Choosing an attorney to represent you in your divorce can be a difficult undertaking. Sitting in a meeting with an insurance salesman the other day, I started to appreciate how my clients must feel when they’re sitting in my office. I like to think that I speak clearly and that my clients understand exactly what I’m telling them, but the truth is that the law, just like life insurance, is complicated and it can be difficult for regular people to wade through the options and make the best choices for themselves.
If you’re anything like me, you like to do research before you make any big decisions. Before my insurance salesman came in to talk to me about my options, I had done an internet search and met with another insurance guy, so I was feeling pretty knowledgeable. Pretty soon, though, I felt like I had been talked in circles. When you’re trying to make big decisions about your future, it’s scary to feel confused! When you feel like someone is trying to sell you something, it’s even more difficult to try to make that decision, because you regard everything they’ve said with a little bit of mistrust.
When you’re meeting with an attorney, you should feel comfortable asking the attorney to explain unfamiliar concepts with you, and go over your possible choices. To help make things easier, I’ve compiled a list of questions you should be sure to ask your attorney before you make any decisions about whether to hire.
1. Do you practice family law exclusively?
You definitely want an attorney who is experienced in family law cases, and it is definitely preferable if your attorney ONLY practices family law. Divorce and custody law changes frequently, and you’ll want your attorney to be up-to-date on the newest laws.
2. What is worth fighting for and what is worth letting go?
Once the attorney has heard your story, ask this question. The answer will help you do two things: (1) keep it all in perspective, and (2) see where the attorney’s head is. If you’re being unrealistic, it’s a good idea to know sooner, rather than later. Likewise, if you think the attorney is selling you short or unfairly discounting something that is very important to you, it may not be a good fit.
3. What is your hourly rate, and how does billing work?
It’s hard to estimate EXACTLY how much a divorce will cost, but you can get a much better idea of how much it will cost if you ask pointed questions about fees and billing. Remember, too, that more experienced attorneys tend to bill at higher rates, and less experienced attorneys bill at lower rates. If the cost is important to you, it may be worth looking into hiring a newer associate.
4. How much experience do you have with cases like mine?
Experience is a factor. It may not be the only factor, but it is important to many women that they know how much experience their attorney has. Your attorney, whether young or old, should speak authoritatively and competently to you, and you should feel convinced about her ability to handle your case. You may ultimately choose to hire a newer associate, rather than paying the high cost of the more experienced partner, but you should still feel very confident in your attorney after meeting with her.
5. How can I keep the costs of my divorce down?
This is a great question, and one that I love to answer when my clients ask. I usually tell my clients certain things that help make my job easier (and, therefore, keep my fees lower), and your attorney will probably give you some helpful hints, too! Keep these things in mind, and you can save big time.
You should definitely feel confident in your attorney’s abilities, and asking these five questions will help you ensure that you choose the right attorney for you.