10 Things Divorce Attorneys Won’t Say: “I Make Promises I Can’t Keep”

By Attorney Gregg Herman
June 22, 2012

Smart Money magazine recently ran an article entitled “10 Things Divorce Attorneys Won’t Say.”  So far, I’ve covered 1, 2, and 3 in previous posts. Here’s #4:

“I make promises I can’t keep”

Not doing so has cost me clients.  Much of the time, advising clients entails giving them bad news.  No, you are not going to get everything you want.  In fact, you might get little of what you want.  And, what you think is “fair” may not be what the law deems “fair.”  Whatever “fair” means.

Yet, the article is correct to a certain extent.  There are a number of divorce lawyers who over promise clients to get the business.  The theory, I suppose, is to get the client to sign up and then hope the client does not remember the promises later.

A number of years ago, I had a consultation with a woman in a very substantial matter.  She had a “wish list” which was way, way out of the ballpark of reality.  I told her so in no uncertain terms.  She told me that she had talked to another lawyer who had told her that her list was “doable.”  I told her:  “I have two pieces of advice for you.  First, ask that lawyer to put his opinion in writing.  Second, if he does so, hire him.”  I never heard from her again.

Given the number of lawyers practicing in this field and the state of the economy, there are hungry lawyers out there who need the retainer fee, even if the result is a dissatisfied client at the end.  Good, professional lawyers do not over promise.  Rather, we give a realistic appraisal and never, ever, promise anything which cannot be delivered.

If, like the woman I met with, the potential client hires a different lawyer as a result, so be it.

Attorney Gregg Herman is a founding partner of Loeb & Herman, LLC in Milwaukee, WI. He practices family law exclusively, and can be reached via e-mail or by calling (414) 272-5632.