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Richard L. Becker was named as BEST OF THE BAR by the Kansas City Business Journal, and also received an honor from Avvo, an online attorney search site.

FREE CONSULTATIONS – THE ONLY WAY TO MEET A LAWYER

Here are just a few of the reasons why you should not pay for your initial consultation with a family law attorney:

  • Do you pay for estimates from most professionals? Of course not. When you meet with these professionals to discuss these services, do you pay for their initial time for:
    • Car repair estimates;
    • Air conditioner, heater or water cooling replacement estimates;
    • Estimates for work on your house, such as painting, adding a deck or refinishing a basement;
    • Talking to a salesperson at an electronics store to choose a computer, a television, or a major appliance; or
    • Competing cable/Internet services for your home?
  • What is really happening during an initial consultation? Should you really pay just to:
    • Explain your problem; and
    • Listen to the lawyer explaining his qualifications.
  • Can a lawyer really tell you the outcome of your case based on a one-hour meeting? Of course not.
  • Do you trust the results the lawyer will promise you after talking to you for an hour or less? Do you? Should you?
  • What does the lawyer really do for you at that first meeting? The answer to that last question is simple: not much. He can tell you what might happen; he can tell you what has happened in similar cases; he can tell you the work he thinks he will do on your case. However, until the case begins, there’s no way for the lawyer to accurately predict exactly how your case will proceed. It’s all just guesswork.
  • Your case involves two parties – one of which is not meeting with you and the lawyer. You do not know the following after that initial consultation:
    • Who your spouse will hire as his attorney;
    • How difficult the other attorney will make the case; AND MOST IMPORTANTLY
    • What facts and situations the other party will bring to the table, of which the lawyer during your initial consultation HAS NO IDEA.

The initial consultation is really for the client to get to know the lawyer, and to try and make an informed decision as to whether that lawyer should be hired. That initial consultation is a SELL JOB by the lawyer to get you to hire him. Should you really pay him for that sales job?

The discussion that occurs during that initial consultation – and what really occurs during your case – may be completely different. You are paying an initial consultation for an ESTIMATE and an ESTIMATE only.

In our world, people do not pay for ESTIMATES or for the opportunity for the professional to SELL YOU. You don’t pay to hear a door-to-door salesman make his pitch.

Interviewing a lawyer for the first time should not be any different.

If it’s not worth the lawyer’s time to meet with you for free, then either the lawyer is too busy to handle your case OR the lawyer makes his money on initial consultations.

At THE BECKER LAW OFFICE, LLC you don’t pay for the ESTIMATE.

AND you also do not get a sales job.

You get an honest evaluation based upon what you tell Richard L. Becker about your case, and that’s it.

You wouldn’t pay a car repairman for the same service even if he’s the best car repairman in the country.

Why should speaking to a lawyer be any different?

Free consultations promise you your money’s worth. Free consultations promise you that you will not become indebted to the lawyer. Free consultations are fair, equitable and the way the business of a family lawyer should be conducted.

Call today at 913.558.6913 to arrange for your free consultation.

You will not be disappointed.

For The Sake of The Children: Agree to Disagree

A married couple may decide to separate; a married couple may decide to divorce. However, if a married couple has one or more children, the married couple can never fully disengage from one another.

Here's some simple advice for divorced couples with one or more children, or for unmarried parents of one or more children: agree to disagree.

Each household does not have to follow the same rules. There does not need to be the same bedtime, the same household chores, the same homework routine, the same types of discipline, etc. Children can adopt to widely varying situations. As long as each household does an acceptable [not perfect, not great, not even good - just acceptable] job of raising the children, the specific ways in which each household accomplishes this goal is immaterial.

One household will be better than the other. A tie is highly unlikely. Accept it. But just because you run the 'better' household does not mean you should force your ideas on the other parent.

In terms of the joint decision-making to be undertaken by the two households, please note there are very few decisions that are truly major in scope. One would be in the area of health care, when different treatment options carry different chances of success and different negative consequences. And then there's.....

Frankly, that's about it. Other than major medical decisions, is anything really that important? Is there anything that prevents a children from trying both options selected by the parents, whether the subject matter involves religion, specific school courses, specific sporting activities, etc.?

The children can never be in control of such decisions. That's clear. However, unless it's a life-altering medical decision, don't bang your head against the wall arguing with your ex-spouse. Let the children experience both options and see which he or she prefers - and don't be upset if the children pick the option of the other parent. Or ask for input from the children beforehand and act fairly on the input given. Or seek advice from a person you both trust and admire. Or flip a coin and be gracious and accept the results. All of these methods work.

