Divorce can not only be an emotional roller coaster for the parties involved, it can be a complex area of law. Therefore, it's important to hire an attorney who seems to be someone you can trust and feel comfortable with. A great way to find a lawyer like that is to ask for referrals from attorneys you already know or friends who have faced the same problems and dilemmas you will soon be tackling. It's important to ask a lot of questions in order to get a feel for the type of lawyer you will feel comfortable with.
Talk to friends and family. Ask about attorneys they would recommend or avoid. Contact attorneys you have worked with before and felt confident about. Inquire whether they handle divorce cases. If they do not, ask for a referral to an attorney who does. Be honest about your situation, too. If you or your spouse will be contesting certain aspects of the divorce, the referring attorney needs to know that.
Contact your county and state bar associations to determine whether they sponsor lawyer referral programs. If they do, they can refer you to an attorney in your area who is experienced in the type of case you are involved with.
Make a list of what you are looking for in an attorney. Do you prefer to work with a male or female lawyer? Young or old? Do you want someone who will work to settle your case or someone who will fight to the end? Would you prefer a lawyer who charges by the hour or one who charges a flat fee? Will you be charged for phone calls to the lawyer? Is your divorce case in another county other than where the lawyer has their office? If so, what will they charge for their travel time?
Some lawyers offer free initial consultations. It might be wise to meet with a few attorneys offering a free appointment, just to get an idea of how different lawyers work and how they would approach your case. Remember that just because a lawyer might offer a free first meeting does not mean the fee they will charge for future services will be inexpensive.
Find out the answers to the following questions when you meet with any attorney. What will the fee be? What costs will you be expected to pay, such as copying, faxing and postage. What kind of outcome does he or she expect? How often will he or she be in contact? Where is your lawyer licensed to practice law? How quickly are phone calls returned? If the attorney is not in the office, is there someone else who can handle emergencies and urgent questions?
Look around the office when you are there. Is there a receptionist, and is he or she pleasant? You will be dealing with this person a lot, so make sure he or she is helpful. Does the office seem professional? Is it disorganized? Is it overly busy?
Find out how experienced each attorney is by asking how many divorce cases he or she has handled. If minor children or a large amount of assets are at stake in your case, and there is a potential for disagreement between you and your spouse how to resolve distribution, custody, etc., it is extremely important to know if the lawyers have experience handling contested cases. It is also important to know how well your lawyer knows the judges in the court where your case will be filed.
Request references. If you were not referred to the attorney by someone you know and trust, ask for the names of past or current clients you may call for references. The attorney will be able to give you this information only with the clients' consent. Many attorneys may be insulted by this request, but you wouldn't hire a babysitter without references, so why would you hire any attorney without them? Another place to check up on a lawyer is by calling your state's Supreme Court office or checking their web site to determine if it contains information about your lawyer. Many state supreme court web sites list whether an attorney has ever been disciplined by the Supreme Court of the state where they practice, and this is information you will want to know.
- Attorneys who work for medium or large firms tend to be very busy and charge more for their time. Conversely, when an emergency comes up, other members of the firm are usually available to step in.
- Attorneys who work in small firms or as solo practitioners often charge less than large firms but do not have the advantage of always having another attorney available at any given moment.
- You are going to work closely with your attorney, so be certain to pick one you are comfortable with.
- Expect to receive a written retainer agreement. If you do not receive one, request it. This is the contract that states what the attorney agrees to do for you and how much you are to pay. In some states, you may also be given a written statement of your rights.
- Get a receipt for any payment you make.
- Do not hire an attorney who seems dishonest or suggests you do illegal things.