• I had to figure out on my own how to counterattack. And did all the reading/investigation of all the documents (followed through on my own ideas).
• Mr. Merrill was mostly
○ passing emails around and
○ reviewing the work I've done.
The ticket for the services above was close to $15k.
The task: child support modification (my ex wanted more after alimony ran out).
The costs: ~$15,000. Mr. Merrill does not seem to have an assistant for clerical work. He is the one doing back and forth emailing and he charges attorney's hourly rate for these trivial services. In fact, after we agreed with the opposing party and all we had to do was to sign, send the docs to the other side, then get a copy of approved docs, these last steps cost me close to $1000 in his fees. It was the pinging of the opposing party's lawyer, back and forth reminding etc. "Review Final Orders"? I never asked for it.
The value: Besides passing emails back and forth Mr. Merrill did review the forms I filled. But that was about it. I heard no legal advice, no plan of winning my case. In fact, on at least one occasion Mr. Merrill asserted that there are way too many variables to predict favorable outcome of my case. It sounded like nothing at all depends on our strategy and hard work here.
The closest thing to "legal advice" I heard from Mr. Merrill was that "you can send a counter-offer". It was useful, because I didn't even realize I could do that. That's probably the reason I'll throw in 2nd star.
I realize that attorney's time is expensive, and I did not expect him to do the heavy lifting or digging through the opposing party's volumes of documents and finding all the errors, intentional or not. Not only Mr. Merrill did not do that, but he never gave me any suggestions on what to do and how to beef up arguments during negotiating offers/counter-offers. Naively I sent my first counteroffer "cold", without any prep or arguments. "here is what I’m willing to pay you". Mr. Merrill reviewed it and sent out, w/o ever pausing and telling me: "man, this is useless, they'll just decline it". Sure enough, the other side declined, and that useless attempt cost me over $3k in his attorney's fees.
Next time I learned my lesson did a lot of homework (that I came up with on my own). It helped me to considerably negotiate down modified child support terms after several iterations, always beefed up by data. Now if my friends ever have to deal with child support modification, I have several advices for them on how to negotiate. In fact, here are some for you for free: don't leave a stone unturned in the petitioner's financial statements; most likely it is infused with misinformation. Question every line. Look back at how much you've invested into your kids outside child support payments. Mr. Merrill, Family Attorney, had none for me for my money.