Other than major, non-routine medical decisions, parents do not need to agree. Be okay with disagreements. The children can experience two different lifestyles in two different households. It's okay for the children to live two very different lives. No one is going to get hurt. And the less arguing between the parents, the better for the children. Besides, that's what you decided for the children when you decided to divorce or not marry, anyway.

Agree to disagree. After all, isn't the fact of the divorce itself - or the decision not to marry - an agreement to disagree? So why should what happens afterwards be any different?

The Hourly Rate: It's Real Meaning

At some point during your meeting with a lawyer, you will learn his hourly rate. You will be told how you will be billed with this rate: in tenths-of-an-hour increments, quarter-of-an hour-increments, etc.

But that's only half the story.

The more important part of the story is how the lawyer will actually BILL YOU using this rate.

The manner and method by which you will be billed is as important - if not more important - than the hourly rate itself.

For example, let's assume the lawyer's hourly rate is $250.00. If time is billed in tenths-of-an-hour increments, then a charge for 6 minutes [or .1] would be for $25.00.

The questions to ask a lawyer to understand how YOU WILL ACTUALLY BE BILLED - the amount you will be required to pay - include the following:

1. Will you be charged for every contact you have with the lawyer? If yes, that means sending a one-sentence question in an email to the lawyer that can be answered 'yes' or 'no' will cost you at least $25.00.

2. How will the lawyer charge if you call him and the call lasts for 20 minutes, but only 5 minutes deals with the particulars of your case? Will you be charged for 20 minutes ($100.00) or five minutes ($25.00)?

3. Does the lawyer adjust the rate based on the actual work done? For example, if the work done by the lawyer would normally be done by a paralegal, will you be charged at the lawyer's rate ($250.00 per hour) or a paralegal's rate (say $100.00 per hour)?

4. If a particular project takes the lawyer longer than it reasonably should take [say 2 hours instead of 1 hour] are you billed for 2 hours ($500.00) or 1 hour ($250.00)?

5. Will you be charged for the time it takes for the lawyer to travel to and from a courthouse or the offices of another attorney?

6. And any other questions along these lines that you can think of.

These are important questions.

Of course, you can ask these questions and get answers that sound good, but how do you know if those answers will turn out to reflect your actual experience with the lawyer?

Here's an idea - think about the lawyer, the lawyer's offices, the lawyer's support staff, the cost of the lawyer's promotional materials, etc. All of that needs to be paid for every month, regardless if the lawyer has 1 client or 100 clients that month. Based on what you see, does it appear likely the lawyer's answers to your questions are accurate?

There's probably your answer.

The Art Of Being Truthful: Your Lawyer And You

This article will be brief and to the point.

As a client, the easiest way for you to derail your case is to not be 100% truthful with your family law attorney.

When you speak to your family law attorney in private, it is entirely different than if you are being cross-examined at trial, or being deposed. In those latter situations you are to only answer the question, and not volunteer information.

For example, assume in a deposition you are asked: Did you have an affair with Lisa in Bermuda? If you did have an affair with Lisa but it occurred in Haiti, then you can truthfully answer "No" to the question.

However, if your lawyer asks you that same question in a meeting, do not be cagey. To your own lawyer, your answer must be, "Not in Bermuda, but in Haiti."

Let me give a few hypothetical examples where not being truthful to your attorney basically ends your chances of winning the case. For example:

You claim to never drink alcohol when you are the only adult watching the kids, but you are lying. You drink all of the time. Unknown to you, your spouse has a camera recording what you do with the children. At trial your spouse's attorney confronts you with the video. Guess what: you lose.

Same scenario as above, and when your own lawyer asks you whether you drink alcohol when you are alone with the kids at trial, you answer "I do not." Guess what - you just committed perjury, the judge will no longer believe anything you say, and you lose.

At a deposition, you tell the same story to a question as you have told your lawyer in private [both of which are lies]. Your lawyer is confident in your deposition testimony. The next witness being deposed tells an entirely different story, and eventually you must admit this witness is telling the truth and you lied. Guess what - forget about trial, it's now time to settle the case for less than what you would have received if you were honest.

You hide an important fact from your attorney, and your attorney - who you really like and think is doing an excellent job for you - must now withdraw from the case because of it.

What do all of the above have in common? By lying to your attorney, you have torpedoed your case.

It seems like this is simple advice but you would be surprised how often a client refuses to follow it.

Simply put, its better your lawyer finds out something bad from you then being surprised in a deposition or at trial.

Be truthful to your lawyer. You need to trust that your lawyer will know how to deal with that truth - no matter how bad it is - in order to achieve a favorable outcome for you in your family law case.

