For somebody who’s only been divorced once, I have a lot more experience with family law attorneys than most people. First, it took almost three years from the time my ex announced that she was pulling the plug on our marriage to the time we actually got a judgment entered into the record. And second, I went through two lawyers before finally ending up with Sean Stephens.
I wish I’d started off with Sean. If I had, I’m pretty sure the divorce would have taken a lot less time and cost me a lot less money –– despite the fact that he bills $325/hour.
As any lawyer you choose should be, Sean is knowledgeable about the law. He’s experienced enough to be well versed in the operation of the courts and the law, but he’s young enough to care. It’s a good sweet spot to be in.
He’s also clear. When I first met him, this struck me as potentially off putting and I decided to go with someone who I didn’t think would be as likely to come across as confrontational. Big mistake. Clarity is more important than niceness, especially once my ex fired her first lawyer and chose to bring on Michael McGrath. Look him up. Unless you’re willing to go slime ball yourself –– and I’m not –– the best approach when dealing with someone of his ilk is to be clear and demand clarity in return.
What all lawyers will promise (and few will deliver) is a dedication to your case. My second lawyer did a great job selling himself, but once I signed the retainer agreement I couldn’t get him on the phone. I had to make an appointment to ask him a question and when I came into his office, he’d spend half his time selling me on what a great lawyer he was and the other half not giving me an answer to the questions I asked.
Sean was the opposite. He usually returned my phone calls within a day –– often within two hours. He answered my questions clearly (there’s that clarity thing again) and if anything, did his best to moderate my expectations. And he was prepared.
Unlike Lawyer #2, Sean read my case notes (and by the time I brought him on, there were boxes of case notes) and actually synthesized the important information. He didn’t get all the details right off the bat. Who could? But he didn’t jump to conclusions, either. He worked with me to understand not only what the facts were, but what was important to me.
By the time I brought Sean on, I had been out-lawyered repeatedly by my ex’s lawyer and ignored by my own. I’d spent an ungodly amount of money and had very little left. And I was emotionally drained. The entire process left a foul taste in my mouth that even now, months later, I can’t completely get rid of.
What Sean did was damage control. He helped salvage what he could. He jumped in at the last minute and tried his best.
Ultimately, I still got screwed. But I got a lot less screwed than I would have been.