The new ‘experts’ – non-lawyers who feel their own divorces (or their girl/boyfriend’s divorce) qualifies them to handle and give advice to others is a real problem.
I am proudly a divorce attorney. I have handled thousands of cases over my 19+ years of practice. However, new breeds of ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) and Financial Specialists have popped up over the years and want to put their hands in my client’s pockets.
This is not new-back when anyone with a laptop could sell mortgages, I was getting 2-4 calls per week from mortgage ‘brokers’ who wanted to take me to lunch so that I would send them my clients. I never did. The new breed of specialist, however, is scarier. These are folks who take, for example, a 5-day, 40 hour class and now hold themselves out as being just as qualified as I am to mediate a divorce to completion. Most of the time, the only experience these people have with divorce law is their own divorce, and sometimes, because law students can be come Rule 114 qualified mediators, not even that. There are also financial planners who may not even have had any training with divorce cases (except, again, their own divorce) but who still hold themselves out as ‘specialists’. I have stopped referring clients to these people unless I have heard from other lawyers that they have done a good job for their clients. I once sat in on a meeting with one of these ‘specialists’ and my client. My client was in her late 50’s and had a marital estate totaling 3 million dollars, of which she would receive half. She had a master’s degree, was employed full time, and lived modestly. The financial planner showed her a chart that indicated that by the time she was 75 years old, she would be broke–unless she started putting money into one of the planner’s sponsored accounts. Fortunately, my client and I were savvy enough to know that this was all marketing and I never used this planner again.
Attorneys are ethically prohibited from receiving any kind of compensation for referring clients to other experts. I refer clients to realtors in their area to value homesteads. I refer clients to talk to financial planners who I know will not only try to sell them a product. I refer clients to mediators who I know to have had extensive experience in marriage dissolution.