This is one of the most important decisions you will make once you have decided you want a divorce. There are Do’s and Don’ts in the selection process.
1) DO consider the referral source. Attorneys are good barometers of their colleague’s abilities and experience. Former clients who have had a positive outcome with their divorce representation are excellent referral sources. In fact, any referral source that has sent clients to the attorney who have been happy with their outcome is an invaluable referral source.
2) DO consider the experience and personal qualities of the attorney. Judgment comes from experience. It is not taught in law school. An attorney who has been practicing for decades is more likely to have handled a diverse range of cases in many different Courts and, therefore, will be able to give good advice, know the parameters of settlement, know the rules in the jurisdiction in which your case will be filed and know how the Judge assigned to your case handles the issues. An experienced attorney is more likely to know how to prepare your case to present a compelling argument in settlement and in trial. Preparation, experience, judgment, and common sense produce the best results.
3) DO consider who in the attorney’s office will be handling your case. Is it the attorney you met with, or a junior level associate? Often clients retain one named partner, but end up having a different attorney assigned to do most of the work and take their phone calls. Are there competent people such as paralegals in the attorney’s office who can handle matters more cost effectively and answer simple questions when your attorney is in Court or temporarily unavailable?
1) DON'T be “penny wise and pound foolish” by selecting the lowest hourly rate attorney or lowest retainer demand. An experienced attorney can generally resolve your case quicker, more cost effectively, and achieve better results than an inexperienced attorney. All attorneys bill at an hourly rate against a retainer. When the retainer is exhausted, it is replaced with another retainer in like amount. An experienced attorney will generally ask for a larger retainer knowing from experience the time involved in doing excellent work. The lower the retainer the more frequently you will be replacing it. Unused retainers are always refunded to the client at the end of the case.
2) DON'T look for an attorney who will tell you what you want to hear just to get your business. These attorneys inevitably fail to deliver and the client is unhappy, having felt led to believe in an unlikely outcome.
3) DON'T expect the attorney to be your friend, therapist, parent, or assassin to gore your spouse. Objectivity and common sense often yield the best results. Divorce is about two things: money and children.
4) DON'T interview a multitude of attorneys. You will only get confused and likely make a selection for the wrong reasons. Quality in legal representation should not be based upon a “touchy-feely” experience, but timely delivery of quality service to achieve a client’s realistic objectives. Quality representation means communicating with the client by promptly returning phone calls, explaining options and letting the client make decisions. Quality representation is giving good advice to achieve realistic objectives set by the client. Quality representation is preparation with a focus on settlement, but an ability to go to trial and get results. Quality representation is knowing how to prepare, persuade, and argue a case to a mediator or to a Court.