Interviewer: Do you see places that say divorce is only $299, like the side of the road places?
Danielle Hawkes: Oh yeah. No divorce lawyer who is doing any sort of dynamic representation at all can give you an exact amount of how much it’s going to cost. I have clients who are able to come to an agreement really quickly and I give them most of their retainer back at the end of it because I just simply didn’t expect them to come to an agreement so easily. Other clients really get hung up on small issues that seem small, but in their particular relationship are very important and those issues require mediation and different things to sort out. There is no way for an attorney to know what it’s going to cost in the first confrontation.
What an attorney can do is every step of the way makes sure the client knows how much different things are going to cost. For example, I can tell a client if we do an order how much I anticipate it costing. If we do mediation, here is how much that set is probably going to cost you. A custody violation is very likely to cost you this much but as far as floor of divorce, there is just no way.
Interviewer: Do you have discount places where paralegals will do the work, or where people just do it themselves in a packet?
Danielle Hawkes: Absolutely. Those discount places are helpful for extremely low-income folks who just want to do the work themselves and take it to an attorney who takes a quick glance over it. It’s not what I recommend; like I said divorce is very complicated with 20 plus issues. I recommend going to a place where attorneys can have their hands in the divorce. The attorney shows up to every hearing knowing the facts to the case and can argue any of the issues and apply the facts about a particular family to that case if needed. The only way an attorney can do that is if that attorney personally has their hands on that case.
A paralegal is not going to be the one showing up at a hearing, so it’s really unhelpful for the paralegal to be doing all the work. That being said, there are some administrative things that a paralegal can do and to the extent that we can save costs by using a paralegal on those barriers then that’s what we do in our firm to save costs.
Interviewer: For most folks is the discount place a good solution?
Danielle Hawkes: No, I think they end up costing more in the long run if a certain issue is not dealt with. I think that there is a happy median. For example, for our firm, we’re not an expensive firm as far as private attorneys go, but we do a good job. It’s more money that will pay for other services; hiring an attorney is not a cheap thing to do. I think that going somewhere in the middle is a wise thing to do. They should get an attorney who is going to watch their time, be careful with the money, understand the money is important to the client and it doesn’t grow on trees, but at the same time give the case the time it needs to get it done correctly the first time.
Interviewer: In the divorce, do both parties have to have separate attorneys or can one attorney work on behalf of both?
Danielle Hawkes: Utah’s rules of professional conduct allow one attorney to work on both client cases. Our firm rarely, if ever, does that. It’s almost never cost-effective because the rules say that if there is one disagreement between the clients then that attorney cannot hammer out that agreement because there is a conflict of interest. It’s best if one attorney just represents one person. What we have done is when both people trust the process, are represented only one client, and the other client has not retained an attorney until we’ve worked with them.
Obviously I work with them as best as I can by providing them with every piece of paperwork that I’m filing and every piece of information. I can’t give that second person advice but I am able to work through the divorce with them even though they don’t have an attorney.
Interviewer: Do you think it’s a mistake for someone not to have an attorney except in extreme cases?
Danielle Hawkes: Yeah, definitely. It’s much easier for me to hammer out the details. An attorney can get many more details and deal with complicated issues on a higher level. I always advise my clients, whether it’s me or somebody else, to definitely have an attorney.