The primary function of a consulting attorney is to provide advice and counsel during the mediation process and provide the support you need to advocate for yourself. This is different from a “review attorney” whose primary job is to review the agreement that has been drafted after the mediation process is over. These are 2 very different roles. If you took my previous advice and are interviewing consulting attorneys, these are 3 important questions to ask.
What experience do you have mediating family disputes?
The best consulting attorneys have mediation training or are mediators themselves. Many times, people are referred to an attorney without knowing whether that attorney has ever actually helped someone in the mediation process. If they are a mediator, you can rest assured that they understand the mediation process and the importance of allowing people to make their own creative decisions. They understand that divorce is not only about procedures and what would happen in court, but rather, what is most important to the couple and their children.
If a consulting attorney is not a mediator, be sure to find out what experience he or she has had working with other clients who have gone through the mediation process.
- What are the attorney’s thoughts about mediation as a process in general?
- Does the attorney speak positively about the results her clients have achieved using mediation?
- What concerns, if any, does she have about the process for you?
An attorney who approaches mediation from a general position of fear or distrust is probably not the best attorney to provide advice and counsel during the mediation process.
That being said, mediation isn’t right for every couple. There’s a difference between being concerned about mediation in general and being concerned that it may not be the right process for you and your spouse. Make sure the attorney you are interviewing can be clear about what his or her concerns are.
How have you helped previous clients during mediation?
Some clients might ask their attorney to meet with them once at the very early stages of the mediation for an overview of the law and some brainstorming. Other clients may want more regular contact with their consulting attorney throughout the mediation process, and advice on the various issues that are being discussed around the finances and child-related issues. You want your prospective consulting attorney to be able to explain the different ways her clients have used her services in the past and how things worked out for them.
Mediators are accustomed to helping couples find unique, creative resolutions to difficult problems. And while they are able to talk to you about the law, they are duty bound to not give legal advice. Consulting attorneys bridge that gap. Their work produces a synergy between them, the mediator, and you.
How will you support me to advocate effectively for myself?
This may be the most important question. Advocating effectively for yourself means understanding what is most important to you, asking for it, and getting it, in a way that makes both you and your spouse feel safe.
That means not rolling over and giving in all the time, and also not being a bully and putting undue pressure on your spouse or partner. Your consulting attorney may take a “tough love” approach with you, if necessary. She will be able to put things in perspective for you. She will make sure that you are asking for the right documents and other information you need to make an educated decision. She will make sure you are not giving in too quickly out of guilt or making unreasonable demands out of anger. An experienced consulting attorney will provide advice to help you avoid making agreements you can’t live with. And, at the same time, she will understand that it’s YOUR agreement and what feels fair to you may not be exactly what would happen if you went to court.
Have you contacted a consulting attorney for your mediation? What questions have you asked? Contact me today to learn more!