This article outlines important factors in the process of evaluating potential attorneys for probate matters, helping you make the best choice. This is based on my experience as a Connecticut Probate Judge for the past 14 years.
Qualifications: Admission To Practice
First and foremost, the attorneys you consider should be qualified. Qualification means two things: the attorney must be admitted to practice in good standing in the state where where the probate court for your case is located.
In addition, an attorney should have significant experience in probate matters. Probate is a highly specialized area of the law; an attorney with little or no probate experience will not be as effective as a highly experienced probate attorney. I have occasionally dealt with attorneys who have no probate experience representing parties before me. Unless an inexperienced attorney familiarizes him or herself with probate procedure and law, they are at a disadvantage in providing effective counsel for their clients.
Interpersonal Chemistry, Attorney Assigned to Your Case; Responsiveness
Another important aspect to choosing an attorney is interpersonal chemistry. Before hiring an attorney, meet with them. While some attorneys may charge for an initial consultation, many do not. I personally advise against considering an attorney who will charge you for an initial consultation.
It's important to be comfortable with the attorney on an interpersonal level. Just because an attorney is a legal expert doesn't mean you should be uncomfortable or intimidated by them. A good attorney not only knows the law of his or her area of practice, but also is adept at counseling clients (after all, attorneys are "counselors".) Are they able to explain things to you in a way that you understand? Are they approachable?
If you retain a particular attorney, who will perform most of the work on your case - the attorney you meet with? Another attorney? An inexperienced attorney right out of law school? A paralegal? A secretary? What is the firm's policy for returning inquiries from clients? One of the most common reasons why clients file grievances against attorneys is failure of the attorney to return calls and communicate with clients in a timely manner.
Rights of the Client
As the client, you have a right to know what's going on and to be a part of the decision making process when it comes to substantive matters in your case. A prospective client should also know the attorney's fees, rates and billing practices before committing to hiring the attorney. Your attorney should respond to your questions in a timely manner. It shouldn't take days or longer to return your calls or emails; if it does, it may be the sign of an attorney who has overextended themselves, or simply is not very organized.
By taking the time to meet with and evaluate prospective attorneys, and following the process in this article, it's more likely that you'll choose the attorney who is right for you and your case.
THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO BE AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON AS LEGAL ADVICE. FOR ADVICE AS TO YOUR SPECIFIC SITUATION PLEASE CONSULT WITH A QUALIFIED ATTORNEY.
Copyright (C) 2017 Domenick N. Calabrese. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be disseminated, reproduced or used without the express written consent of the author.
About Dom Calabrese
Engaged in the practice of law since 1995, Dom Calabrese has extensive experience counseling individuals, families, and businesses. His areas of practice include estate planning; wills; trusts; planning for incapacity; probate; asset protection; commercial transactions; general counsel for small and large businesses; contracts; software licensing agreements; and business entity formation and administration.
Dom has been a Connecticut probate judge since 2002. He is currently judge of the Region 22 Probate District in Southbury and is a judge in the Waterbury Regional Children's Court. The Region 22 Probate District serves over 72,000 residents in seven towns and is one of the highest-volume probate courts in Connecticut. Dom has overseen thousands of probate matters, including decedents' estates, trusts, guardianships, conservatorships and children's matters. He also served as general counsel for Gemini Healthcare, LLC, for ten years beginning in 2005, where he provided business counsel, drafted and negotiated contracts and agreements, and managed commercial transactions and intellectual property.
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