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How to retain a Family Lawyer in China - six things you should expect from a China divorce lawyer

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Six Things Your Lawyer Will Expect from You

1. Follow Advice

Your family law attorney will offer you the benefit of his education and experience, a cool head with an objective perspective, and the experiences of other people who also faced what you are dealing with. He knows that justice often comes to the deserving only after a fight, and also that some kinds of justice and vindication are beyond the reach of any judge. He knows how judges want you to present your case (and what they do not want to hear!), and how they might view the things you say and do as your case moves forward. While your family attorney can never guarantee a favorable result, he can suggest approaches that can help guide you around the traps that are common to family law matters, and help you get the most of your case’s strengths.

2. Candor

No one leads a perfect life, and there is no such thing as a perfect case. If you do not inform your lawyer about the skeletons hiding in your closet, he cannot be ready when your spouse opens the door and puts them on display! Your divorce attorney can find out about the challenges of your case in his office from you, or in the courtroom from your spouse.

3. Stay Involved and Stay in Touch

Pay attention to your case, and be your attorney’s active partner and maybe even his clerk. Be sure that you open, review and (as necessary) respond promptly to everything he sends to you. Return his telephone calls. Keep him updated about developments that may affect your case.

4. Courtesy, Respect and Common Sense

At a time in your life when you might be least able to keep your head cool, it matters all the more that you do so. Even spouses who never set out to fight can find themselves under fire in the wake of careless words or a moment’s impulsive anger. You have no control over your spouse’s actions, but you can – and must – keep control over yourself and your conduct. If you imagine that you are being recorded every time you deal with your spouse and act accordingly, and you make sure that you are prepared to answer for every one of your choices, you will never have to fear the truth. Your lawyer can be a sword-and-shield for you, or he can be your broom-and-dustpan; your conduct can make all the difference between them.

5. Follow Court Orders

It is rare that a lawyer will advise you not to follow a court order. Make it a point always to obey them, even when doing so is difficult. Failure to do so can leave you facing penalties that run from frustrating to crippling, depending on the nature of your violation.

6. Give Him What He Asks For

Your lawyer may ask you for a variety of information and documentation as your case moves forward, or you may have to produce it for your spouse as part of the litigation process. Be diligent and prompt in responding to these requests, be organized, and discuss with your lawyer as early as possible any questions or concerns.

Who Will Be Handling Your Case?

The person who retains a lawyer also retains the entire law office. Law firms will sometimes distribute their caseloads in-house. Senior lawyers will often assign casework, and sometimes even whole case files, to qualified associates. Some firms will adopt a “team” approach to their workloads, coordinating their efforts to ensure that work is handled in a prompt and efficient manner. Routine tasks such as document preparation and legal research often are assigned to lawyer associates or support staff members. This is normal, and when properly managed it can allow a law firm to streamline its operation by assigning a job to the most qualified and/or lowest-cost person who is capable of properly handling the task.

In addition, attorneys often share each others’ workloads when one of them is overloaded, double-booked, or simply unavailable. For you, the bottom line is that you are entitled to informed and competent representation. You deserve to be kept informed about how your case progresses. If you develop concerns about how your case is being handled, you are entitled to an explanation.

How Much Your Divorce Will Cost You

This is an excellent question to ask, but often it is nearly impossible to answer meaningfully unless your situation is relatively uncomplicated and the specific service you need is offered for a fixed fee. Every case is unique, and the cost for legal services will depend heavily upon the amount of time the lawyer has to spend working for you. Lawyers usually account for time spent working on your case by tenths of an hour. Minimum fees may apply for some services. As with any other investment, legal services are at their most cost-effective when there is a reasonable prospect of a good return, or when they are your best opportunity to avoid damage much greater than the fees you will pay. A good lawyer will consider the cost of his own services when advising you about your options.

Lawyers usually work on a retainer basis. This means that you will pay a certain amount of money to your attorney in advance, to create a fund that he will draw against to pay himself as he earns the money. A retainer fund must be replenished if it becomes too depleted, and you should review the terms of your written fee agreement carefully. Never expect your divorce lawyer to work for you on credit. Unless your fee agreement says otherwise, retainers are usually refundable to the extent that they have not been earned by services rendered and expenses incurred.

There are some things you can try to do that may help keep your legal costs down, so that you get the best “bang” for your legal buck:

  • Keep communications with your lawyer direct and to the point, while avoiding the false economy that tempts you into cutting a conversation so short that your lawyer cannot get the information he needs, or give you the advice that you need.
  • Tell your lawyer about possible problems before they manifest. Do not be afraid to ask questions or express concerns. It is usually cheaper to stay out of trouble, than it is to get out of trouble. Do not merely look before you leap, make sure you discuss before you leap. Giving you the information that will let you keep yourself safe and protected is part of your attorney’s job.
  • Consider as dispassionately as you can which battles are worth fighting, and what you might be willing to give up in exchange for the peace of mind that closure can bring. Your lawyer should be able to offer both suggestions for useful approaches, and helpful perspectives.
  • If you take notes when you talk to your lawyer, you can avoid asking the same questions (and paying for the answers!) multiple times.
  • If your circumstances permit, try to communicate directly with your spouse instead of turning the job over to your lawyer. While that is sometimes impossible, doing so might save you a lot of money.
  • Become your lawyer’s clerk on your own case: gather and organize promptly any necessary information or records that your lawyer needs, and discuss with him what other work you might be able to do to keep your costs down.
  • Be sensible and responsible in your dealings with your spouse over time, and be sure to avoid letting your negative emotions dictate your choices; your bad behavior arms your spouse against you.
  • Consider mediation, co-parental counseling, or other forms of alternative dispute resolution. Your lawyer should be able to offer you suggestions and resources.

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I am a licensed China lawyer. Most clients are foreign nationals and companies. China Lawyer Blog have associates in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Fuzhou, Hainan, Hefei, Wuhan, Xian, Changsha, Xiamen and Hangzhou. Learn More

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China Lawyer BLog AuthorPeter Zhu, an experienced China attorney licensed to practice law for more than ten years, the author of this China Lawyer blog, welcomes any enquiry or consultation related to Chinese law.