Nasty or nice? What kind of attorney do you need?
The answer is ... A smart attorney. Smart and nice to you is even better. You want someone who specializes in family law. Someone you feel comfortable spilling your guts to. Someone who listens, respects you and gives you honest, realistic answers.
Divorcing is traumatic at best, so run from an attorney who treats you nasty. You don't deserve to be bullied and besides, given the challenges of divorcing, it just might send you over the edge.
Lately I've been getting calls from concerned clients who say: "I'm not sure if I have the right attorney because s/he is, well, too nice ... and my spouse can be very nasty. I need someone I know will fight hard for me." There seems to be a misconception, especially in high conflict situations, that it takes a really nasty personality to outsmart the other side and get the job done.
Fact is, the "nasty" approach is what drives up legal bills (on both sides) and it creates so much adversity that co-parenting becomes nearly impossible. Furthermore, your attorney's job is negotiating, for you, with "the other side." If your attorney can't even treat you well, chances are s/he doesn't have the skills and talent a negotiator needs to succeed. Such an attorney is probably more comfortable in an adversarial courtroom setting and that means huge legal bills for you. Keep in mind, the more money you spend fighting the less you will have left to create a new life.
So instead of a surly, imposing human, it's best to hire a smart, strategic-thinking attorney who can creatively apply the rules of law, and facts of your situation, to help you negotiate a fair settlement. Also keep in mind that attorneys, like doctors, also specialize.
For example, some attorneys like the challenge of a contentious, high conflict divorce whereas others won't take a case likely to end up in court. There are attorneys known by their peers for expertise in custody matters, or dividing complicated estates, or international law as it affects a foreign born spouse and children. Some attorneys don't value mediation, so if you plan to mediate be sure to select an attorney whose reputation is pro-mediation.
Family law is complicated therefore it is wise to do your homework before you hire someone. Learn about the legal process, know your finances and figure out what type of attorney expertise you need. Then interview several attorneys with a good reputation for handling your situation and trust your instincts. If you don't connect with a particular attorney, move on and find someone that's a better fit.
Fortunately, today many judges and family law attorneys believe going to court should be a last resort. Currently only 5% of all divorce cases end up in court. It's seen as a very expensive, demoralizing, and risky route to take only after all other options have been exhausted. So the skills that make a good divorce attorney today have changed from the traditional bully to a smart negotiator.
That being said, there still are attorneys who prefer the old-style, adversarial theatrics of court. It brings in big bucks for their law firm sweetening the deal for them, but not you. So buyer beware.
As you move through the tasks of divorcing remind yourself you need and deserve a good return on your legal investment. Sadly, that important fact often gets trampled by the painful emotions and egos that drive divorcing. The style of attorney you (and your spouse) choose sets the tone for your divorce and often the cost. Unfortunately, if one of you chooses an inept or litigious attorney it affects both of you.
Tell yourself, and your soon-to-be ex, that this difficult transition is a small blimp on the road of life. It too shall pass and you each deserve the best start possible to build a new life for yourself and any children you may have. You have more control than you realize.