Your marriage is ending, and you face complex and emotional issues, such as how to divide up marital property and how to work out child custody and visitation. You know that you need the help of a competent family law attorney who has the experience and empathy to handle your case.
Aside from trusting your instincts or picking a random name from the Internet (or Yellow Pages, assuming they still exist), how should you winnow your possible choices? First, prepare a list of questions and concerns about your case and your path forward. Next, collect information about candidate attorneys who share your values and who have the requisite experience and resources. After you’ve narrowed your choices, call to interview two or three of the top prospects. Write down the answers you get during these consultations, and then use this information to make your selection based on both the facts and your intuition.
Questions to Ask a Potential Family Law Attorney
The Internet should provide answers to simple questions about things like how long the attorney has been practicing family law as well as his or her rating from services like Martindale Hubbell and Avvo. You can eliminate some candidates just by looking at their websites. However, be careful to avoid judging a book solely by its cover. Some excellent attorneys have so-so websites (perhaps because they’re too busy working with clients to worry about upgrading their marketing). Conversely, some middling lawyers have phenomenal websites because they’ve invested time and money into them.
Here are 8 questions to ask to gain clarity about your options:
1. How many family law cases do you handle each year? What percentage do you mediate, and what percentage do you take to trial?
2. What type of philosophy does your practice have, if any? What drives you and your team to do what you do?
3. How much input will I have in the decision-making process? Will you tell me what to do, or will I be able to express my opinions about the direction that the case should go?
4. What is the best way to contact you? How quickly can I expect a response from you?
5. What do you think of my case? What problems do you foresee? How can we resolve these? What outcome do you expect?
6. Can we possibly use mediation or arbitration in the case, or will it need to go to trial?
7. How long do you anticipate the case will take to resolve?
8. How much do your services cost? Do you charge a retainer? What about additional fees.