You are going through divorce — you retain an attorney and at the end of the day you have a visceral reaction — you either love or hate your divorce attorney. While a good attorney could use his legal knowledge and skills to get you a better settlement, the facts of your case largely determine the outcome of your case. So why then, do clients have such extreme reactions to their lawyers?

In large measure, the client’s satisfaction with his legal representation is directly related to his expectations from the attorney-client relationship. So what can the client expect of his attorney?

Cathy Meyer in her article Are You Expecting Too Much From Your Divorce Attorney? identifies five things clients should minimally expect from their attorneys:

1. Regular Communication.

Responsiveness is crucial. More complaints are lodged against attorneys with disciplinary boards for not returning phone calls than any other reason.

In my office, it is the practice to attempt to return calls and answer client emails the day they are received . Divorce is emotionally charged. It can be nerve wracking and gut wrenching. Your attorney should expeditiously answer your questions and address your concerns in a timely manner.

2. Full Disclosure.

Your attorney should be willing to discuss in full with you what is happening in your case and what they expect to happen in the future. A good divorce attorney will suggest strategies for your case; explain the discovery process, negotiate on your behalf, and have your back should you go to divorce court.

Client’s should receive copies of all letters, emails and legal documents. When the communication involves a client’s substantive rights, the client should have an opportunity to review the final product before it goes out.

3. Due Process.

It is your divorce attorney’s responsibility to make sure you are treated fairly by the court during your divorce.

4. Availability.

Appointments with your divorce attorney are an opportunity for you to gauge where you are in the divorce process and the direction your case is heading. If you have a divorce attorney who cancels or rushes you through appointments, you have a bad divorce attorney.

5. Basic Courtesy and Civility.

Little things matter. It costs nothing to be courteous and polite. While the adage “the customer is always right” be not be 100% accurate in a divorce case, the client is always entitled to respect and common courtesy. When differences of opinion arise on how an issue should be handled, the client is entitled to a reasoned, but polite explanation. It is seldom productive to be rude, derisive or hostile

In the end, the client should expect the attorney to counsel and to communicate a strategy and an analysis of the relevant facts and law to enable the client to make informed decisions about their case.

Hat tip to Daniel Clement of the most excellent New York Divorce Report.

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.