The Value of An Experienced Attorney

And How To Find Yours

By Atousa Saei

The sound of the gavel pounding the bench echoed through her ears.  “How would you like to respond to these allegations Mrs. Miller?”  She stared blankly at the Judge for a brief, piercing second before shuffling frantically through her papers to find the printout of that text message that her husband had sent her the day after he hit her.  “Mrs. Miller?” the Judge asked, this time with a knife edge to his tone.  “I’m sorry your honor, just give me a couple seconds here to find…” The Judge continued to stare at her as she scrambled in a frenzy to find her evidence.  “Very well, do you have your Responsive Declaration with you?  It was supposed to be filed last week.”  Mrs. Miller’s hands froze.

I sat in the Courtroom waiting for my case to be called, my knee jerk reaction was to jump up to save Mrs. Miller and say, “Your Honor, Mrs. Miller was not represented by Counsel and did not know that her Responsive Declaration was due nine Court days before the hearing, please provide her with a continuance to retain counsel and to file a supplemental response.” I kept thinking, “if she would only have said….. and if she had brought….. she would have won her case.”

Do your research before choosing a divorce attorneyDivorce Is Not Simple

So often, people walk into Family Court expecting to represent themselves and push through their divorce, custody, and domestic issues.  Sadly, divorces simply aren’t simple.

If there is one thing that I have learned in practicing Family Law, it is that no divorce is simple.  There is almost always at least one complication in each divorce that if not handled with care, can drag out the process and add unwarranted stress to an already difficult situation.

Whether it is a friendly divorce, a domestic violence dispute, a vicious child custody battle or a battle over finances, there is rarely a divorce that should not be managed by an attorney, regardless of the cost.  That being said, it’s important to find an experienced attorney that fits your needs. But where does one start? There are so many attorneys and they all claim be the best.

What Is Experience?

Finding an experienced attorney that suits your needs as a client can, at times, be difficult and frustrating.  One of the main differences between an experienced and novice attorney is their ability to decide which battle is worth fighting.

Attorneys all have their own style of practicing and no two are the same. Some are so eager to fight to the bitter end that they fail to address the key needs of their clients.  Some attorneys are settlement oriented and reduce the costs of litigation by doing only what is absolutely necessary, versus pulling out all of their ammunition at once and aiming for blood.  And some are simply ineffective.

Divorce is not about winning every battle; it’s about protecting your rights and finding what is important in the long run.

What makes an attorney experienced is not simply the volume of cases that they handle but the variety of cases and their ability to apply different styles of practice.  Attorneys in large law firms do not always get the court time or the face-to-face interaction with their clients that boutique firms have to offer. So never be impressed by massive size, but rather by reputation and demeanor.

On the other hand, solo practitioners may not receive the case volume necessary to get the experience they need to hone their developing skills.

What does “experience” mean? Experience can be defined in many ways, but the best way to define it in my opinion is, “knowledge or practical wisdom gained from what one has observed, encountered, or undergone.”

As a starting point, we can all say that every attorney that has handled enough family law matters by definition has “experience” since they have observed, encountered and undergone the handling of those matters.

However, the key that sets apart an experienced attorney from others is the wisdom that attorney has obtained through the handling of their matters. It might be hard to believe, but actually growing wiser from experience is a difficult task and takes great commitment to achieve.

Attorneys who are experienced in divorce matters are more than legal gurus; they are friends, confidants, companions and generally evolved individuals who understand the importance of human connectedness in divorce proceedings.

There is nothing worse than an attorney who is handling a divorce who has no compassion for the parties. This is a recipe for disaster. An experienced attorney is not after your money, but after your trust; he or she understands that making an extra buck at the cost of your sanity is not a smart business practice.

Finding An Experienced Attorney

How does someone find an experienced attorney?

Step one is by employing grass root efforts. Ask your friends and colleagues if they or their loved ones have had a positive outcome with a family law attorney.

Next, hit the web! The internet is full of reviews and information although I warn that relying on what you read on the web should be done cautiously, as any mad person can smear the name of an innocent on an open forum-attorneys included. However, the internet is generally a reliable source when reading reviews.

Next, schedule a consultation and meet the attorney. Clicking with your attorney, especially when going through one of the most difficult times of your life, is vital. Observe and determine if you feel, comfortable, safe, confident and calm in their presence. Make sure your communication jives as you will be spending a lot of time together. Most importantly, determine if they have the wisdom you are seeking. Identify your needs, wants and goals going into the meeting.

Lastly, pay close attention and notice if he or she asks you by the end of your consultation, “What is it that you want?”

Atousa Saei is the President and lead attorney of the Law Offices of Atousa Saei, APLC. Atousa graduated from Pepperdine University-Malibu in 2001 where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication and Sociology with a pre-law emphasis. Graduating from Loyola Law School in 2005, Atousa began practicing family law and has not stopped since.

Although Atousa knew at a young age that she was destined to be an attorney advocating the rights of others, it was not until she attended Pepperdine that she identified her calling in Family Law. During a volunteer program at an all-boys detention center she realized that social issues, family structure and the law were all closely intertwined. Atousa decided to dedicate herself to assisting clients who were in need of advocacy when dealing with family issues.

Caring, yet undoubtedly aggressive, Ms. Saei protects her clients’ rights and advocates on their behalf. She is known in the field by attorneys and Judges as fair and pleasant, yet tough. Atousa handles matters from simple uncontested divorces to complex high conflict matters. Her client’s range from veterans to celebrities. Follow her on twitter or join her circles on Google+.

Photo Credit: 2013© Jupiter Images Corporation

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