Hiring the Best Divorce or Family Law Attorney for You – Tip Number One
You have been served with a petition for dissolution of marriage, a petition for paternity, or a supplemental petition for modification; or perhaps you should hire a lawyer to help you prepare one of them to serve the other side; or there are post-judgment contempt and enforcement or modification issues that need to be addressed. Whatever it is, you realize that you need to get proper legal representation to help you. But what is proper legal representation and how do you find it?
Your search for a matrimonial and family law attorney can certainly be confusing with all the information out there. How do you sift through all the crap and find the person who’s right for you? First, don’t open the yellow pages, and second, remember that most attorney websites have become just advanced yellow page ads.
Next, you’ll want to start gathering information. Seek referrals from family and friends and do your own independent research. In addition to letting you know what to look for, I want to help you know what to avoid. Once you have names of potential family law attorneys you would like to gather more information about, go to that attorney’s website.
ATTENTION: What do you see there? Do you see credit card logos on website pages? Do you see information that the lawyer or firm is willing to negotiate a payment with you? Do you see that the lawyer is willing to give you a “free” initial consultation? BE CAREFUL! These are sales and marketing tactics and do not provide you with any information about the attorney’s qualifications or the quality of legal services you should expect from the firm.
TIP NUMBER ONE:
MAKE SURE YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH THE ATTORNEY FROM THE START
When you pick up the phone to call a law firm, you are taking the first step on what can be a long road. From the moment you call the law firm, you should feel that your call is important and that the lawyer and his staff are a team that is there to help you. Ask yourself:
* Are you satisfied with your initial contact with the company?
* Did you have a good first impression?
* Have you been given the information you need?
* Were you provided with an appointment date and time in a timely manner?
* Will you be seeing the partner or lead attorney who will be working on your case?
One thing you should know, many attorneys will not provide retainer quotes over the phone. There are many reasons for this. Personally, I have to meet with the person, get to know the dynamics of the case, establish the relative financial positions and needs of the parties, and then make some initial decisions. I actually have plans in my office where we will conduct an entire divorce proceeding for a low flat rate plus the costs of filing the dissolution of marriage. This plan doesn’t work for everyone, but if I don’t take the time to meet with you and establish your specific situation, then you’ll never know what your options are. So don’t worry if you don’t get an instant hold offer on your first phone call to the Firm.
CAUTION: If the law firm or attorney you call gives you an initial amount that seems low, BEWARE! A law firm that is just trying to get people in the door can tell you any payment just to make it look more affordable than all the other firms, the only difference is that they will go through your initial contract quickly and after this will require more money from you to continue to represent you. You should seek an attorney who provides you with realistic expectations of total costs and fees based on your particular circumstances. The old adage “you get what you pay for” applies in this area too!
However, don’t be too surprised if the highly qualified attorney you meet with tells you that they are unable to provide you with an estimate of the total fees and expenses you will pay in your case. This can depend on so many factors, the biggest being the position the other party will take in the litigation. Your lawyer cannot predict this. But as the case continues and your attorney sees the type of litigation your spouse or the opposing party is taking, then she should be able to provide you with some additional guidance on the overall financial impact of your case.
Your initial meeting with the attorney should provide you with:
* A comprehensive understanding of the law applicable to your case
* An initial retainer offer together with a discussion of any acceptable payment arrangements based on your circumstances
* An understanding of her experience in matrimonial and family law, including how many hearings and trials she has conducted
* Schedule for the first three to four months of your question
* Opportunity to ask all your questions
* Ability to contact her to answer any questions you may have after the initial consultation
When you leave your initial consultation with the attorney, you should feel that you have been understood, that the attorney has realized what your goals are regarding the divorce or other family law matter, and that you and your issues were important and will continue to be important throughout the presentation.
Copyright 2010 Tami L. Eyes
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