Every case is different and takes unique twists and turns that are often unforeseeable. But almost every divorce or custody case in Maryland has the same basic skeleton. One party opens the case by filing a “complaint,” either for divorce or child custody. Then the complaint must be served on the other party. There are various methods of accomplishing service. After service is completed, then the other party must receive time—usually 30 days—to file an “answer” to the complaint. If no answer is filed during such time, then the other party may be found in default, in which case a hearing may occur in their absence and the relief granted without their input. However, if the other party does file an answer, then the case will continue. Several months will pass during which various procedural things occur that enable the parties and the court to prepare for an eventual trial. During this time, the party that did not file the original complaint will have a chance to file a counter-complaint. Also during this time, both sides will have ample opportunity to conduct discovery, which is the process wherein parties compel each other to provide information and documents that may be useful for trial preparation. In addition, the court will hold various conferences to monitor the progress of the case, and the court may require that the parties attend mediation to try to settle their disputes. And if the parties are unable to settle, then the court will eventually set a date for trial. At trial, the court will allow the parties to testify, call witnesses, present evidence, and make arguments. Then the court will make its ruling. If the parties disagree with the ruling, then they have various options for appealing the ruling to a higher court or asking the trial court to change the ruling. In divorce or child custody cases, it is not unusual for trials to occur approximately one year after the initial complaint is filed. If a case settles sometime during that year, then the case may end much earlier.
Television contains a lot of legal dramas. I can think of several, including Law and Order, The Practice, and LA Law. My favorite is Boston Legal. But as good as these shows are, they do a disservice to the legal profession because they create unrealistic expectations. First, these shows disregard the fact that most lawyers charge for their service. In these shows, you rarely hear discussions of legal fees, and lawyers usually represent a client regardless of the client’s ability to pay. In the real world, attorneys must earn a living, and although they may have sympathy for a client’s case, they often turn down a case if the client is unable to pay. Second, television largely ignores the pretrial process. On television, soon after a case starts, a trial occurs almost immediately. In reality, many months or a whole year may pass between the start of a case and the trial, and such time is always consumed with investigation, exchange of information, motions, various court conferences, and periods of inactivity. Television dramas show none of this. In my divorce and child custody practice, I often find people surprised when I describe the length of time that their case may take. Many also don’t understand that the vast majority of time spent by any good attorney is not in court but in his or her office studying the case. Finally, these shows create the impression that some attorneys “never lose”. But any real world attorney who represents a broad range of clients will handle both strong and weak cases and will not always “win”. And the very terms “win” or “lose” may be difficult to define. A football player who is not getting mud on his jersey must be sitting on the bench, and the same is true for attorneys. In the end, legal dramas are fun to watch, but they do not accurately portray the practice of law.
It is certainly possible for a non-lawyer to proceed in a legal case using forms and information from the internet. But such a course of action may backfire. This is true even in uncontested cases. The reason is that legal information and forms on the internet are not reliable. Forms and information on the internet usually do not account for differences in state laws. Those differences may cause forms to be improperly worded or unenforceable in your case. Furthermore, information from the internet will not account for the unique circumstances of your situation. You may be experiencing problems that the internet does not fully address. While you may save some money during your case by relying on resources from the internet, you may cost yourself even more in the future. You may learn in the future that the outcome of your case was defective, and you may find yourself back in court with an attorney in a difficult and expensive legal battle to fix it. Hiring an attorney from the beginning is the only way to obtain the protection and peace of mind that you want.
Yes and no. Some people attempt to represent themselves throughout their case until the time just before they have court, at which time they hire an attorney. They usually do so in order to save legal fees. You are certainly free to choose this strategy, however, it will almost certainly lead to big trouble for you. Right from the start and continuing throughout your case, there will be an infinite number of decisions to make and things to do to protect your interests. By hiring an attorney late, you will deny that attorney the opportunity to protect your interests, deny the attorney the ability to prepare for trial, and deny the attorney the opportunity to assist you in any settlement negotiations. Maybe the attorney will have time to catch up on some of these things, however, the attorney will have to act in a rushed manner and may not be as effective. Almost always, the attorney will have to spend time reviewing things that were done in the time before he/she was hired and may have to act to correct mistakes. In short, waiting to hire an attorney can be costly. The earlier that you do so, the more that attorney can do for you, and the more favorable the outcome of your case will likely be.
Many people believe that hiring a large firm is the best way to win their case, but this is not always true. Large firms will not necessarily obtain a better result for their clients. Both large and small firms have good attorneys. So what is the difference? The difference is in how personalized their service is. Small firms have fewer employees, or no employees at all. Attorneys at small firms usually handle their cases themselves instead of giving their cases to another attorney or a paralegal. Attorneys at small firms are accessible to their clients, often answering their own phone. And small firms often charge their clients lower fees. In short, small firms often give more personal attention to their clients at a more reasonable price.
