sure that the hill that you're gonna die on is a hill worth dying on.

Absolutely. Absolutely right. Those are all great points. I think a good way to start is to put together a list. Really just don't go beyond five is my recommendation. Put the top five things that you want to come out of. Whatever litigation, not just divorce litigation, civil litigation, if it's you know, you're whatever you're gonna need a lawyer for right down your top five things, because you can always you can always choose any lawyer.

I mean, every lawyer that's licensed in Texas and I would assume the same is true in Florida. Sam, you can speak to that. But they can practice any kind of law. But it's not it's not best to have a tax lawyer doing your divorce, probably most likely in most instances, or somebody who specializes in. I don't know. You know, tax or criminal potentially doing your divorce.

And they may be great in the courtroom, but a courtroom may not be the solution you need. Couldn't agree more. Right. And I think that's really what those five things will do, because as you sit down and you write the five things that you want out of the divorce, it'll become clear or the you know, the litigation, it'll become very clear the type of lawyer that you're going to want to be searching for. If you say as an example, you know, we don't have kids, we have a lot of property. But I know that I want the lion's share of the property. I know that I'm going to want or I want to be able to identify if my spouse has wasted assets or I want to know if, you know, she was having an affair, he was having an affair, spending money on boyfriends and girlfriends. OK. Very clearly, as you get to those points, you know that you're going to want an attorney who has got some litigation experience. You're going to want an attorney who's got a network of resources available to him or her to be able to analyze financial transactions, to be able to pull up and be able to prepare kind of documentation for a case to be able to kind of justify those types of positions.

And those are litigation positions. Right. It's not like I just said, hey, you know what? What I really want to do is I want to get through this as quickly as economically as possible. This those weren't of my top five. And so, you know, I think people really got as you write things down, you're going to see because if you write down as an example, number one, I want to get to it economically and judiciously with that, with a little pain and suffering as possible emotionally on both sides. And then number two, you're right. I really want to stick it to her and I want to take her for everything she's got. OK. Those things don't fit. Those things don't work. And any lawyer out there that you talked to is going to ask you first thing is they come in if they're worth their weight in salt. Is to say, let's talk about the situation. Fill me in on what's going on and what it is that you want out of this process. What are you looking to do? Because they're going to take their cues from you, right? Absolutely. So, you know.

And let's talk a little bit about kind of, you know, once you've kind of got your goals listed down, let's talk about the kind of a sales pitch that you're going to get from, you know, from a number of different lawyers. For instance, do you want a male or female? Do you want somebody that's that specializes in, say, father's rights or, you know that there's a lot of different sales pitches out there? I mean, the law in Texas specifically says, you know, gender is not to be taken into account. So I know there's a lot of lawyers out there that talk about the father's rights, you know, and we're going to be you know, we're gonna, we represent only men and we don't have a you know, we know how to handle men in a divorce case. Well, let's let's talk about that for a little bit. Sam, what do you think?

Well, here's what I know. And I think that you need to make a decision based on the individual and their experience rather than the marketing that they attach to it. OK. If what you want is you're gonna go out, buy a tag line, then be prepared to be service like you're at McDonald's, right? No, I'm saying like, you don't want to handle legal matters.

Somebody who just went out and has a great, you know, a slick ad, a great, you know, on the radio every five to 10 minutes, they slam hammers down or is talking about, you know you know, I've got offices in 15 states and we've got all these lawyers. Don't you worry, we know the best thing. Well, they clearly make a lot of money, but that doesn't mean that the best fit for, you know? Really spend some time analyzing the conversation that you have with any prospective attorney. And first and foremost, I would tell you, like when you go, you visit their Web site, you look at their credentials. How long have they been practicing in the area? What's their background and experience when you're talking to them face to face? Ask them. Have you been in this court? If you've already been served with paperwork, do you know the opposing counsel? Do you have a list of mediators that you use? You know, if it's, you know, a high wealth or, you know, resources or there's going to be questions about the estate and transsexual history. You know, have you worked with forensic accountants? You know, do you. Have you worked with CPA, as you know? Have you looked at tracing experts? All these kinds of things are going to be conversation pieces.

