A legal Second Opinion is a private consultation with another attorney in which the client seeks the second lawyer’s perspective on a legal matter and how it could be handled. While not a widespread practice, a fresh look can be valuable, particularly in a divorce or other family law matter.
How the legal Second Opinion concept was formed
More than 20 years ago, the controversial notion of a legal second consultation was met with doubt. In early 1999, legal publications were posing questions as to the ethics of the practice, comparing it to “stealing” clients, and even suggesting that offering another perspective could be malpractice (it is not – in fact, getting a second legal opinion does not violate the Rules of Professional Conduct).
At various times Attorney Hindell Grossman has been asked by potential clients to be the second or third attorney, claiming dissatisfaction or doubts with their current attorney’s representation. This created opportunity for the firm to have more clients, but in 1998 Attorney Grossman considered other options. By taking the widely-accepted practice of a medical second opinion and applying it to the legal industry, Attorney Grossman began offering the legal Second Opinion concept as a way to address the need for clarity or reassurance on their current counsel’s advice.
Virtually all attorneys at some point have been asked by potential clients to be the second or third attorney. The claim is the client is dissatisfied or has doubts with their current attorney’s representation. By taking the widely-accepted practice of a medical second opinion and applying it to the legal industry, the legal Second Opinion concept has become a way for clients to address the need for clarity or reassurance on their current counsel’s advice.
A Second Opinion can demystify the legal profession and make the law more approachable. Offering an independent and objective view of a complex legal issue allows a Second Opinion client to consider alternative strategies and enhance the likelihood of success for the limited cost of an hour or two.
In the more than two decades since publications questioned the viability of pursuing another legal viewpoint, the world has become ever more consumer-driven. People are now expected to do their own research in industries that once were left to the experts, such as investing or medicine, so they can be “informed consumers.”
Why is the same not true for legal services?
When another legal perspective makes sense
As with a Second Opinion on a health diagnosis, it can often be beneficial to seek another lawyer’s perspective. Trust is a key ingredient in the attorney-client relationship and getting a second set of eyes on a legal issue merely formalizes what lawyers have been asked to do at cocktail parties and soccer fields.
There are a number of reasons to ask for a different lawyer’s point of view: when a client feels that the primary lawyer appears overwhelmed or that communication is lacking or the case is stagnating.
A Second Opinion can be particularly helpful in the case of a divorce, which is a highly personal and complex legal issue and can be very emotional, especially if other people, pets, or property are involved. However, emotions do not sway the law; thus, it is important that the client trusts and connects with their attorney. The Second Opinion may often validate the work of their current attorney thus strengthening the existing relationship.
When divorcing parties may think that a lawyer of a particular gender or with a certain personality is what they want. Sometimes, however, it turns out to not be the right fit.
The right fit is important in divorce proceedings because there are at least four people involved: each spouse, and each spouse’s attorney. When things get heated, a client may want a calmer voice in the room, they may want things to happen more quickly and definitively, or they may want reassurance that they are on the right path.
While loyalty is noble, loyalty to an attorney should not be an obstacle to verifying the quality of legal representation nor should it derail settling the case. It is within your rights to get a second set of eyes on a case, and it can be done without divulging anything to the original attorney. The law operates on lots of levels and there is room for different perspectives.
Risks of seeking a legal Second Opinion
The risks of a second or even a third attorney’s point of view are minimal, even if a client decides to stay with their original counsel. Because it is a limited fee arrangement, the cost is controlled by the Second Opinion client. The client need not worry about surprise fees, and the information the client receives is still subject to the attorney-client privilege.
There are some additional considerations when looking to retain a Second Opinion attorney for advice. There could be a conflict of interest if the Second Opinion attorney was consulted by the opposing spouse. If the client decides to fully retain the new attorney, the original attorney will want to be fully paid for the services already provided and will be asked to transfer the file to the successor attorney. Some Second Opinion clients worry about hurt feelings, but since attorneys are ethically bound to serve the client’s needs, the paramount consideration should be for the client’s benefit. When seeking a Second Opinion on a legal matter, it is critical to understand all the risks and know how the process works, without worrying about the primary lawyer’s ego.
At Sassoon Cymrot Law, LLC, our goal is to provide our clients the best outcome possible. Changing the dynamic and getting a new personality or a fresh set of eyes can be exactly what is needed to resolve a case. Our Family Law practice Second Opinion services enable you to make the most informed decisions. When you are in need of a professional second opinion, call on the attorneys at Sassoon Cymrot Law, LLC.