Don't know how to choose a divorce lawyer? You're not alone.
Many people facing divorce don't know where to begin when choosing a lawyer. They are overwhelmed with the prospect of a divorce and feel pressured to hire someone in a hurry. Oftentimes, they select a lawyer without realizing that their attorney is someone they will have to work closely with for months, or possibly years, and whose advice and counsel will guide them through one of the biggest challenges they will ever face in their lives.
Not every lawyer is right for every client. Each lawyer has their own unique style so be sure to match your needs with those of the lawyer you retain.
Here are five suggestions for finding the right lawyer for your case:
1. Interview at least two or three different lawyers on the phone and make sure you like the lawyer you retain. Try to get a sense of each lawyer's communication style—is this someone who is open, personable and easy to talk to and understand or do they use “lawyer speak” and/or make you feel reluctant to ask questions? If you can't imagine inviting him or her to dinner or spending 3 to 4 hours with this person, you may need to find someone else.
2. Try to assess each lawyer's approach to litigation. Is the lawyer advocating a well-reasoned and balanced approach to achieving what is best for you and your children or are they out to destroy your spouse regardless of the financial and emotional toll on you, your spouse and your children? Generally speaking, lawyers whose objective is to “slash and burn” are more interested in making money than helping you to through your divorce.
3. Make sure you understand how the lawyer bills. Is his or her retainer a deposit to be used for future services or nonrefundable the minute you pay it? Is the lawyer's retainer an artificially low “teaser retainer” that will be exhausted after a few hours of work? Keep in mind that a lawyer who quotes you a low up front retainer will oftentimes go through the initial stages of representation and bail on you as soon as the moment the real work begins. Your lawyer will need to devote time to preparing your case for settlement, mediation and trial and, if you go for a discount lawyer, you will get a substandard result.
4. Confirm that your lawyer ‘s work ethic and timeliness in filing documents, scheduling hearings and going to trial is what you are expecting. For example, some lawyers can file a Complaint within 24-48 hours of your initial consultation and will immediately schedule a hearing and move your case along. Other lawyers will take 30 days to file a Complaint and may wait 6 to 9 months before scheduling a hearing. Find out whether the lawyer has a lot of older cases that are still lingering around after years in the pipeline or whether the lawyer starts and closes cases more quickly. In many counties, you can go online and look up a lawyer's case history to see how quickly he or she moves cases.
5. Use all of your senses, including your sixth sense, when choosing a lawyer. Don't make a rash decision or ignore obvious danger signs when hiring a lawyer. If the lawyer's office is stacked floor to ceiling with a disorganized pile of boxes, that may be a sign that he or she will have difficulty organizing your case file. Find out whether your lawyer has a professional office staffed by courteous and knowledgeable staff or whether you will be speaking with someone at an answering service when you call the office. While there is nothing wrong with an answering service, divorce lawyers spend a lot of time in mediations, hearings and trial and you want to be sure that the lawyer you retain has the staff available to quickly get in touch with your lawyer when you need him or her and the office has ready access to information and documents when you need them.
Like all professionals, lawyers come in all different shapes and styles. Finding the right lawyer to fit your personality may take a bit of work but your efforts will be rewarded when you are represented by a knowledgeable and trusted advisor who is pursuing your best interests.
For more information, join the discussion at the Georgia Divorce Network google+ community.