Finding A Divorce Attorney
Referrals work well. Ask divorced friends or associates if they would recommend their attorney. Listen in particular to what your friend says about communication:
• Was the attorney responsive?
• How long did she take to answer phone calls?
• Do they feel the divorce attorney fairly represented them?
• Do they feel the family law attorney was on “their side?”
Another form of finding legal counsel is attorney-to-attorney. If you know a reputable attorney ask her for a referral, frequently attorneys in one field know attorneys in another. If you are unable to find a personal referral, you can contact your local bar association, many of which offer referral services. However, be aware that the bar does not necessarily screen members of their service for expertise.
Referrals from a divorced friend or from an attorney in another
field – both are good ways of finding a reputable divorce attorney
Lastly, you can go to the yellow pages or the web. However, this is usually not the best way to find an attorney because you will have no first-hand account their track record or experience. Whether you choose an attorney from the phone book or the web, or follow up on a referral, the most important thing is to interview and keep interviewing until you find an attorney you feel comfortable with.
A Note About Legal Fees & Interviewing
Many attorneys offer an initial consultation at no charge or a reduced fee. This meeting is an opportunity for you to access how you personally relate to the attorney and determine if she has the knowledge and expertise to represent you. Gauge how you feel when you are talking with the divorce attorney:
• Are you relaxed?
• Are you able to open up?
• Do you think you will be able to talk to her about the most personal aspects of your life?
• Do you feel she has a strong interest in your case and will listen to you?
• Is this a person you can trust?
When interviewing the attorney you will want to consider the following aspects of their legal service:
How are fees determined?
Is there a retainer? Most experienced divorce attorneys require a retainer of several thousand dollars. This amount is usually what the attorney feels is sufficient to pay for the filing fee, preparation of documents and possibly the first pre-trial, as well as their estimation of the complexity of the case. What is the hourly rate? What is included in the hourly rate? Will you be charged for phone calls? Postage? Copies and filing?
Keep in mind that an experienced attorney can accomplish more in less time, so although her fee is higher, it may be the better deal long-term. An attorney with a lower fee may end up costing more, by charging more hours for the same work. Find out what the terms are. How does the attorney expect payment? Will you be billed regularly? Are payment arrangements available?
Who will be working on your case?
Find this out. Don’t assume that it will be the attorney you are interviewing. Frequently a firm will have an associate do the actual work on a case. You should know this in advance.
What is the attorney’s background?
If your case will involve custody issues or substantial pension and stock portfolio assets, you should seek out an attorney who has had previous experience in those areas. If there are no assets or children then it is less important to have a well-seasoned attorney.
Were your questions answered clearly?
Before making a final decision consider all aspects of the meeting. Do you feel the fees are fair and can you afford them? Will her background suit your needs? Are you at ease with this individual? And most importantly − did she listen to you? You should have received some useful feedback and feel confident this is someone you can trust and someone who will be on your side. If you don’t feel this way or if the “vibes” just aren’t right following the meeting − choose a different attorney.