Being truthful to your family law attorney is the best way of achieving a good outcome for your case.

NEUROECONOMICS AND SHATTERED LIVES

The science of neuroeconomics tells us that people don't always make financial decisions based on rational thought. Instead, financial decisions are sometimes made based on what appear to be irrelevant factors, such as the weather and incidental cues associated with the decision.[i]

For most people, a divorce is a life-shattering event. Sure, there are some divorces where both parties are happy to end the relationship, but in most cases one of the parties is devastated, and the other party also experiences strong emotions even if he/she won't admit it, such as regret, guilt, anger, self-righteousness, etc. With a highly emotional client, one expects him/her to not always act rationally.

However, neuroeconomics tells us that even in an amicable, business-like divorce case, rational thought doesn't always win the day when it comes to a client's objectives on financial issues. Similarly, I believe, the same holds true for non-financial matters, such as parenting time schedules.

All of which makes most divorce cases difficult for the lawyers representing the parties.

I know of a case where a very rich dad became incensed when the homemaker-mom wanted him to agree to pay for college expenses. In Kansas, the Court couldn't force him to do so without his agreement. Thus, if he didn't agree to pay there would be no Court order on the subject.

After a little questioning of dad and his lawyer by mom's lawyer during settlement talks, it turned out dad didn't care about the money and fully intended to pay for college. He just didn't want his kids to think he had been forced to pay for college because of the divorce.

The compromise - dad agreed the settlement agreement would require he pay the college expenses so long as the settlement agreement's language also went out of its way to indicate dad's love for the kids; his intent on paying all of their college expenses regardless of what any agreement said; and the agreement's provision on college expenses was put in just to make mom happy.

Now that is a fairly simple example, and one could argue dad was acting rationally in the first place. But the point is - decisions based on irrational thoughts make it hard to obtain a client's objectives, in settlement or at trial.

So what can a lawyer do?

Obviously, a lawyer is paid to attain the client's objectives. But what happens when the other side clearly won't agree to one of the client's objectives; there doesn't seem to be a rational basis for the client's objective on the issue; and the opposing party's objective on the issue is much more logical and much easier to advocate?

My thoughts [hopefully rational]:

Option 1: Seek the objective at trial. The probable result: the lawyer generates a lot of fees, which hopefully are paid, and the client loses at trial on the issue.

Option 2: Run the objective by the Court at a pretrial conference with the client present, and find out what the Court thinks of the objective and make sure the client understands it. Here, of course, if the Court refuses to give any thoughts or actually seems to suggest the objective is possible, then the case will go to trial. The client will be so empowered there won't be any other way to go.

Option 3: Attempt to determine the real basis for the client's objective, and see if it can be satisfied by some means other than the stated objective.

Option 4: See if the client will change his/her position, if the objective is basically unobtainable. This might involve having the client discuss the issue with friends or family, having another lawyer sit in on a meeting and give his/her thoughts on the objective, and/or focusing on the costs and benefits of the client's position on the overall case. Here, the lawyer is not trying to strong arm the client to do anything, but lawyer does want to see if the client is capable of looking at the issue from another perspective.

Option 5: Make sure the client understands the lawyer's analysis, which is that if the opposing party won't agree the client most likely will not be successful at trial, and may even further harm other objectives if the Court finds him/her to be unreasonable or an obstructionist. If the client sticks to his/her position, the lawyer should put the thoughts in writing and give it to the client, by hand delivery![ii]

Option 6: Withdraw.

Personally, what I've decided after years of practice is that Option 1 above is not the way to go. If the client is intent on going to trial, and Option 4 does not change his/her mind and there is time to withdraw, I will do so. I am aware of many lawyers who will argue anything to the Court, as long as they are being paid. I'm not that kind of a lawyer, at least not anymore. If I don't have a good faith argument to make - if in my gut I think the argument has very little merit - then I'm getting out. [iii]

Option 2 is fine, but if the Court gives the client hope I know there's going to be a trial, and I'm probably going to be the lawyer involved in it. Thus, I may be stuck with Option 1 if Option 2 is attempted.

The best bet is Option 3, which is akin to the rich dad and the college expenses [even though he was the opposing party of the lawyer in that instance]. If possible, this is what I try to accomplish and according to neuroeconomics, this probably is how lawyers should approach achieving a client's objectives.

A summary of this article - current science on economics and the human brain indicate financial decisions are not always based on rationality. Thus, to represent a party, sometimes a lawyer has to understand the hidden reasons for the client's stated objectives and go forward based on that understanding.