Make an Informed Decision
Hiring a divorce attorney is a process that many of us are not entirely comfortable with – people often don’t know what qualifications to look for. But by some estimates about 30% of us will need a lawyer at some time in our lives. About the best information many people have to go on is a recommendation from a friend, or referral from an acquaintance. But retaining legal counsel is a process that warrants some extra diligence on your part. Here are some tips to help you find the best divorce attorney for you:
Create a list:
You could open the phone book to ‘divorce lawyers’ and throw a dart to see which ad it hits. But there is a better way. If you feel comfortable asking friends to recommend a divorce lawyer that may be a good place to start. You can also check any one of the major law firm directories on the web (two of them are Find Law and Martindale Hubbell), although you should note that those directories will list any divorce attorney (regardless of qualifications). Also see: Certified divorce law specialists.
Narrow the list:
Next you should turn your list into a “short list” of lawyers who are actually worth interviewing.
- Make sure you only consider family law attorneys who practice in the county where you live. The intricacies of family law can vary significantly from county to county.
- Check credentials of the remaining candidates in your “short list.”
- First and foremost you should ensure that the divorce attorneys on your list are in good standing with your state bar.
- While there is no single label that universally identifies good divorce lawyers, a generally accepted benchmark is the Martindale Hubbell peer review rating. Attorneys only qualify for this rating after they have been admitted to the bar for five years or more.
- Super Lawyers also assembles peer-ranked lists of attorneys, organized by geography and practice area.
- Another credential that may be worth looking for is a Family Law Specialization Certification. There are many fine divorce lawyers who are not Certified Family Law Specialists, but if you feel you have a complex case – and don’t mind possibly paying a premium – you may consider including one or more Certified Family Law Specialists in your short list (read more about legal specialization).
Once you have narrowed the field to a manageable number of candidates, schedule in-person meetings with each of the divorce lawyers on your list. Be aware of the responsiveness of each firm or attorney to your meeting request. You want to be sure that the family law attorney you ultimately retain is able to devote an adequate amount of time to your case; if it takes 3 business days or more to get a call back it may be an indication that they are too busy to give your case the attention it deserves. When you do finally begin to meet with your short-list candidates, ask about their experience with cases like yours. For example, if you expect a contentious custody battle, ask them to talk about their experience with such cases. Finally, do realize that the attorney you interview may not be the one who is actually assigned to your case. Ask which associate will be working on your case, and meet that individual as well. He or she will likely be your day-to-day point of contact and it is important that you feel comfortable working with him/her.
The process of hiring a divorce lawyer is one that, depending on the complexity of your case, may justify a little extra homework up front. The final decision may be a subjective one, but take the time to create a qualified list of candidates and have a better chance of finding the best divorce attorney for you.