The phrase “Minnesota Divorce Attorney” is one of the phrases googled most often by people in Minnesota who are considering a divorce. I suppose this is appropriate because it does make it easy for someone to find a list of Minnesota divorce attorneys. But my experience is that after making an inquiry or two, people often select an attorney who many not be the best attorney for them and their situation. Often, people do not know the right questions to ask. Usually it is the first time they have hired an attorney and they just do not know how to proceed.
For example, many attorneys offer a so-called “flat rate” divorce. They say that you can pay them a pre-defined amount and they will do all of the work. My personal opinion is that this creates a possible conflict of interest between the attorney and the client. Think about it. Attorneys sell their time. Imagine that an attorney has signed a so-called “flat rate” retainer agreement. Imagine that something goes “wrong” with the process. Either the parties cannot reach an agreement, one spouse is hiding assets, alienating children, or imagine that there is one of possibly a hundred of issues that can derail a divorce. Imagine that this work takes a lot of “extra” attorney time. Do you think the attorney is going to do that work for free? Probably not. Either she is going to not do the work (and pretend it does not need to be done) or she is going to tell you that it is time to negotiate a new retainer agreement.
If someone has been married for six months, has no children, no mortgages, no debt, then possibly a flat-rate divorce attorney might be adequate. This is kind of like someone who visits the doctor’s office with a common cold or the flu. The nurse can take their temperature, give them some Sudafed, and send them on their way with instructions to eat lots of chicken soup.
But, what if the person doesn’t really have a common cold, but has instead had a mild heart attack. Mild heart attack symptoms can mimick flu symptoms. In that case, you really do want to be checked out and diagnosed by a medical doctor.
Usually people who get divorced have been married at least a few years. They have intertwined finances, they own property together, often they have a lot of debt, they typically have retirement assets, and more often than not they have minor children. In this factual stew, there are a lot of significant issues that can be overlooked by someone who is trying to work a “flat-rate” divorce.
Here’s the answer: if you are looking for a divorce attorney, you should meet personally with at least three attorneys and get a feel for them. Ask them how many of their cases settle and how many go to trial. Ask them what law school they went to. Ask them about their caseload. And, most importantly, try to get a sense for how they might handle your case. You can also check with the Minnesota Lawyer’s Professional Responsibility Board to see whether the attorney has had complaints filed against them, and whether they have attorney malpractice insurance.
Of course, nothing can ultimately guarantee a result. But, it helps if you have good information before you make a decision.