ADVICE ON HOW TO CHOOSE AN ATTORNEY

Clients who believe they need an attorney who will personally take on their cause are fooling themselves. They have just hired the worst attorney to represent them.

Recently, the State Bar of California Family Law News included the following observations about family law attorneys who are what I call the true believers:

“Oftentimes, we vest ourselves in our client’s story, or her history. You may find yourself identifying with your client, or taking on her cause as though it were your own. When this happens, take a moment to consider that you are an advocate for the client, but you are not your client. Failing to separate your role as advocate from your client’s position results in a loss of objectivity and analytical thinking required to be an effective attorney. You must determine what level of passion is required to convince the judge or the jury to rule in your favor, but be cautious to avoid wording such as “we” and rely instead on “my client.” ¹

Oftentimes, family law attorneys become the alter egos of their clients. Their clients believe they have the best attorney when in fact they have the worst attorney because their attorney has lost the ability to give their client objective and reasonable advice.

We all remember the story of the Emperor’s new clothes. You want your attorney to be the little boy who shouts out that the Emperor is naked. The best way to do this is for your attorney to take the other side of your case as an exercise. Your attorney should cross-examine you and your case. Your attorney should explore, research and analyze the weaknesses and holes in your case before exploring, analyzing and researching the strengths of your case. Trust me, every case has weaknesses and holes. There are no perfect facts and no perfect clients. Or, as one noted family law judge likes to say, “Snow White did not marry Attila the Hun.”

Beware of any family law attorney who gives you a guarantee or who tells you not to worry about the costs of your case because they are so committed to your story and history that they will handle your case Pro Bono (without charge). Ask yourself this question: How much time is your attorney putting into your case as opposed to the case of someone who is paying their bill?

Oftentimes, your anger, emotions, and aggressiveness will lead you to an attorney who will reinforce all of these emotions. This is a terrible mistake. Instead, you should seek out an attorney who is calm in the face of the storm you’re in. After all, you want the captain of your ship to be steady so he/she can guide your case to calm waters or if necessary, steer your case successfully through stormy seas.


1. The State Bar of California, Family Law News, Issue 2, 2015. Volume 37, No.2. Page 45.

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For more information, please call Philip A. Wasserman at 661-294-8484 or email him at paw@santaclaritafamilylaw.com.

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