How to avoid the 12 biggest mistakes people make when hiring a lawyer

I hate to see people benefit and I hate to see people suffer when they choose the wrong attorney. Maybe those two things are why I became a lawyer, so I can deal with those situations. I have seen clients who have lawyers ignore their cases not just for weeks but for years. I have heard complaints about attorneys not telling the client what is going on in their case, but accusing the client when they call to ask what is going on. I have heard complaints about lawyers taking money from clients without fully understanding what is expected of each side.

I also hate having to clean up another lawyer’s mess. It is easier to help the client and avoid potential problems than to repair the damage caused by choosing the wrong lawyer. I have seen prenuptial agreements and separation agreements fail. I had to go in to fix it after canceling it. I had to go in to settle the failed divorce. One woman’s tragic story comes to mind in particular. In the office, we call her story “The Nine-Year Divorce Story.” She hired an attorney to defend the divorce case here in Virginia and file for divorce. He was out of state at the time and was paying a large attorney to retain him. There is no written agreement. The attorney he chose seemed to be intimidated by the opposing attorney and did nothing to advance the case. In fact, the lawyer allowed the case to be thrown out of court because he did not act. Cases are not dismissed on this basis without prior notice and counsel of record. The attorney did not inform his client of the dismissal. It was when the court told him that he was fired that he found out what happened. The client was involved in a car accident, after which he was hospitalized and underwent several surgeries. He trusts his lawyer to look after his interests; he did not know or understand what to do and he did not know until he received notice from the court that the case was dismissed.

Phillip John Smith


When the client contacted the lawyer, he had the case reinstated. However, it was not until the opposing attorney withdrew from the case that the attorney acted to promote his client’s interests. In the meantime, the lawyer allowed the woman’s husband to run away, evade the jurisdiction of the court, and use a lot of the couple’s property. The attorney obtained the spousal support order, but did not take any effective action to collect or enforce the spousal support order against the defaulter.

In fact, the lawyer allowed tens of thousands of dollars to accumulate in debt. Meanwhile, the lawyer demanded and received $10,000 in legal fees from the estranged husband. When the lawyer realized that her husband had spent the money, and that it would not be easy to collect the legal fees, she started asking her client for money. Being disabled and not getting a penny of alimony, she couldn’t pay a lawyer and she dropped her case at the last hearing. Needless to say, all this made the woman have a bad taste in her mouth when it came to avocados. The woman heard about me and came to see me regardless of what happened because she needed help. We were able to complete the divorce and division of property, started 9-10 years ago and we started a forced settlement by withholding social security and pension owed to her husband.

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