The Attorney's Pledge In Attempting to Minimize Excessive Legal Expense

The Divorce Attorney’s "Roadmap Pledge" To Avoid Excessive Legal Fees and Preserve Family Resources:

If both attorneys will accept this pledge, then the divorcing parties have the best change to minimize expense while ensuring a fair process.  As the client, you are in charge.  You can instruct your attorney to accept this pledge or something similar.  At a minimum, you should ask your attorney to review and explain any objections.       

For this to work, both attorneys must be on board.  The spirit of the pledge is clear - before a contested action is filed or soon thereafter - the attorneys work together in good faith to come up with a plan that minimizes the needless burn of attorney's fees.  Importantly, this pledge assumes an immediate filing is not in either spouses' interest - see Should I File Now for some examples relevant to Georgia law.

The Pledge

1.    At the request of my client, I (the attorney) have reviewed this pledge.  I generally accept this pledge and acknowledge my client's instruction to attempt to minimize expense, as best I can, consistent with my ethical duties.  I must pursue my client's objectives and follow my client's instruction per Rule 1.2 of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct or the applicable ethical rules in my jurisdiction.     

2.    Unless a filing is in my client's interest, or unless instructed by my client, I will not initiate litigation until the parties have had a good faith chance to engage in substantive settlement negotiations and work out an uncontested divorce.  However, I reserve the right to file if the opposing party is not participating in good faith.      

3.    My engagement agreement will be in writing and will contain clear terms.  I endorse and agree to follow the "Nine Rules of Billing Ethically" as published by the American Bar Association.  I will advise my client of the rough estimated cost of full contested litigation.  I will further encourage my client to set aside emotion and not use the legal system for any improper purpose.

4.    Provided settlement is in the my client's interest, I will attempt to facilitate settlement on reasonable terms at all times.  I will work in good faith with opposing counsel to attempt to facilitate a fair and reasonable settlement as early as possible.     

5.    I will encourage my client to be respectful and cordial to his or her spouse at all times.  I will attempt to reduce spousal animosity as best I can.  If children are involved, I will encourage my client to foster, not harm, the relationship between the children and the opposing parent.  If my client appears in need of therapy or counseling, I will encourage my client to seek proper therapy or counseling.   

6.    Prior to any filing, if the parties cannot agree on all terms for an uncontested divorce, I will consult with my client on the strengths and weaknesses of the collaborative law process.  I will discuss with opposing counsel possible use of this process and possible changes or improvements to the standard participation agreement tailored to the parties' situation (e.g. striking the bar re trial counsel).      

7.    Prior to any filing, if both parties are negotiating in good faith, provided the commitment is reciprocal, I will insist that my client promptly produce all relevant financial documentation which will clearly be subject to discovery per O.C.G.A. section 9-11-26(b) or the applicable discovery rules in my jurisdiction.  I will have my client prepare and present an accurate and complete financial affidavit as soon as possible.  If an action has been filed, I will insist that my client provides this financial documentation as soon as possible.    

8.     Prior to any filing, or soon after a filing, with my client's consent, I will agree to an early mediation with a quality mediator, if all relevant financial documentation has been exchanged.     

9.      In regards to settlement positions, I will provide my client with honest and frank counsel per Rule 2.1 of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct or the applicable ethical rules in my jurisdiction.    

10.    I will at all times treat opposing counsel and the opposing party with courtesy and respect.  I pledge to make this dispute as dignified as possible and will insist that my client does the same.

11.   If the parties are unable to settle all issues, provided it is in my client's interest, I will commit to settling what issues can be revolved via a partial settlement agreement as early as possible, so the scope of litigation can be narrowed as much as possible.   

12.    I pledge to be at all times cordial to opposing counsel and open to an amicable resolution.  Further, per Rule 3.1of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct, or other similar ethical rules in my jurisdiction, I will not assert any position or take any action on behalf of a client when it is obvious that such position or action would serve merely to harass or maliciously injure another.

13.    If litigation ensues, at the appropriate time, I will discuss the advantages of arbitration with my client if arbitration is viable in my jurisdiction.  I will reach out to opposing counsel and discuss arbitration as an alternative to a bench or jury trial. 

14.    During the course of litigation, I will seek to enter any partial settlements that are possible, as early as possible, provided they are in my client's interest, so as to limit the scope of litigation as much as possible.  

15.    If the matter must be tired, I pledge, as best I can, to expedite the trial per  Rule 3.2 of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct, or the applicable ethical rules in my jurisdiction, and make the trial process as efficient and dignified as possible.