I hired David to be my attorney in May 2016 for the amount of $5,000.00 paid to him. At this time he was to represent me in my divorce and help with custody and the money my husband owed to me. In the beginning David seemed distracted and not completely up for the job, but I had paid him and decided to give him a chance. At one court date back in October he seemed very confident and told me that the case was going to trial and I needed to give him another $6,000 to finish up through trial. His optimism that I would be getting more than what I even asked for and that there shouldn't be a problem getting residential custody of my girls I paid him. Later on he proved to be completely incompetent and revoked his previous assumption that I would be getting custody or even the money that was supposed to be proven to be mine. The last straw(s) were him not telling me that the court date had been changed and it ended up being the day of my Gramma's funeral. He said he would take care of it and not to worry and go to the funeral. Later after court he called to tell me that I will NOT be getting residential custody of my kids and that I should just let it go and focus on the money part of it. He said that I "needed to be realistic and that I have emotional issues" after I started crying that he wasn't doing his job. Then, two days later I found out from my ex that David didn't even show up to court that day and they had to phone him to conference him in! He never told me he wasn't going to go and that the decision made that day was probably because I didn't have anyone there to fight my side. So I fired him assuming I would get most if not all of the $6,000 I had given him a month ago and could hire a new attorney. He refuses to give me any money back and says I owed him for past expenses. I NEVER ever received a bill for anything. It says in the contract that he will provide me with an itemized statement of charges not less than every 60 days. I never got one. Plus he had told me the $6,000 was to prepare for and go to trial set in February.
David never advised me that the children would have their own attorney, and that I would need to speak to her, so meeting her for the first time during a court date was a surprise for me. An even bigger surprise was that she had been speaking with my ex-husband right along and never contacted me because she didn't get permission from David to do so. The entire time she was in the picture and I was unaware she was only hearing the lies my ex was spewing about me and never followed up to hear my side. Finally, after trying to contact her myself she called me 3 days before the NEXT court date and spoke with me for 10 minutes. I was able to disprove a few allegations my husband was making, but that didn't seem good enough for judgement were made before ever even seeing me. I finally demanded an itemized statement of charges because he said he wasn't going to give me my money back and when I picked it up from his office saw that he was charging me for every phone call, every email and $250 ONE way to court, so $500 a trip to court plus court time. The phone calls, I would call him to ask what time court was and he would tell me he didn't know and would call the court to find out and call me back. Then charge me for 3 phone calls at 10 min each. And his retainer I signed said in increments of min 6 minutes. It does not say amount of money per mile or amount of time spent reading emails. He took $11,000 of my money, didn't follow through with anything, didn't let me know about important changes in court appearances, added law guardians, didn't show up to a court date, never sent me a bill, overcharged for just about everything, told me the last $6,000 was for trial, and was not adequately representing me in any way. He is thoughtless and unprofessional and took advantage of an emotional mother going though the hardest point in her life fighting for her children.
Response from David Heier February 1, 2017
I will not reveal the confidences of my client, even to defend myself. High conflict divorce and custody cases are high risk for any attorney willing to accept such a case. These high conflict cases are never one sided in favor of either parent when sole custody is sought by both. That is what makes them high conflict. Many times it is necessary to advise a client to seek drug and alcohol treatment. Sometimes serious mental health issues need to be addressed. Sometimes a client must be told things they do not want to hear. Over the course of a high conflict case, emotions are high and expectations can be unrealistic. Many times compromise with the opposing party may be the best course of action for a client and for the children if the evidence turns out to be unfavorable. Proposing reasonable compromises to a client is a risk of having them blame the attorney for not getting everything they want in a case. This is one reason most attorneys do not practice family law or accept high conflict cases. The time commitment in such cases for an attorney can be substantial. Engagement letters are required and it clearly spells out what is charged. To my detriment, I will record my time on a bill but not charge the client. A client may see the item but not also see where it is listed as no charge. I don't have to accept high conflict cases, but I do. I see a person who needs help and I accept the challenge. I also accept the risk that there will be a client who will never be satisfied no matter how much time they are given, no matter how much compassion is shown, no matter that they are given the best legal advice and professional opinion.