Get the best divorce attorney for your case by asking these interview questions
Hiring the largest law firm you can afford is not always in your best interest. When interviewing divorce attorneys, ask the questions below about the person’s qualifications and how cases are handled at the firm to ensure that you and your case receive the attention and effort you need to get the best results. I suggest you interview two or three lawyers. More if you are not comfortable with those with whom you have spoken. Some good lawyers don’t. It is probably worth paying a modest amount for an initial consultation to select the right attorney for you. Of course you need a good lawyer. The real issue is whether your lawyer will put your interests first or line his pockets unnecessarily at the expense of you and your spouse. You need a lawyer who works hard to get you the best possible results. Using the checklist below will help you determine if the person is a lawyer you can count on.
- Does the county have an independent family law division of judges familiar with dissolution law, or is there a possibility that a judge with unknown family law experience will hear a motion or trial?
- Are there one or two appraisers or auction houses in the geographic area that do most of the furniture appraisal in dissolution cases?
- In this county, do all judges refer custody disputes to mental health professionals to prepare a recommendation to the court?
- Is custody dispute mediation confidential or will the mediator disclose my statements to the judge?
- If mediation fails, is the mediator the person who makes a custody recommendation to the court?
- Is the attorney a certified family law specialist? This does not mean that the lawyer is excellent. But it is something to keep in mind. It means the attorney passed a family law exam and must take a certain number of family law continuing education classes each year.
- Is the lawyer qualified by Martindale-Hubbell? An AV rating is the highest possible and only 5 percent of American lawyers have the rating. It is an indication of the highest legal skill and ethical conduct.
- Even more important is how many divorce cases the attorney handles. Are you a “hobbyist”? Is he offering to take the case as a favor to you or a friend? They are not good signs.
- Does the firm handle thousands of cases? It’s a divorce factory. It is not a good sign. Your case rarely gets the attention you want if the firm is very large or handles many cases. Most of the work is done by paralegals or junior lawyers.
- Does the firm handle celebrities and billionaires? At first glance, you might assume that hiring a divorce firm that works for “stars” or high net worth individuals will guarantee you excellent representation. That is also true if you are a star or a millionaire. If not, you’ll just be a number. Remember with all-star divorce lawyers, your importance to the firm decreases significantly if you are not a star or wealthy.
- Will the attorney send you copies of all letters sent and received from the opposing attorney, and copies of all pleadings filed with the court? (My office sends these documents as .pdf files via email to make it easier for the client to store them.) You want this so that you can stay up to date on the status of your case.
- Will the attorney personally return calls on substantive issues? If you call to confirm a hearing date or location, you do not need to speak to your lawyer, but if you have any questions about the matter, it is best to speak to the lawyer or lawyers working on the case.
- Which attorneys other than the one you are interviewing will be working on your case? If your spouse files an emergency motion, for example (known as an ex parte motion) and your lawyer has a contentious appointment, who will accompany you to court?
- Will you be charged for secretarial time? (Not in our office. I think this practice is very unfair to a client. Also be careful of being charged for a paralegal’s time. A paralegal is not a lawyer. Usually just an experienced secretary Paying for a paralegal’s time is something you may not want to do.)
- Will the attorney be willing to suggest a settlement conference to the opposing attorney as soon as possible? Usually after you and your spouse have made your financial data available. Will the attorney be willing to commit to a face-to-face settlement conference if your spouse’s attorney agrees? (Obviously, the more you can agree, the less there will be to fight over and the less traumatic, costly, and time-consuming your divorce will be.)
- If your spouse already has a lawyer, ask if the lawyer is familiar with the lawyer. Has the attorney worked with the other attorney before? Does the spouse’s attorney normally make reasonable efforts to settle the case?
You want someone who knows how judges work in your area. If the lawyer does not seem to know the answers to the first five questions above, he does not know the local procedures in your area, which means that you are at a disadvantage. You want someone who cares about your issue. The truth is that if you have no assets, your divorce will be easy. The people who face the most difficulties in divorce cases are middle-class couples. People with assets, but who are not rich. In other words, most people. You have to find out if the person you are talking to is a front man or if he will do the job. What good is it to you if you meet with a divorce attorney with 20 years of experience, but your case will be handled by subordinates, junior attorneys, or paralegals? Divorce is one of the most important things that can happen to you in life. Take some time to make sure that the attorney you hire is a good fit.
Typically, your lawyer should invite an open exchange of information with the opposing party followed by hard negotiation with the goal of obtaining a fair result. But if the opposing attorney or spouse is trying to gain unfair advantage in a contested divorce, child custody, child support, or spousal support case, you should be sure that your attorney will litigate the disputed issues to ensure that they are resolved. serve your interests.