When you think of a lawyer what springs to mind?
Someone who would argue over “two flies going
up a wall”?
Someone with bags of money
and a lifestyle to go with it?
capable of great charm when needed but without much sincerity behind it?
Someone who may not tell outright lies but
who can put a great spin on things?
of the above?
So, when you pick a
lawyer, how do you make the choice?
As a practising lawyer what do I think are the
most important qualities of a family law solicitor and who would I look for if
I was going through the system? For me the most important quality in a
solicitor is honesty.
I am not talking
about fiscal rectitude necessarily but of course that too, but someone who will
tell you the truth whether you want to hear it or not, someone candid without
It does not have to be
communicated harshly but you do have to hear it.
The truth about possible outcomes in your
case, the truth about costs and the truth about how Judges look at these
If you go into a solicitor’s
office and he or she tells you everything you want to hear, run a mile, you are
not being told the truth.
solicitor is doing is telling you what you want to hear so that you will become
a client of their office and by the time you find out that things are not going
to turn out this way, it will be too late.
The first thing to understand is that the best interests of the children
is the paramount consideration for an Irish Judge.
Secondly, in Ireland the family court judge
has to make “proper provision” for both parties.
The best interests of the children may not
match exactly with the interests of one or other parent.
For example, the Judge will always want to
ensure that the children are housed and this does not always work with one of
the parent’s interests.
the Judge will try and ensure minimal disruption for the children particularly
in relation to their schools, however, minimal disruption is not a rule and
where it makes sense the Judge will permit property to be sold thereby causing
some disruption. Proper provision means providing for both parties from the
available resources having regard to the children’s best interests.
The second quality is an expertise in the field of family
Knowing how Judges react to
situations and having experience of having run many cases before various courts
and Judges is vital in ensuring that you have someone who will help you
strategise and navigate your way through the system and who also knows the
other practitioners in the field. This quality presents you with an excellent
opportunity to settle your case and settling is always in your interests.
A good settlor.
Keeping legal costs to a minimum is a priority for most clients and
nothing will contribute more to ensuring that than a solicitor who prioritises
settling your case.
A good settlor
however, is more than someone who wants to settle, it is also someone who works
hard to create conditions conducive to settling.
A good settlor is also someone who doesn’t
wait until the last minute to see if a case can be settled.
Settling on the steps of the court will not
keep legal costs to a minimum since most of the work is already done.
is prepared to give you the time you need, knows who you are when you come in
to see him or her and has read your file in preparation for the consultation.
He or she does not take calls when you are
with them except in very rare circumstances.
For the most part they take your calls or answer your emails and only
occasionally are not available but will get back to you as quickly as
If you are seeking a mediator, a collaborator or some other
form of expertise in Alternative Dispute Resolution, you need to be sure that
your solicitor has that expertise and they are specially trained.
In addition to the actual qualification, your
solicitor should have experience of working in this area. Do not be afraid to
ask the hard questions.
without experience or qualifications in the area you seek, is unlikely to
encourage you to try this way of resolving your case.
So, knowing what you want and picking the
person who meets all of your criteria or most of them is key.
There is no doubt that mediation and
collaboration are the most cost-effective ways of resolving your matrimonial or
relationship disputes and so do not be put off.
Of course, remember that it takes two to collaborate or wish to mediate
and your solicitor does not have control of that.
Your solicitor should be someone who is recommended to you
and who is highly thought of in their field.
They should be informative so that when you leave their office, you feel
your questions were answered and you know more than when you came in.
For the most part they should be kind and
patient with you and where some impatience comes into the picture it should be
the exception rather than the rule.
While you did not need your solicitor to be your buddy, it
helps if you and they share an approach to the issues of your case.
Studying their website may give you a good
indication of the values of your solicitor and their approach to things.
People often think that having a solicitor close to where
they live is a must.
Provided you can
make the odd appointment it is not as important as it might seem.
Technology allows for interconnectness as we
are all finding out now in this time of Covid 19.
It is also a mistake to think that
aggressiveness is an essential quality in a solicitor.
In fact the last thing you want is an aggressive
solicitor since he or she is likely to ratchet up costs.
What you want from a solicitor is
assertiveness, good communication skills and friendliness.