These questions are going to help you make a determination. If there's one thing you get from this is don't get sold on your attorney by their marketing. I don't care if they're saying, hey, you know, we represent dads and we've been representing them for 50 years. And by God, we're the best dads lawyer in the world. But there's a there's a lawyer who handles both moms and dads, and it's 10 times the lawyer. Why are you going to the lawyer who's a dad's lawyer just because they say they are? No, I mean, spend some time really understanding who your lawyer is and what they can bring to the table for you, because a lot of times a position that you run into when you buy a marketing tag line is that you buy a position. And what I mean by that is they may come to you and say, hey, look, we've got a formula. We've got this formula that we plug in and it doesn't matter who the lawyer is. Our system is so good that we'll just plug in a baby lawyer and you don't need a bunch of experience because if they just do what we tell them to do, your case is going to be perfect. Well, Bryan, I'm here to tell you that that's just not the case. If you, I mean, your house and your cars and your retirement accounts are all off and your children are all things that you value your value to the nth degree and you worked your entire life for.

Don't put it on the chopping block with slick marketing. I mean, you know, you have to look at your attorney. What kind of experience do they have? What kind of, you know, are they board certified in family law, for example? That's a big thing in Texas. It's not just some kind of, you know, some kind of thing you pay five hundred dollars for, and they say you're you're a board certified attorney, a board certified attorney in Texas. It takes years. It takes years to qualify to take the exam that includes litigation and includes, you know, other alternative dispute resolution process you have to go through. It includes recommendations from lawyers, opposing counsel from judges. And then once you meet all those criteria, then you're qualified to take an exam. And I'm here to tell you from firsthand experience that exam is not easy. But what I will tell you is that that shows that you're an expert in the area and that shows that, you know, you've got some skins on the wall with respect to representing people and cases. So you really want to look at the experience of the attorney that you're that you're hiring, and it's okay to hire a firm, but look at the attorney that you're actually getting from that firm. Are you getting the first year out of law school associate that's wet behind the ears and doesn't know the judge for you getting, you know, the experienced hand that's been through, you know, 50, 100 cases that knows, you know, what you're dealing with, knows the right experts to get knows you know, knows how to navigate a case. Those are that those are the kinds of things you need to be looking for. It's how much experience does this person have? You know, what is their dealings with the court? Do they know the lay of the land? Have they you know, do they know who the big players are in the area for family law?

There's a lot of great attorneys out there that know the lay of the land and know know who they're dealing with and know, you know, know what the judges are looking for and know what this particular judge's likes and dislikes are. You know, it's as much a it's as much a strategy thing as anything else. So don't fall for I guess if the warning is don't fall for slick marketing.

Yeah, absolutely. Because just because it's the shiny new pebble, it doesn't mean that it's, you know, a diamond or a pearl. A lot of times you're going to get somebody who's a whole lot better, who's not attached to some huge monster mechanism firm that's really going to cheat you as a number rather than a person. And that's something that you're going to want to keep in mind as well, is, you know, as you're talking to your attorneys, you know, how many cases is that you have, you know? What are the expectations within your firm, whether it be a small firm or a large firm, as far as my case. What type of attention do you offer? What type of access do you offer your clients? Am I going to get your cell phone? How often do you answer calls? Will you respond on the weekends if I need you to? It's an emergency. You know, all these kinds of things. You're interviewing somebody who you're putting your life in their hands to your point and everything that you've worked for. Everything that matters in your life typically is going to be the stuff that you work your entire life to build and retain and your family to move that you couldn't. But two more important things, and you're getting them in the hands of an attorney through this process.

So you should at least know what their philosophy is and that's the next step. I really think that you have to spend some time talking to the attorneys about what their philosophy is on your case. OK, because if you're a barker and you just sit down and say, you know, what I'm going to do is I'm going to go down and I'm going to grab by the throat, choke him out and drag him around the courtroom and embarrass them and make them feel like. That's really what you're looking for. Then great. Hire that person. But if somebody comes out and tells you, look, I'm on it judiciously, put you in the best position possible so that you don't have to waste a lot of money, the money that actually stays within your family, for your kids, for you, your spouse, ex spouse, whatever it's going to be. And I'm going to protect those assets, whether that means we have to go to the courtroom or whether that means we settle it out of court, we're going to determine that as we get to the case. These are the kinds of conversations that you're going to have with your lawyer and you really need to understand and have a connection with that individual and their mentality, their philosophy on how they handle your case.

