Choosing the right lawyer to handle your family law matter is an enormously important decision, and one that should be made carefully after fully reviewing your needs and matching them with the professional who can best serve you and see that your wishes are fulfilled.
There are a number of tangible characteristics and intangible qualities that may be important to you in your search for hiring a great lawyer. First off, you should consider the lawyer’s experience in the areas of law for which you require assistance. How long have they been practicing in the jurisdiction where your case will be filed? Do they have experience outside of that particular practice area which may complement the issues that are likely to arise in your case?
Next, are they knowledgeable about the law, local rules of court and filing requirements? Do they focus their practice on one main area or do they have a “general practice?” Are they familiar with the local judges and their individual courtroom procedures? Are they knowledgeable about the other lawyers in their practice area and are they well known by their peers?
Has this lawyer handled the types of legal issues for which you are seeking assistance? Are they competent to handle your matter from beginning to end? Are they diligent with their work and provide a quality work product? Do they maintain contacts with outside experts who they may engage to assist with more complex litigation? Are they familiar with attorneys outside their area of expertise who may assist you on unrelated legal issues which may arise during their representation?
Is this attorney comfortable handling all aspects of your case? Are they able to fully answer your questions? Do they listen to you, really listen to you while you talk? Do they provide honest answers, that may not be what you want to hear, but that may save you time and money down the road? Are they able to provide you with a reasonable outline of what to expect from your matter, and do they point out issues that will most likely arise during your case?
Is the prospective counsel upfront about their expectations for your case, including the estimated time and expense of their representation? Can they provide references from satisfied clients in all areas of their practice? Do they fully explain the terms of their representation and provide all clients with a detailed written retainer letter prior to providing any legal services?
Do you feel comfortable with this person and their knowledge, skill set and understanding of the law? Is this someone you will be able to work with for an extended period of time? Does the lawyer put you at ease and reassure you by explaining the issues and setting forth a detailed strategy?
Does this person look professional? Are they well dressed and articulate? Do they have an attention to details? Are they confident yet humble? Are they self-assured but not slick? Are they quick witted but not stuffy? Do they have the ability to be lawyerly in court and while advocating for you, but also have the ability to relate to you personally and break things down into regular English explanations so that there is no confusion on your part? Do they communicate well in person and in their writing?
Do they make you feel like you are their only client? It is a wonderful thing when you get prompt return calls or emails with substantive answers within hours, not days. All lawyers are busy and spend a good amount of time at court, but does this person communicate with you promptly by returning phone calls and emails in a timely manner? Are they available when you need them including in the evening or on weekends? Do you get to speak to the supervising attorney directly or are you often dealing with support staff or associate attorneys?
Do they make use of the latest technology using mobile devices while at court? Are they able to provide electronic copies of all the documents received and sent in your case in real time, without delay? Are they always professional in their correspondence with you and opposing parties? Are you kept abreast of all facets of your matter? Are all your questions answered as they arise? Do you receive updates regularly? Are you consulted before all aspects of your case?
Do they enjoy what they do? This is important. Have they made the decision to handle this type of law in order to help people improve their lives? Do you get the sense that this person is happy doing this type of work and will bring enthusiasm and energy to your case?
Again, are you comfortable with this person? Do you feel you are given the right amount of attention? Are all your questions answered? Are you given value for your money? Is this someone who will work hard for you, in order to achieve the best outcome possible? Do they seem at ease and comfortable?
The above of course is simply a review of some of the things to look for in choosing your lawyer. There are also intangibles that cannot be listed such as the feeling that the person just “gets it” and understands what needs to be done and is on the same page as you from the outset. Other times, you will know right away that this is not the right lawyer for you. Regardless, you should not have to make any excuses for not choosing an attorney and you should feel confident and comfortable when you find the right lawyer for you.
Finally note that some lawyers provide free consultations either over the phone or in person. Others offer reduced fees for first meetings. Prices range across the board, but pay attention to the fine print. There may be several people working on your case with different hourly rates. Most lawyers request a retainer upfront which is an amount kept in their trust account and used towards future billing. Some matters may be handled on a flat-fee basis for a one-time attendance at court, while most of your fees will likely be billed at an hourly rate in increments of six minutes. It is important to understand what the fees will be, and whether you are able to afford the lawyer. Do you have the resources, or the ability to obtain the funds required for your case? If not are you able to save up the needed funds or provide payments for the required work?
The matter for which you are seeking assistance is likely not a pleasant event, in fact it may be devastating and filled with raw emotions, but a good lawyer will help you to temper the emotions and provide professional guidance keeping you on track for the most favorable outcome. It does not have to be a long drawn out battle; sometimes that is unavoidable, but a great negotiator can make all the difference.
So with that, good luck with your lawyer search. There are many resources available on-line to assist you. You should talk to friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. You should make calls to various firms and set up face to face meetings with the lawyers that make you most comfortable.