Divorce Lawyer Scared of Trial?

If you are getting a divorce in Illinois, you don’t want a lawyer who is scared of trial. The concept seems funny, doesn’t it? But in Chicago, and other parts of Cook, Lake, and DuPage counties, many lawyers are scared of trial. Within the most recent two weeks, I’ve had several prospective clients want to hire me only a week before a trial – even thought they had other lawyers that have handled their cases for many months. That really go me thinking about how some Illinois divorce lawyers are scared of trial.

I wrote this article about the problems with Illinois divorce lawyers that are scared of a trial.

Why would a lawyer be scared of a trial?

As a divorce lawyer in Chicago and elsewhere in the counties of Cook, Lake, and DuPage, I’ve notice that many divorce lawyers are scared of conducting a trial. Here are some of the reasons they might be scared:

  1. Getting paid: Trials can become expensive. So lawyers sometimes want to avoid trials because they are worried they won’t get paid for one.
  2. Client expectations: Many times divorce lawyers in Illinois give false high expectations to clients to get their business, even though it’s fairly clear those expectations won’t be met. Or, a client might wrongly have expectations that cannot be met. So if either of those are the case, I lawyer might pressure a client to settle and avoid a trial.
  3. Unprepared lawyer: Sometimes, lawyers are as prepared as they should be. No one’s perfect, right? But some lawyers got to court unprepared to make arguments. If your lawyer is like that, then you might wonder what the persuasive arguments are in your case. You shouldn’t have to wonder that. You’re lawyer should have told you.
  4. Just bad at conducting trials: Some lawyers are not good at putting on a trial. Divorce trials can be very intense matters. In an Illinois divorce, there can be contested issues of property division, child custody, visitation, spousal maintenance, and child support.

How can I determine if a lawyer is scared of a trial?

I’ve noticed some common traits in lawyers that seem scared of having a trial. Here are some of them.

  1. Invisible partner: Many times a client hires a firm based on speaking to a “name” partner – one of the divorce lawyers with his or her name on the door. And guess what – that partner becomes invisible. Instead of truly being represented by the partner that the client had faith in (for some likely-unsupported reason), the client will instead actually be represented by an associated who’s just taking orders. In my experience, partners who show up at the last minute before a trial are rather scared of going to trial – they were probably hoping all along they could simply settle the case while making boatloads of money of the associate trudging to court doing basically meaningless tasks.
  2. Bumbling other hearings: Trials don’t happen at the beginning of a case. They happen at the end. Before a trial there have likely been other hearings – maybe on temporary custody, visitation, or child support. If a divorce lawyer seems to be unable to pull off one of those hearings, that same lawyer is probably scared of a trial.
  3. Lack of passion: If you’re lawyer seems to lack passion for your case, there is a good chance he or she is scared of a trial. This can even be the case for good lawyers. To be frank, sometimes I have clients who think they have good cases, but don’t. I tell them. But if they want to go to trial instead of settle, that’s their choice.
  4. No strategic explanation: Good divorce lawyers should be able to discuss strategy with you in regards to how a trial would be handle. What are the major issues, and how will they be approached? Is credibility an issue, and if show, how will the lawyer attack the credibility of the other side? If there is no discussion of this nature, than that divorce lawyer may very well be scared of trial.

How will I be harmed if my lawyer is scared of a trial?

I feel sorry for people who hired divorce lawyers in Illinois that are scared of a trial. In my opinion, clients of those lawyers are at risk of serious harm. Here’s how:

  1. Pressure to take bad deals: I’ve noticed that lawyers who are scared of trial often pressure client to settle when they shouldn’t. That’s opposite behavior of what many clients think a lawyer will do. Many clients initially think lawyers just want to keep dragging a case on to bill more. Maybe they will – until a certain point. Then, they beg a client to settle because they are scared of having a trial.
  2. High bills: If your lawyer is scared of having a trial, your case might actually end up costing more than if you had a trial. A trial (absent a later appeal), will put at end to a case. On the other hand, negotiations can drag on forever. I had several cases that were greatly sped up by my demand for a trial.
  3. Endless cases: Lack of a trial date can cause a case to drag on for years – often when it doesn’t need to.
  4. Stress: One good thing about a trial is that it should put an end to your case. The problem with endless negotiations is that they can drag on forever – and that can be more stressful than actually dealing with the consequences of a trial.

What lawyers aren’t scared of a trial?

As a divorce lawyer in Chicago and the Illinois counties of Cook, DuPage, and Lake, I’m not scared of going to trial. On one hand, I have many cases that settle quickly. On the other, if I think a trial will help my client, I’ll push for one.

If I cannot take your case, I can refer your case to numerous lawyers who I know are capable and willing to take cases to trial. In my opinion, if a lawyer is scared of trial your case will not end as well as it could – even if you settle.


About the author: Contact Illinois family law attorney David Wolkowitz at 312-554-5433 or online. He is a family law and divorce attorney serving Chicago and the Counties of Cook, Champaign, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. Areas of practice include divorce, uncontested divorce, child custody, visitation, spousal maintenance, child support, and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act (the “UCCJEA”).