I mean, it's about it's about finding somebody you feel comfortable with at the end of the day. I mean, you wouldn't go to a doctor that you don't feel comfortable with who doesn't have a halfway decent bedside manner, or at least I wouldn't know about you, Sam. I try not to I wouldn't go to a doctor that I can't understand what they're telling you half the time. And they don't have these that they don't have a decent bedside manner. I would you know, I would steer clear of that. The same goes true for a lawyer. I mean, you're putting your financial future potentially into their hands and your, you know, and and time with your kids is in their hands. So you all you like you can hire any gladiator that you want to go into the arena and fight for you. You just kind of make sure it's the fight that you want to have. And and your attorney is really listening to what you want. I think that's a big key. Does your attorney listen to you and is your attorney listening to what you're what you want and what your goals are?

Because anybody can go down to the court and make an argument and get a ruling from a judge. I mean, it takes a special person to either a negotiate a tough agreement, if that's what it comes down to, or try the case in the right way so that you can you have the best chance for a favorable outcome.

I try to tell clients and prospective clients when they come in, as we're talking to conversations about representation, that we're family members who ask me for a recommendation like how do I talk to who? How do I find a good lawyer? It really becomes like think of it in this context. If you were going to cloud climb Mount Everest, right. If you were going to climb Mt. Everest, you you you've climbed other things potentially or you've never climbed before. No matter what, Everest is unique. It's challenging. It's dangerous. It's complicated. What guide are you going to want? Are you going to want somebody who's like, hey, you know, well, we've got Johnny, we've got a special come in. Fifty dollars off guide. Are you going to talk to people and say, I want somebody who's been on that mountain? I want to know that they've, you know, successfully taken people up and brought them back down, whether, you know, every trip is different. Right. What does the plan look like? Tell me how you do it. Do we have a connection? Do we fit well together and then really feel that that field questions for that attorney so that you understand that you have a partner? This is somebody who's going to go and experience your case with you. That means you have to really from the onset like their communication style. You have to really understand them and have them be able to communicate with you in a way that you understand the issues that are at play.

So no matter what, when you come out of that first meeting or that kind of consultation or, you know, that initial kind of correspondence with an attorney who's trying to give you some advice about how the case is going to go, you should have a pretty clear understanding of what the road, what the lay of the land is going to be as you progressed to it. Now, he can't no no attorney can tell you with 100 percent certainty this is what's going to happen in your case if they try to tell you that. Run, run, run, run. Just don't you just drop everything you got. Leave the pen, head out the door. But if somebody tells you, hey, you know what? Look, here's what I've seen happen based on the facts of your case. Here's what I anticipate could come up. But here's the X Factor. Here's the things, the unknowables. Here's ways I've seen things happen. I have no this judge. I've been in this county. It doesn't matter who's on the other side, because these are the issues at play. This is how sometimes they go. That's what you're going to really want to have a connection with. That's what you're going to want to make sure that you feel before you take somebody to guide you through that process.

I totally agree. You can go to any lawyer and get an answer to a legal question.

And like Sam said, if any, you go to any lawyer and this goes for a civil case, this goes for any type of case that you can think of, whether it be civil family, you know, whatever.

If you walk into a lawyer's office and they promise you that they're going to win your case, you get you get out your stuff and get out of that office as fast as you can possibly go, because there is no way in the world that lawyers ever gonna be able to promise an outcome.

No. And if they do, it's just a train wreck waiting to happen. You're just setting yourself and set yourself up for disappointment and probably a pretty big bill at the end of that conversation. So that's true.

That is absolutely true. But but, yeah, like you said, I mean, you have a game plan going in that you find in the attorney that that you know, that that works well for you. You know, for some for some people, you know, they want somebody that's that's aggressive. And in the and sometimes the situation calls for it.

