How do you select your lawyer in a family law situation? First, you need to decide what you are trying to achieve before you know who to hire.
If you and your spouse are mostly in agreement and you just need to tie down a final agreement, consider looking for a collaborative attorney or a mediator.
In some cases, there may be an issue that cannot easily be resolved by compromise, such as one parent moving out of State and taking the children. You may feel that there is an issue in your case that is either “win” or “lose.” If so, you may want an attorney with trial experience and expertise. These “all or nothing” cases have less liklihood of settling and so, from the beginning, the correct foundation should be laid for a great trial presentation. [Note, however, it is estimated that only about 2% to 3% of family law cases go to trial nationwide.]
If you have been advised that you have a difficult case, you may wish to go with an attorney who is known to be highly detailed-oriented and who leaves no stone unturned. Realize too that this often is an expensive attorney because of the time it takes to provide services at this level of work under the pressure of an uphill climb.
If you want to put on a good aggressive show to start off with but you’re reasonably willing to settle quickly, look for a firm who settles over 98% of their cases and who work closely with clients to get things done fast but thoroughly.
A firm’s website is a good source of information and you should do general internet searches for news articles about the attorney. If the attorney has a blog, read the entries. Does the attorney appear knowledgable, professional, appropriate, respectful, and confident?
If possible, ask for referrals from people who you know and respect, keeping in mind that few people end a marriage and feel like they “won” in their divorce.
Finally, before you retain any lawyer, have an initial consulation with that firm or attorney. You will not know if a lawyer is the right fit for you until you meet. In person, it is easier to connect. If you feel like something is not quite right, then it probably is not the right attorney for you. Some firms may offer free consultations but many charge a fee for consultations. Either one is an acceptable practice.
Ultimately, hire an attorney who fits your personality and who you feel will represent you zealously and with integrity. Be leery of any attorney who seems willing to say just about anything in order to get a contract and retainer from you. Read your attorney-client agreement carefully and be cautious if the attorney pressures you to sign immediately.
Most attorneys are honest people who will try hard to advocate on your behalf. Attorneys can and do affect the potentail outcome of a case, but not in the way that the movies and t.v. portray. Attorneys cannot work magic; they cannot (and should not) guarentee a result. The dramatic fervor you see on t.v. is not necessarily the way to prevail in court and can sometimes backfire even when you have a good case (here is an example.)
You want to be comfortable that you and your attorney are on the same page. You should feel that you are in control of how your case proceeds. At the same time, do not disregard the substantive and strategic advice of your attorney. Your lawyer should have valuable knowledge, experience and skill- this helps you make informed decisions about your case.