WHEN HIRING YOUR FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY MAKE SURE TO KICK THE TIRES FIRST.
I admit one of the things I dislike most in life is shopping. I’m just not really all that patient and as a result, I have been prone to make rash decisions in the past just to get the whole shopping experience over with. Sometimes it has worked out great and other times… not so much. Despite my aversion to shopping, I have learned there are some purchases that require taking time and doing it right. For example, I would never make an important decision like buying a house or a car without test driving the car or walking through the house. I do research on the neighborhood or look at car reviews… you know, “kick the tires” and ask a lot of questions. I want to make sure that if I am going to make such a large financial commitment I will be as happy as I can be with my purchase. Why would it be any different when hiring a family law attorney to handle your important family law or divorce matter?
Similar to purchasing a vehicle or a house; you should “kick the tires” when hiring an attorney to handle your divorce or other family law matter. Making sure you have the right attorney to represent you can make a big difference in the outcome of your case. I believe there are a few important things you should do when hiring a lawyer to handle your case.
First, experience is vital. I do not think this necessarily means the number of years in practice. We have younger lawyers in our law office that are far more competent at handling family law matters than attorneys who have been practicing for decades. Experience in handling family law matters should be the first thing you should look for. Lawyers are not necessarily limited to the type of law they practice. When I first started my law practice I handled many types of cases. It was not that I wanted to necessarily practice in numerous areas of law; I was more concerned with feeding my family. But I soon realized that I was stretched too thin and needed to be more focused in one area to provide the type of service and expertise I wanted to provide for my clients.
The law and rules that apply to family law cases are much different than those in bankruptcy or accident cases or other types of law. Beware of attorneys that say they practice family law, but also practice numerous other types of law. You would never have an orthopedic surgeon perform your heart surgery and you should not have a tax lawyer handle your divorce case.
Do not be afraid to ask the lawyer you are interviewing about his or her legal experience. Ask if he or she handles other types of cases. Look at reviews on his or her website. I think reviews are one of the best ways to find a good, competent lawyer. When I am thinking of buying a car, one of the first things I do is look at car reviews or ask people who have owned the type of car I am looking at what they think about it. We live in a world where you can get lots of information about just about everything at the touch of a button; lawyers are no different.
Second, bedside manner counts. Have you ever had a doctor or a dentist that you just did not connect with? What a complete turn off! Most of us do not want to work with a doctor who seems uncaring or does not listen or take time to answer questions. It is important to understand that your divorce case is a team effort that will require you to work well with your attorney. You need to make sure that you feel good about that person you are hiring and can work with him or her. Does the lawyer you are consulting with take time to educate you and answer your questions? I believe strongly in educating my clients or potential clients. The more my clients know about the law and the legal process the better able I am to serve them. Does your lawyer seem to genuinely care about you and your case? I consulted with a man the other day who is going through a really tough post-divorce custody modification case. He told me he had met with several attorneys and I was the only one that took the time to answer his questions and seemed to really care. Those are the best compliments I receive as an attorney. I want my clients to know that we are in this together and that I have their back. I think one of the most underrated aspects of hiring a family law attorney is whether or not you connect with that attorney on a personal level.
Third, cost matters. Full disclosure… every attorney practicing law is in the business to make money. Attorneys, like doctors or other professionals, are expensive. Most of us have spent a lot of money obtaining our education and many have significant student loans. But that does not justify exorbitant fees to handle your case. A simple divorce case with no children and minimal assets should not cost thousands and thousands of dollars. On the other hand, a case involving a long marriage with lots of assets and children is going to be more expensive. A good family law attorney is going to be upfront about the cost of your case. We try hard in my firm to be as cost-effective as possible in every case. On the other hand, we are being paid to do a job and we don’t want to cut corners. I tell every potential client I meet with the cost of their case will depend much more on the parties and their willingness to be reasonable than anything we do. But, I am also disappointed when I meet with someone who has met with another lawyer who has quoted four or five thousand dollars for a simple uncontested case. Ask questions about the cost and make sure your attorney is upfront about his hourly rate and other things that he may charge for (such as photocopies, etc.). I do believe you get what you pay for but don’t overpay.
Hiring a family law attorney will be one of the most important investments you make. The outcome of your case will most likely have ramifications for years to come. I never get offended when a potential client tells me he or she will be meeting with other attorneys. Just as it is important to test drive a car before buying; I always think it is a good idea to shop around and kick the tires before hiring your family law attorney.
If you or a loved one is having thoughts about a family law related issue we invite you to visit our office in Mesa Arizona. We love finding solutions to complicated issues.