Choosing the Right Family Law Lawyer for You
How is choosing the right lawyer like buying a car? It can be a very expensive choice and you really should do your research! While you probably haven’t gone to law school, you should still think about hiring your lawyer as a job interview rather than a hostage situation.
"It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it."Learning about your prospective attorney can be as easy as “googling” their name. Online reviews provide consumers of legal services with more and more information every day, sometimes an overwhelming amount. But this “instant” opportunity to express satisfaction can be a double-edged sword. The reality is that people engaged in legal disputes are rarely “happy” with the outcomes, even if it turns out as well as can be expected. Some times people blame their attorney for something that was never going to turn out any other way. So, take a single (or rare) bad review with a grain of salt and consider what you learn on balance. If most reviews are from satisfied clients, the occasional outlier is less important. However, if you see a theme, that should also be considered “on balance.”
Remember, many, many people have been involved in family law matters and sometimes a good place to start looking for an attorney is just by asking a real live person, which will probably lead to a referral – or a warning – based on experience.
"Location, location, location."Choosing an attorney who regularly practices in the court where your matter will be decided makes good sense for a few reasons. First, any travel time charged by the attorney will be minimized if the court and the attorney are both "local." Local attorneys are also more familiar with, and to, the courts where they spend most of their time. That familiarity can be a big advantage for the local attorney. You may also see a reduction in the fees you are charged if the attorney is able to handle more than one matter on your court day, While there is no hard and fast rule about this, and "out of town" attorneys can still do an excellent job for you, this is certainly a factor to consider.
"The minute you read something you can't understand, you can be sure it was drawn up by a lawyer."The law requires that attorneys who reasonably expect to charge more than $1,000.00 must have a written retainer agreement with their client. This means you will most likely be asked to sign such an agreement BEFORE that prospective lawyer becomes YOUR lawyer. Please read it before you sign it and make sure that you understand it. If your prospective lawyer does not have the time, or inclination, to talk with you about the contract you are entering, this may not be the right lawyer for you. And this rule carries on to everything you are asked to sign later - Read it before you sign it. Make sure that you understand it, BEFORE you sign it. This will prevent misunderstandings and problems down the line.
"There's no such thing as a broken family."Finally, make sure that you look for and find an attorney who can help you thoughtfully navigate what is, for most people at least, the most stressful and terrible time in their lives. Some family law attorneys pay little attention to the ultimate costs of their strategy, and will fight for the sake of fighting. Believe it or not, being called a "bull dog" and other like descriptions should not be high praise for an attorney -- unless your most important goal is to fight, fight, fight for the sake of fighting. Either way, you should take the time to learn if the attorney's goals (and philosophy) matches up with your own. And be particularly picky if your matter involves contested custody and visitation of your children. Investing the time to choose an attorney who understands how the orders you request, and the decisions you make, will impact (either positively or negatively) on your children is a very good investment.