The answer depends on the circumstances. Settlement and trial are very different. Settlement is a process in which parties try to work out their differences without court intervention. Trial is a process by which a judge will listen to the facts and evidence in a case and make a decision that is consistent with the law. Which one is best? Settlement is always best if it can be accomplished fairly. Settlement allows parties to retain control over their lives rather than having a judge make important decisions that will affect them and their children for years to come. Settlement is also less expensive than trial, which often takes many hours or even days of preparation and attorney time. Settlement reduces stress because the parties no longer have to worry about what the court will decide. And settlement removes the possibility of an appeal, which either side may pursue if they are unhappy with their trial result. Patrick encourages his clients to settle if they can do so fairly. However, often parties cannot settle for a variety of reasons, and Patrick is ready and willing to aggressively represent his client’s interests at trial. Because trial is always possible, Patrick believes that he must begin preparing for trial from the very beginning of every case so that he is always prepared.
Patrick is highly experienced as a litigator in the area of family law. Between 2001 and 2004, he worked as a staff-attorney for the federal government in Washington, DC. In 2004, he entered private practice, and between 2004 and 2011 he represented individuals and small businesses in a variety of legal matters. During this time, he practiced family law in addition to practicing personal injury, civil litigation, and criminal law. His experience practicing in a variety of legal areas provided him with a broad understanding of the law. Since 2011, Patrick has focused his talent and expertise almost exclusively on family law. During his practice, Patrick has successfully represented countless people in divorce, child custody, child support, domestic violence, and other family law matters of varying degrees of complexity. He has represented clients in all stages of their cases, including settlement, trial, and appeal. He is intelligent and efficient in his representation. He is effective in his communication with others, including opposing counsel, court staff, and judges. He is extremely knowledgeable of court rules and procedures. He is confident, acting aggressively on behalf of his clients both inside and outside of the courtroom. And he enjoys the respect of others in the legal profession.
Patrick understands that your case may be a significant source of stress in your life and that you may have things that you wish to discuss without waiting. As a result, Patrick strives to be available to discuss your case at a moment’s notice. He is almost always available in person or by telephone. He usually answers the telephone immediately, however, if he is unavailable, then he almost always returns calls within a few hours. In addition, he is easily accessible by e-mail, often returning e-mails within a few minutes. Finally, Patrick never refers cases to another attorney or paralegal. He is the only attorney in his firm. He considers your case to be his—and only his—responsibility. If you hire Patrick, you will never wonder who is handling your case, and you will always be able to reach him.
No attorney can guarantee a win. Furthermore, every case presents unique challenges. Predicting the outcome of any legal matter is often difficult, if not impossible, because so many factors lie outside of the attorneys control. Such factors include the law, the underlying facts, the nature of the opposition, financial considerations, and the judge. The only factor that your attorney can control is the level of determination and effort that he applies. In other words, an attorney’s diligence and effort is the only thing that he can guarantee. If you hire Patrick, regardless of what obstacles and challenges your case presents, he guarantees that he will devote his time, energy, and expertise to your case in order to make the most persuasive case for you and to maximize the chances of success.
Patrick understands that, before you decide to hire him, you want to talk to him and ask questions. For this reason, he provides half-hour initial consultations. An initial consultation is a very informal meeting between you and Patrick in which you talk one-on-one about your legal situation. You may describe your situation to Patrick, and he will listen. You may ask him as many questions as you like, and he will answer them to the best of his ability. You may show him any legal documents that you have, and he will discuss them with you. Patrick will likely give you basic legal advice regarding your situation and discuss your prospects for success. He will also discuss his fees for representing you. Regardless of whether you decide to hire Patrick, you will always leave the consultation with a greater understanding of your situation, the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and the possible steps to achieve your goals.
Patrick charges an hourly rate for most matters that he handles. The amount of his time that a case requires is usually impossible to predict, however, by charging an hourly rate, Patrick assures you that the cost of your case will be proportional to the amount of time that it takes. Although this system will result in some cases costing more than others, you will not overpay in the event that your case is resolved quickly.
Patrick believes that a person should not have to sell his soul in order to obtain quality legal representation. When he meets with you, he will talk to you about your financial circumstances and attempt to find an hourly rate that fits within your budget. In some circumstances, he may agree to delay accepting payment until after a matter is finished.
Low flat fees are available for uncontested matters.
Patrick accepts payment by cash, check, or credit card. Acceptable credit cards are MasterCard, Visa, and Discover.
Patrick’s training and experience enable him to represent his clients very aggressively, however, he believes that the level of his aggressiveness should be measured based on the demands of the case. A case in which the parties are respectful towards each other may require less aggressiveness than other cases. Nevertheless, Patrick does not shy from difficult confrontations or legal measures when they are necessary in order to accomplish a client’s objectives. Patrick strongly believes that an effective attorney must be ready and willing to stand up for his clients and to pursue their legal rights without backing down. Doing so may require that he ask uncomfortable questions of the opposing party, file certain motions, gather all necessary documents and information, never be intimidated, be willing to go to trial, make forceful arguments in court, and otherwise pursue his client’s rights to the very end.