Thoughts On Selecting The Right Attorney

Many people wait until the last minute before selecting or consulting with a lawyer. Procrastination in this situation rarely results in positive results. A slow response may prevent an individual from receiving all of the benefits that are available. Many of those who face divorce are overwhelmed, in denial or fear the financial impact of consulting a lawyer.

In reality, an attorney often can help strategize a particular situation so smarter decisions will be made by the client. There are some problems that no lawyer can resolve, but most situations can be helped or prevented with a lawyer's advice or guidance.

An attorney's knowledge, training and experience, along with properly timed advice can prevent some problems from ever arising. Much of the work performed by lawyers occurs prior to a lawsuit being filed. In many instances, a solution renders litigation unnecessary.

Conduct A Preliminary Interview

Selecting the right lawyer is part of the pre-divorce process. Be sure to conduct an interview and consult with any lawyer. This is the person from who you will be seeking advice to safeguard your rights during a time of usually great emotional distress. The settlement or judge's order will have far-reaching financial and emotional impact on your life and possibly that of your children. Part of the divorce settlement or ruling at trial will involve technical issues like tax consequences, property valuation and health insurance that are critical. Trying to anticipate and handle these issues alone and without competent, experienced legal advice is usually a serious mistake.

Expect A Rapport

You should expect to develop a rapport and a level of comfort with your lawyer. You should not expect to be best friends, cry on their shoulder, or expect the lawyer to be a therapist. This is generally not the lawyer's training and won't serve your best interests. You are paying for an attorney's legal advice, not their sympathy. You can get that from your family and friends. A lawyer should be attentive to your questions during the initial interview. Not understanding what the lawyer says or finding that the lawyer is disorganized is a sign that you may not be speaking with a lawyer who is right for you.

In the consultation or initial interview, you should expect to be given a clear picture of that attorney's billing and collection policies. The lawyer should explain the hourly rates of everyone who will work on your case. You should learn how the lawyer charges for expenses such as photocopies, long distance telephone charges, court reporters and postage. Learn whether or not you are supposed to pay these expenses in advance. Different lawyers have different definitions of the word "retainer." Be concerned with the detailed nature of the billing statements or invoices. You should be able to clearly understand what work was performed.

Look For Flexibility

Look for a firm that can be flexible enough to handle your situation. Every divorce case is different. So is every law firm. Every individual has different needs and expectations. Some clients may wish to spend most of their time with their attorney directly, seeking firm strategic planning and constant discussion of all issues. Other clients would rather keep costs down by spending most of their time with a paralegal under attorney supervision. Be sure to discuss your preference with your lawyer during the interview process. Listen carefully and determine if your goals are consistent with your prospective attorney's practice. Be wary of a lawyer who tells you everything you want to here and promises certain results. This is impossible to ascertain before the case has been fully fleshed out.

Expect Attention And Prompt Responses

Make sure you hire an attorney who has enough time to handle your case and is available when needed. If your lawyer works part time or lives out of town part time, is too busy to return your phone calls, or doesn't generally spend quality time engaged in settlement discussions or strategic planning, you may need to consider hiring a different attorney.

While your case may not require a great deal of time with the attorney, being unable to schedule an appointment with that attorney or to get that attorney on the telephone within 24 hours of your call can be frustrating. It will make a big difference at some point. Competent, experienced, and careful divorce and family law practitioners will limit their caseload in order to serve their clients' best interests. A lawyer's business is to spend time with and impart advice to clients. Do not underestimate the importance of being able to schedule time to obtain that advice.