If you’re considering divorce, hiring the right divorce attorney is crucial. Just how do you decide who is a “good” lawyer for you? What questions should you be asking when you interview them and what answers should you be looking for?
Ask the attorney…
- How much of their practice is devoted to family law. Just like you wouldn’t go to an allergist if you were having problems with your feet, you shouldn’t hire an attorney that doesn’t specialize in family law. There are many ins and outs that can only be learned with experience handling divorce cases.
- How much time they have spent in the court where your case will be heard. Almost as important as the amount of time that an attorney has been practicing divorce is how familiar they are with the personnel (judges, clerks etc.) at the courthouse.
- To explain what is involved in the divorce process specific to your situation. Can your case be mediated? Do they anticipate your case going to trial? Is your case a candidate for Collaborative divorce? A good divorce lawyer should be able pinpoint and explain the legal issues and general concepts of your case.
- How they charges for their time. Most attorneys charge a retainer when working on divorce cases. Make sure you understand how the retainer works such as what happens when the retainer is depleted. Are you required to give another retainer or will you be billed as you go? Do they charge a different hourly fee for time spent in court? Will you be billed for travel time, and if so at what hourly rate? No attorney should be able to tell you exactly what the cost will be because the circumstances of every divorce are different. However, they should be able to give you a rough estimate and what is included in that estimate.
- How much work will be done by paralegals or associates? Many attorneys have a paralegal on staff that is responsible for a lot of the day-to-day workings on a case. They should tell you if other staff such as a paralegal will be working on your case and how much their hourly rate is (it should be significantly less than the attorneys hourly rate).
- If they have experience working against the opposing attorney, if there is one already involved. An attorney who has gone up against your ex’s attorney will know how they operate. If they have not worked with the opposing attorney before you can ask if and how they would research the other attorney.
- What their strategy would be for handling your case. By the end of the consultation the attorney should be able to provide you with an overall strategy. Is that strategy something you feel comfortable with? Of course you should realize that the strategy may change during the course of the proceeding, but the overall objectives should stay the same.
- How their office handles communicating information to their clients. Will most of the communication be by phone or via email? Most states have regulations in place requiring attorneys provide their client with copies of all correspondence related to the case.
- What are normal office hours and can someone is reached outside of those hours. How do they respond if something comes up when the office is closed? Do they have an answering service that can get in touch with them?
- If they have ever been the disciplined by the state bar. Don’t feel like you are being rude. It’s something you have a right to know and it’s better to find out this information before you hire an attorney. If the answer is “yes,” they have been the subject of a disciplinary action you may still want to hire the attorney. Do your research and then decide.
Now ask yourself……
What does my gut instinct tell me about the attorney?
Remember, your attorney is going to be helping shape your future. When all is said and done your comfort level with the attorney is vital. Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel comfortable, pay attention to your gut and keep looking. Take your time, be thorough and you will find the right attorney for you.