Many individuals involved in a lawsuit realize at one point or another that they need the guidance of an attorney. The court system is a complex structure involving state procedural rules, local procedural rules, statutes as well as the practices and preferences for each decision maker. Our court system does not provide room for a “do-over” if you are unhappy with your first trip through nor does it give much leniency if a lay person (non-attorney) lacks an understanding of the controlling rules or law. A small, inadvertent error on the part of a lay person can be fatal to the success of a case.
For those reasons, its is not a surprise that many individuals decide to turn to an expert, an attorney, for guidance, advice and an education on the law as it relates to their case. Once the decision to seek out an attorney is made, many individuals do not know where to begin or how to even select an attorney. Here is the advice that I share with my friends and potential family law clients to help guide them through selecting an attorney.
- Obtain the recommendations of friends, family and coworkers who have been through a family law case. Word of mouth recommendations (positive or negative) can be a really powerful resource to help you identify attorneys that have been helpful to your peers in the past. Keep in mind that every case is different, so an attorney that was a good match for your friend may not be the best match for you, but this is a good launching point.
- Consider meeting with multiple attorneys. Every attorney is not the same and it is so important to find an attorney that is not only experienced and skilled but also has a personality and approach to the case that fits what you are looking for. A family law case is one of the most difficult and trying times of your life and one attorney’s approach to the case may be drastically different than that of another attorney. In addition, selecting an attorney that you like may ease some of the stress of court hearings and meetings.
- Choose an attorney who practices family law regularly in the county in which your case is based. You are paying a lot of money for their expertise in a very specialized field. Make sure they are truly an expert in the area of law covering your case and come with a wealth of education and experience.
- Come to your consultation with a list of questions which should include questions about the specifics of your case as well as the attorney’s practices regarding billing, communication (inside and outside of business hours), utilizing other professionals in the firm to keep your costs down (like associates and paralegals) and retainer payments. While a consultation is often geared towards discussing you and your case, this is also your chance to interview the attorney. Do not be shy about asking questions and expressing concerns.
- Consider a follow up consultation. I recognize that multiple consultations can be a costly endeavor. Consider asking for a shortened and discounted follow-up consultation if you still have some questions that were not answered at the first meeting.
My final comment is: if your attorney does not turn out to be a good match for you, it is okay to end the relationship in a civil and professional manner. You should feel that your attorney is your advocate as well as a trusted advisor. Having a competent and trustworthy attorney by your side should ease the burden of this difficult time.
If you have any questions, please contact Elizabeth C. Early at 610-275-0700 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Elizabeth is a family law attorney in Bucks County and Montgomery County specializing in many areas including divorce, custody, support, equitable distribution, pre- and post-nuptial agreements and abuse matters.
The information above is general: we recommend that you consult an attorney regarding your specific circumstances. The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.