Above everything else, you should hire a divorce lawyer whom you trust. Remember that this person is going to help you make decisions that will affect your family for the rest of your lives. Trust is a key ingredient to a successful attorney-client relationship, especially in divorce cases.. However, do not trust blindly.
DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE.
Just because a lawyer has been practicing law for 25 years does not necessarily mean that he/she is a good lawyer, and certainly does not mean he/she is the right lawyer for you. Get several references. Find out everything you can about the attorney.
BE CONFIDENCE IN HIS/HER COMPETENCE.
A competent divorce lawyer should have a solid knowledge of family law and familiarity with the local practices in the county in which your divorce will be filed. He/she should have experience, be an effective negotiator, have good writing skills, have empathy for his or her clients, and have the ability to think "on his/her feet."
HOW MANY CASES HAVE YOU WON?
It is important to understand that success in divorce litigation is not measured by winning or losing. When potential clients ask me how many cases I have won, my response is that I have settled divorces for most of my clients and consider every settlement a "win." It is rare that one party wins after a trial. Generally, after a trial each party wins on some issues and loses on other issues.
THE COMFORT ZONE.
Choose a lawyer with whom you feel comfortable. Listen to your gut. You are going to spend an inordinate amount of time together with your lawyer in person and on the telephone while your divorce is pending. Make sure that the person you choose is someone with whom you will feel comfortable spending time. The divorce process is hard enough without having to feel uncomfortable about being around or with your attorney. Be sure that your personality and that of your attorney are compatible.
SHARK OR CHAMELEON?
Many people choose a lawyer because he/she has a reputation for being a Ashark.@ Be careful what you wish for I think the most effective lawyers are those that combine tough and skilled advocacy with effective negotiation skills. Most divorces can and should be resolved between the parties or the attorneys by settlement, without extensive and expensive litigation. Often when one party hires a Ashark," both parties end up spending much more than they should in legal fees. . It is important that you figure out what type of lawyer you want and what your ultimate goals are. I strongly believe that you will likely end up with a similar result whether you fight, fight, fight and spend many tens of thousands of dollars on an aggressive attorney or you negotiate effectively with an attorney who is a skilled negotiator, but also has excellent writing and oral argument skills to present your case strongly to the assigned judge. You don't need a "shark" to win.
WHO'S YOUR LAWYER?
If you are choosing a lawyer who works in an office with other divorce attorneys, make sure you have an understanding up front as to who is going to handle your file. Is the lawyer with whom you consulted going to handle your case, or an associate? Ask questions about how this works, and ask to meet the associate, if that is the case.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE FINISH LINE.
It is essential that you understand your options and that you make an informed and responsible decision in retaining a lawyer. Take some time to consider what is your ultimate goal. Think about what type of lawyer you want to hire and what makes sense for you and your family. View the hiring of your divorce attorney as an investment in your future. Don't just hire the cheapest attorney around. Many have learned, unfortunately the hard way, that the old saying is true; sometimes "you get what you pay for." The same is certainly true for lawyers.
Be wary of lawyers who:
Tell you they will take care of everything and not to worry.
Promise or guarantee you ANYTHING by way of the outcome.
Tell you what you will and will not get.
Tell you how much your divorce will cost you (unless charging you a flat fee).
Low-ball their fees and retainers.
Tell you what to do.
Tell you they know what is best.
Don't have you sign a written fee agreement (required in New Jersey).
Try to hard sell you on them.