There are lots of types of law out there to practice. But the one legal practice area where I hear people most consistently blame their lawyers for all their problems is family law.
I’m the first to admit some lawyers may be better at their jobs than others (just like for any profession or trade). And there may simply be better “fits” between certain clients and certain lawyers, whereas others may be a mismatch. But it is a somewhat unique quirk of family law that six different lawyers may have been consecutively retained by a client to handle a case, eventually leading the client to decide being a self-rep is the way to go.
Here’s my top five list of reasons all your family problems really are your lawyer’s fault, according to what I’ve heard real people tell me.
Reason #5 - Your Lawyer Doesn’t Take Calls or Even Reply to Emails on Christmas Day
Any reasonable and competent lawyer would know that Christmas Day is the high water mark of family conflict, especially where child access exchanges are concerned. Children may be late being dropped off. Temper can flare. Immediate legal advice (and possibly court action) is clearly needed. On December 25th.
Reason #4 - Your Lawyer Expects to be Paid
Any reasonable and competent lawyer should understand that times of family upheaval are the worst possible times to be asking for money. Assets need to be sold. Credit cards get maxed out. Electricity and food bills are clearly a higher priority than legal bills. So a lawyer asking to be paid is just not reasonable.
Better the lawyer should accepted payments of about $50 a month on that $10,000 account, since that will mean the bill will be paid off in no time at all.
Better still, the lawyer will work on contingency, and not expect any money upfront (not even for court filing fees), confident in a huge payoff five years down the road when the other side has capitulated to the legal onslaught, their case crumpling like wet Kleenex.
Reason#3 - Your Lawyer Isn’t Nasty Enough to Your Ex & His/Her Lawyer
No one ever won anything by being nice. Negotiation is for wusses. This is war, and any competent lawyer should understand that. A take no prisoners strategy is most likely to intimidate the other side, and so scare them that they will concede whatever is being asked for.
Other lawyers (and judges) are easily intimidated, so the nastier the letters and the more idle the threats they contain, the more likely you are to get what you want.
Reason #2 - Your Lawyer Keeps Telling You Some of Your Favourite Strategies May be Unethical or Illegal
Reporting a spouse to Children’s Aid or the Police is a good way to put extra pressure on them to settle their family court issues. By putting them in criminal court and child protection court simultaneously, they will buckle under the pressure, and just give up.
Whether there is a solid factual basis to make CAS or police reports matters not. Events from years past can be dredged up and elaborated upon a bit to make them seem more serious. With mandatory charging policies by the police and investigation policies by the CAS, this strategy could force a spouse from the family home and deprive them of any access rights to the children far better than any family court order.
And the winner for the top five reasons all your family problems really are you lawyer’s fault is …
Reason #1 - Your Lawyer Think S/He Knows More About the Law Than You Do
Everyone knows the invention of the Internet has pulled back the sacred curtain that shielded legal knowledge from the masses. No longer are people at the mercy of the lawyers, jealously guarding their scared knowledge like high priestess and priests of days gone by.
Now it’s easy to read the law, and apply it to every family problem. Easy to fill out court forms are online and keyword searching permits hunting down highly relevant family law decisions from the English courts dating from 1906.
The fact your lawyer refuses to use these golden nuggets of legal information that you keep unearthing is clearly a sign of incompetence, leading you to think you really should handle everything yourself. Not only would it be way cheaper, but your amassed research has led you to conclude that you really do understand your case better than anyone else. And so who better than you to explain it directly to a judge. Preferably with 100 secretly recorded audio and video files of your ex and children to present to the court in support of your persuasive points.
Gordon S. Campbell practices family, civil and criminal law throughout Ontario and immigration law across Canada. He has appeared on trial and appeal cases up to the level of the Supreme Court of Canada. Learn more at www.nofearfamilylaw.com .