Here are the 10 things you should look for when you hire a divorce attorney:
1. Make sure that your attorney focuses on divorce and family law matters. Many attorneys are generalists. They practice in 4, 5 or unlimited areas of law. You don't want that. If you have a problem with your foot, you do not see an ear, nose and throat doctor. If heaven forbid, you have cancer, you see an oncologist, not a general practitioner. You want someone with a family law focus. Attorneys who focus specifically on family law know their colleagues, judges, judges' temperaments and have an in depth knowledge of procedures, court rules. Also, you want to find out if the attorney practices in the court where your case is located. A good family law attorney will be able to refer you to the following indispensable professionals: 1) CPA; 2) financial planner; 3) therapist; 4) real estate agent. Take advantage of your divorce attorney's network.
2. Make sure that your attorney is proactive. If you find yourself in the position of having to “nudge” your attorney into doing something or proposing solutions yourself, you should probably switch to someone with more of a focus on your needs.
3. Listen to Honest Advice: Look, attorneys are in business just like any other business person, but a good divorce attorney will give you the good and potential bad news. A good and balanced consultation with pros and cons is much better than an overly rosy picture. Divorces never turn out great for one spouse and lousy for the other. If the attorney you are consulting with tells you something you may not like, then that is evidence of honesty. You definitely want that.
4. Constant Contact: Today, with the advent of text messages, email, cellphones, etc. staying in touch should be really easy. Your attorney should take no more than 24 hours to get back to you if only to say, “I got your message, can I call you back later in the week? I am in trial.”
5. Technology: You want an attorney who has a basic to intermediate knowledge of how technology works and that the attorney uses technology in his/her practice. If you find yourself receiving Xeroxed copies of documents in the snail mail, then you are not in the right place. Your attorney should know how to use PDFs, apps, efax or something similar.
6. Real World Knowledge: Your divorce attorney should have some real world knowledge. How can a divorce attorney who does not have children relate to someone who is fighting to see their kids? Today, many people have special needs children. These children have various soft diagnoses, such as autism, Asperger's, or ADHD. Does the attorney have any basic knowledge of these disorders and how they can affect how the court orders a parenting plan?
7. Knowledge of Other Areas of Law: This is very important. There is significant overlap between family law and other areas of law. Does your attorney know how a bankruptcy can affect divorce proceedings? How about a personal injury or a workers compensation case? If the parties jointly own a business that is involved in a lawsuit against a third party, how does that affect the divorce?
8. Getting Nickled and Dimed to Death: Empathy is a very important quality in a divorce attorney. We work very hard and are deserving of the high rates we charge. But we tend to look bad when we charge $75.00 to leave a voicemail message to our clients or it is obvious that we are making a profit on copies (I do not run a copy service, so I bill out my cost on the copies. No more).
9. Personality: Make sure that your personality meshes with your divorce attorney. It means you can relate to each other. I like to think I am a friendly guy and I like to make people laugh. Laughter is not forbidden even in the most trying times.
10. Objectivity: You might hate your spouse, but the reason you hire me is for my objectivity. Remember, I am advocate and counselor. I might advise you the following “You might hate your spouse, but I would strongly advise you to do _________.” I will recommend to you what is in your best interest regardless of your feelings. Sometimes raw emotion can cloud our judgment. In the end however, you are the client. You are a grown adult. I am confident that you will make the right choice once we have a full and honest discussion.