Choosing the right attorney to help assist and guide you through the divorce process is critical. But, what do you need to know when you first meet an attorney to help you make the correct choice? In this two-part blog we examine 5 factors that are critical in this process.
1. What experience does the attorney have in the practice of family law?
Much like in any profession, attorneys come with all different levels of experience and familiarity with particular areas of the law. Just like you would you would not take your car to a muffler shop to have your engine replaced or have a podiatrist give you an eye exam, you should be keenly aware of an attorney’s qualifications prior to retaining them to represent you in your divorce. Other than in the simplest divorce, an attorney’s experience with clients going through a divorce, knowledge of how the Family Court works and knowledge of the law is critical in providing competent legal representation. Ask your prospective attorney how long they have been practicing family law and what percentage of their practice is made up family law cases. As a general rule, the more experience the better.
2. How familiar is he with the law on the most important issues in your situation?
Once you have an understanding of the attorney’s experience level, narrow your focus and inquire about your specific situation. What issues are most important to you in your divorce? Do you feel that your situation is more complicated than the average divorce? Do you have a complicated property issue? Is there a small or large business interest at stake? Do you have a custody fight on your hands? Are you in need of maintenance? Every family comes with their own unique set of circumstances. It is important during your initial conversation with an attorney that you get a feel for how familiar he is with the law regarding your unique situation and how comfortable he is in assisting you in handling your issues and in navigating you through the divorce process.
3. How do your personalities fit?
During your initial consultation it is important that the client and attorney reach a comfort level with each other that allows them to easily communicate about the client’s particular issues. Clients should feel that their attorney understands their situation and can communicate a legal strategy regarding the client’s divorce that is easy to understand and creates a feeling of trust.
While the demands of family law attorneys often take them away from the office and into the courthouse, there should be an understanding regarding the best way to communicate with the attorney and his support staff when urgent issues arise. Likewise the client needs to understand that in order for an attorney to most effectively represent the client, he will often need to perform certain tasks within specific court imposed deadlines, and it is important that the client be responsive to these deadlines. A busy attorney will very often be reliant upon others in his office to assist him in meeting court imposed deadlines and communicating with a client. For this reason, it is critical that clients are not only comfortable with the attorney sitting across the desk from them in the initial consultation but with other lawyers and support staff who may work on their case.
During the original meeting ask the attorney who else in the office is part of the legal team that will be working on their case. And, time permitting, ask to meet them. These people will likely become a critical part of your life during this very difficult time. Being comfortable with them and confident in their work is extremely important.
Check back soon for Part II of our blog when we will examine the importance of understanding an attorney’s familiarity with your family law Judge as well as the importance of understanding the billing practices of that office. If you have questions about a potential divorce or family law issues we encourage you to contact our office today for a free consultation.