When a decision is made to divorce, you are forced to become familiar with the legal world and what may seem like, a legal minefield. This is not an easy task given the legal jargon and technicalities involved in a divorce. Some couples attempt to navigate the legal waters on their own, others choose to mediate their divorce, while others hire a legal representative to take charge of the legal process. Finding legal representation should not be taken lightly because your relationship with your divorce attorney will last for a significant period of time and may even extend beyond the actual divorce if there are post-divorce issues to be ironed out. Here are tips on what to look for when searching for the right divorce attorney:
1. Do Your Research: Before you decide on a divorce attorney, conduct your own research on who you might want to hire. Conduct an online search and see if any articles or reviews have been posted about the attorney or law firm. One important resource will be your state bar's website. On the state bar website, you can see if the attorney is officially licensed in your state and if there are any disciplinary actions against the attorney. Take your research outside of the Web and ask friends or extended family for a referral. Word of mouth is a great resource. By chatting with others in your community, you will get a better sense of the attorney's reputation in the community.
2. Ask Questions: Before you sign an engagement letter to hire your divorce attorney, don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions. How does the attorney bill for his or her work? What is the attorney's hourly billing rate? Will the attorney take a retainer or are fees based on contingency? Does the attorney have assistants and paralegals? If so, will they be doing a significant portion of the work on your case? What are the hourly billing rates for assistants and paralegals working on your case? These questions are important because it will help you determine if you can afford the attorney's services going forward. Divorce is a long and expensive process. The initial retainer fee will only get you so far and often, you can expect to pay additional fees and costs going forward. An initial meeting with the attorney is also important because you can see if you and the attorney are on the same page and whether your personalities gel together. This will be a long working relationship so it's important that you and your attorney work well together.
3. Don't Be Afraid To Make Decisions: If you've hired an attorney and come to find you are not happy with the relationship, do not be afraid to change counsel and find an attorney right for you. While you don't want to get into the habit of switching attorneys on a frequent basis, it is not unreasonable to change your representation when there is a true breakdown in the relationship between you and your attorney. You may be hesitant to switch counsel after investing so much time and money, but remember you are likely to save more money in the long run with the right attorney and get the results you desire with the right partnership.
Finding the right divorce attorney is crucial. The right working relationship will determine the trajectory of your divorce, so make an informed decision before you navigate the legal landscape.