Hiring the right attorney has the potential to save you time, money, and peace of mind; however, this is no easy task – nor should it be. Getting a divorce is often one of the most difficult, exhausting, and emotionally draining times in a person’s life. It is of utmost importance to hire the attorney that is willing and able to be your guide and advocate through the arcane domain of divorce. Below are three ways to ensure that you are choosing the right attorney.
1. A Referral
With approximately 40% – 50% of all marriages ending in divorce, it is likely that you know someone who has gone through a divorce. While it is not always easy to admit that your union has failed, seeking advice from those who have had to go through the process can play an integral role in deciding who will represent you.
Simply asking them if they would recommend their attorney is indicative of an attorney’s capabilities. However, an attorney who was perfect for someone else may not be perfect for you, and vice versa. Therefore, confide in those who have gone through this onerous process, but be aware that each divorce is unique and each attorney-client relationship is unique, as well.
2. An Internet Search
Today a simple Google search, for example, “Bay Area Divorce Lawyers,” will return dozens of results. The results at the top of the list will most likely be the law firms that specialize in divorce in the Bay Area. Take your time when researching each law firm.
A law firm’s website should indicate its areas of specialization, the attorneys that work there, and the results that the firm gets. More often than not, the website will give examples of the kinds of cases the firm has tried. These examples are important to you. You should be asking yourself, if these examples are similar to your current situation. If so, the firm is one that you should definitely consider. A firm’s website can provide a lot insight about the firm; however, it should not, necessarily, be the determinative factor in your decision making process.
3. A Consultation
If a referral source or your research has resulted in finding an attorney that you like, you should schedule a consultation. A consultation is a time for you and the attorney to decide if working together is the right decision. There are number of things that you should consider when meeting with your potential attorney for the first time.
First, if the attorney is charging you an initial consultation fee, do not let it discourage you from scheduling the consultation. Usually, in other areas of law, when a prospective client meets with an attorney for the first time there is a free 30 minute consultation. However, divorce attorneys may charge an initial consultation fee. The reasons for the fee are to determine if clients can afford attorney’s fees and to deter clients that are “lawyer shopping.” Lawyer shopping occurs when a prospective client meets with a number of different divorce attorneys with the intention of creating a conflict of interest. As a result, any attorney who the client met with is precluded from representing that client’s spouse. One way to deter invidious behavior, such as lawyer shopping, is to charge for the meeting.
Second, the attorney-client relationship is something that should be founded upon honesty, trust, and accountability. The consultation is the appropriate time to meet and decide if working together would be in the best interests of both parties. During the consultation there is a lot of information that each party should receive before making a decision.
As the client, you should make note of the attorney’s demeanor and professionalism. Is the attorney professional, did he or she dress well, was the meeting uninterrupted, did you receive the attorney’s undivided attention, and were you treated with respect? An attorney who dresses well, is professional, and treats you with respect usually correlates to being a fine lawyer.
Third, divorce has the potential to last for years. It is important that you choose an attorney you can be around throughout the divorce. Your attorney is your advocate, and the last thing that you need is to have tension between one another. Therefore, choose someone that you can foresee yourself getting along with. This doesn’t mean your attorney needs to be your best friend, but it does need to be someone that you can work with.
Fourth, hiring an attorney who has dealt with cases similar to yours will most likely save you time and money. While divorce may seem like an ossified area of the law, results are, often times, dictated by specific factual findings and great lawyering. Having an attorney who is familiar with certain situations will increase your chances of reaching a settlement in your best interest. For example, an attorney who has dealt with unique assets and situations (horses, real property out-of-state, blended families, etc.) is more likely to reach a better result and not bill as much for researching these unique circumstances.
Finally, if you decide that the attorney is right for you, you should be ready to get the process started right away. The items that you should bring to the first consultation are: 1) any pleadings, motions, proposed settlement agreements, or any other documentation dealing with the case, 2) your most recent tax returns, 3) a preliminary schedule of assets and liabilities, and 4) your monthly income and expenses. Any other documents or paperwork that you think are relevant should be brought to the consultation, too.
On the other hand, during the consultation, the attorney will be considering whether your case should be taken. Each attorney has their own checklist for determining whether to take on a new client. Generally, an attorney considers if the case is feasible, if he or she is able to work with the client, and if there are any conflicts, among other factors.
Asking for a referral, conducting your own research, and meeting with attorneys are three proactive steps that will ensure that whomever you hire is the right attorney for you. Remember, finding the right attorney is a decision that only you should be making.
If you need any help in finding the right attorney, the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri have decades of experience handling complex family law matters. Please contact the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri for further information. Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.