If you have a very difficult spouse that, you know, you've only responds to, you know, the courtroom or a judge telling her what to do or a judge telling him what to do, then then you may need the courtroom. You may be in a bulldog attorney, but if you have a CO parent that's trying to work with you, maybe it's not the time to rip a set off, a rip her head off.

I mean, that's that those are the kinds of things you've got to you've got to know about your case and know what you're dealing with so that you can get the right person to. That's going to guide to help you guide to help you guide through that process.

You know, another example I will give clients is like changing your oil, right? You know, changing your oil and your vehicle. Everybody typically has a vehicle at this point in life. If you don't understand, bicycle's are nice to use or skateboards. But if you have a vehicle and you change the oil, you can go to Jiffy Lube.

Right. They do a pretty good job. Change your oil. You go to the dealership, get them to change your oil. They're going to do their hundred point inspection. And I happen to have I used to have anyways a foreign car. I have an American truck now, but I used to have a foreign car. And every time I take it in the car dealership. Holy crap. I go in for an oil change. I come out the thousand dollar bill. So the deal is, Bryan, right? You come out with that frickin thousand dollar bill, you want to put somebody in the face. And I've had that happen. And that's really the legal process affords. The same type of scenario would happen. And what I mean by that is if you make the wrong choice, if you go in and you hire that bulldog lawyer for a simple case, you're going to pay a whole lot more for your case. And it was necessary because they're going to antagonize the other side. They're going to make a lawyer take a whole lot of other positions that they don't need to and really over complicate a simple matter. Take it the other way. If you go in and you say, hey, you know what? I have a coup by our lawyer, somebody who just wants to hold hands and hand off roses and shake hands on the way out. And the case is very complicated. And it needs some litigation. It needs some, you know, litigation steps to make sure that whether it's an agreement or whether it's going to be resolved in court, it's done correctly.

But they don't want to do that work. Well, guess what? It's going to cost your money. It's going to cost you a bunch of money because when you should've taken it to the dealership because it was sputtering and it wouldn't start. And, you know, every time you shifted into third gear, you press the gas. You'd have this whole little stall out period. Well, that Jiffy Lube are going to fix that. You're going to need to go to the dealership. You're going to have to have somebody with some intelligence and hook it up to the computer and see what's going on and make it done right. Clients and their legal matters are the same situation, their lawyers out there who are really, really good at settling cases. They're really good at simple cases. They're really good at complex litigation cases. And you've got to kind of understand the case that you have potentially and no one can really forecast what it could turn into. But, you know, you're a state, you know, the issues that are going on between you and your spouse. If you say, hey, we've gotten into 14 fist fights, you've been six police reports, CPS has been out and our kids are with us. Well, guess what? You better have a lawyer who can litigate.

But what I what I what I always tell clients when I come in. It's I say, OK, you know, you're the captain of the ship. This is your. This is your ship. This is your. This is your case. Your all your property is on the line. You're the captain of the ship. Now a lawyer is the pilot of the ship. The lawyers driving the boat. So you probably want to get a lawyer that's been down the river, been through the seas before and is a good pilot of the ship and knows what the water is going to look like and knows how to navigate through the storm versus someone who's never been in there, never been in the river before. Right. So that's so you can you can you got to captain the boat. So you got to tell the lawyer, hey, I to I'm looking for a settlement. Hey, I'm looking for litigation handled for trial. Whatever whatever the case, then it's up to the lawyer to pilot the ship.

I think that's a perfect example, honestly. I think that's a great way to express to clients with the type of relationship they're going to want to have with their lawyer. Additionally, on to that, like as a counterpart, I would tell clients that as you're having conversations with the lawyer, you really have to be able to trust their judgment and trust their communication.

