Picking an attorney who will understand your position, advocate for you zealously and ensure cost-effective representation, is not easy.
You will be sharing your most intimate emotional and financial details – so it is important to choose someone you feel confident in and comfortable with.
Below are ten tips for choosing a family law attorney:
- Is your lawyer “too busy” to answer your questions? Choose a lawyer who is easy to talk to and has time to devote to your case.
- Personal references are usually best. Choosing a lawyer referred to you by a trusted friend or family member is usually much better than determining quality by advertising alone.
- Lawyer’s reputation in the community: Choose a lawyer whose style most represents the type of case you want to present to the judge. A lawyer who rushes to litigate every issue will not only drive up cost but may have a negative reputation with the court and/or have difficulty resolving the matter amicably with other attorneys.
- Family Law Practice: Your lawyer should specialize in the type of law your matter entails. If you have a specific issue that you think may complicate your divorce, ensure that your attorney has plenty of experience in it. Perhaps you have a child with special needs or you are disabled. Maybe you have an inheritance that you are concerned will be compromised, or your spouse owns a home that you have contributed to. All these are important matters that require an attorney who understands the law (and any recent changes) and how the courts interpret it.
- Straightforward Advice: Find a lawyer who listens to your questions and answers them directly and honestly. There’s nothing worse than an attorney who “sugar coats” their “advice” or tells you what you want to hear – only to find out that your case is not as strong as you were led to believe.
- Be Heard!: Expect your lawyer to treat you with respect and give you the opportunity to state your goals and priorities. How your lawyer treats you in your initial consultation is a good indication of how your lawyer will treat you in your case.
- Reasonable Fees: Ensure that the fees are competitive and affordable. If not, continue to shop around. Fee issues will only increase your stress level during the divorce.
- Legal Strategy: Ask your lawyer whether she or he will discuss the pros and cons of your decisions and expect her/him to provide you with the information to make constructive decisions.
- “Home Court” Advantage: Determine whether the lawyer is familiar with the court in which you will file your case. Ensure that he or she has experience appearing before the judges likely to rule in your case and local counsel.
- Go with your instincts: If you do not like your lawyer, hire a new one. Do not sign a retainer agreement unless it provides that your remaining retainer will be refunded if you decide to part ways.