Okay. Because the other piece of it that I would tell you is really talk to lawyers about the support network that they have, how they manage a case. And here's what I mean by that. If they say, look, you know, I do six different types of law. I've got a lot of clients. You're gonna be one of many. I promise I'll get back to you within, you know, four or five days of you reaching out to me and, you know, just going to have to deal with that because I'm busy. OK, you're just going to have to set your expectations very low for a response of communication or you're going out to look for a different lawyer. And so talking to them about their support network, do they have apparently. How do they communicate? Know? Do they know? Do they try their best to say, like, hey, within 24, 48 hours, 72 hours, you're going to get your response, you know? I have online portal technology we do at our firm. Right. So they can upload messages via a portal. And so you can send them to receive documents from your your attorney that way. You know, all these are pieces to the puzzle of that whole picture that you're going to want to see of your attorney and what they have to offer before you go and sign on the dotted line.

The other thing is I tell clients this all the time and I can't stress this enough. Don't let the attorney make the decision for you. The decision and the only decision you're going to be happy with is one that you're comfortable and making. So I don't know how many times I've dealt with the client.

Well, my wife's attorneys telling her not to agree to anything. And so we don't we end. It takes months and months and months to get the case resolved. And we've got to resolve it on the first day. I had a case recently where we settled the case within five hundred dollars of the very first offer that we made four months before because her attorney to tell her, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, don't settle. And we go we go through all this rigmarole, all this discovery, all this litigation, and we finally go to mediation. At the end of that, the end of the case, we go out there with our offer and we go all the way around and eight hours of mediation later. We're five hundred dollars away from where we were when we made our initial offer and lost five hundred dollars to get to that.

Right. We're talking 15, twenty thousand dollars more down the road at that point.

What was so what I'm telling you is you've got to make the decision on your case. What about what you want? The attorney is there to give advice, but the attorney is not there to run your life. So you need to make sure you make a decision that you can live with and that you want to do that because that attorney is going to move on after your case is done.

And moving on to the next case, this is, you know, like I tell most attorneys, you know, we used to both you and I spent a lot of time and training young attorneys in this process how to grow up to be litigators. And I would always tell them, you know, most clients have one attorney as an attorney. I have multiple clients. But you have to treat each client like they're the only one. You have to focus on your time and energy when you hit their case to make sure that it's right, because they're relying on you. They're relying on you to make decisions to guide them in the most difficult time in their life, because nobody wants to hire a lawyer and be involved in litigation. Nobody does if they do it. Masochists, you wouldn't want to marry those people. But, you know, when you land in that situation, what everybody needs in that situation is a good lawyer, a good lawyer, somebody who's been there, who's done that, who knows what they're doing, who knows how to guide you, advise you, and in the end put you in a position where you get to make a smart decision, whatever that is.

So if you have a question for us on the podcast, I would tell you to reach out to our website. There's on our website, there's that there's a screen there on the right side where you can put in a put in your name and your email and that you have a question. If you want to quit, you want us to answer a question on the show, just write. It's the question. We'll go through it. And each week we're going to answer a different question. I think this is a really good, productive discussion today. Sam, I really appreciate it. Our website is www.astxlegal.com. My phone number. I'm in Houston. It's 281-374-4741. And Sam, you're in Fort Worth.

And what is your number 817-914-5470 near Dallas Fort Worth and all the Metroplex areas of you look forward to in the future for us, too, obviously, we're going to have a couple good guest speakers to come in and kind of helps spur the conversation along with you, Bryan. But we're also going to put together some e-books that are going to be available to kind of help guide people to whether it be estate planning, probate or a family law, issues that are coming up. So be on the lookout for those as well. We'll talk those more as they come online.

Yeah, we've got a great guidebook coming out to kind of help navigate the divorce process. And if we can be of assistance with you, you know, if you have questions that we can answer, just reach out to us on the phone or via the Web site, and we'll be happy to sit down with you if you mentioned this podcast. We will waive the consultation fee. So give us a call. We're happy to assist you and you know, no matter where you are in process. But, Sam, I appreciate the time today.

Thanks for jumping on with us. It's always a pleasure. All right. Thank you, sir. Thank you. You guys have a good week.

Thank you for listening, and we hope you enjoyed the Top Texas Lawyers Podcast. If you'd like to schedule a consultation with either Bryan or Sam, please call 1-888-981-7509. Or visit us on the web at astxlegal.com. Once again, that's astxlegal.com. Thank you very much.

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