It’s probably safe to say that you don’t hire an attorney every day. And, when it comes down to it, it seems like kind of a scary thing to do. How do you know who you’re hiring, or what the experience will be like? Will you be just another name on a file on a random shelf somewhere, or will you get the kind of personalized attention, guidance, and coaching that you need to both ease yourself into these tricky waters and to see yourself safely out the other side?
It’s never an easy decision to make, especially when you’re already feeling emotional and overwhelmed about just the thought of going through a divorce or a custody case (or possibly both). You want to be sure you’re hiring the right person, but it’s difficult to make that decision after having just met someone one time. Right?
How do you compare family law attorneys to find the best one to represent YOU in your upcoming divorce or custody case?
Just like anything else, there are both good and bad family law attorneys. And, maybe even more to the point, there are family law attorneys who are better or worse fits for you, personally. Because we have personalities, too, and certain clients jive with us better than others. It’s just a reality of the human condition. So you want to ensure that whoever you hire is a good attorney, and also a good fit for you.
A tall order? Maybe.
But you can find the right attorney, if you know what steps to take and what questions to ask.
In many cases, you’re expected to make a decision about whether or not to hire an attorney based on one consultation. An hour, sometimes less, and you’re supposed to just know whether or not this person will be the one who is able to help guide you through one of the biggest, scariest, and potentially most expensive events of your adult life.
So, what can you do to research family law attorneys?
Are they (or should I say, we!) all the same? Of course not!
1. Find out about any attorney you might consider hiring.
Read their bios. Google them, or their firm. Read their reviews. Find out what other people are saying about them.
On our site, we have reviews for each of our attorneys that we collect internally – people who may not have gone to the trouble to, say, post a Google review. To see what I mean, take a look at my lovely colleague, Caitlin Walters’s biography page. If you scroll past the biography information, down at the bottom, you’ll see a series of reviews from clients, consults, or seminar attendees. (Incidentally, you can’t go wrong if you hire her!) On our site, to see those, you’ll want to visit each attorney’s bio page. (And, really, this is probably a good idea to do before you even decide who to meet with for the consultation!) Many sites collect reviews like that, and it’s easy enough to find them.
But there are other places to look, too. Google, of course, and sometimes Yelp, depending on the firm. Law firms aren’t always super aggressive about these types of reviews, so you may not find a ton of information on any one particular site, but being diligent and looking around will definitely yield some helpful results. (And, in some cases, a lack of results is helpful, too…)
Facebook can have reviews, and Avvo, too (even though it has sort of fallen out of favor as a legal directory). Really, anywhere you can find reviews, good or bad, is helpful.
…Wait, bad reviews? Yes, the bad reviews! You want to know what people are saying! And, sometimes the bad ones can tell you a lot – on BOTH sides of the attorney/client relationship, especially if the attorney or the firm took a chance to respond.
You can’t seriously want me to look at your bad reviews.
No, really, I do! I’ll tell you a fun little story, too. One of my favorite reviews for our firm on Google was a one star review – from a husband! So, even though it has skewed our overall star rating, it’s a bad review that actually is a testament to the great work we do! So good, her husband hated it, which, honestly, feels pretty good.
2. Ask your chosen attorney a lot of questions.
It’s always a good idea to have a real dialogue with an attorney, too. Ask them questions about their case load, their experience, the courts they’ve recently appeared in, etc. Ask them whether they do family law exclusively (really, they should – it’s complicated and constantly changing). Maybe even ask them why! You’ll get a lot of insight into their character, and be able to get a sense of their “why”. That kind of thing can be really compelling, and can help you align with one over another.
Do some thinking about your goals, and ask them about a strategy designed to meet them. Do you feel the attorney is listening to you and trying to come up with solutions to fit your needs, or is it all brusque and businesslike? Don’t get me wrong, businesslike is good – but not to the extent that you feel that you’re just following a pattern or a script that has nothing to do with you or your individual priorities.
I think, too, the ease with which conversation flows is important. Not that you need your attorney to be your best friend or your therapist (hey, it happens, though I prefer to think of myself as an occasional cheerleader), but you should be comfortable enough with your attorney that you can share uncomfortable truths. That will be important as the case progresses – and, sometimes, as tensions escalate. Being able to have a real conversation will help ensure that you’re able to talk it out through different bumps in the road.
3. See your chosen attorney again!
One hour – or thirty minutes – is quick. And you’re under stress. If you’re not ready to make a decision yet, well, that’s okay. Can you see the attorney again? Read something they’ve written? (For example, my colleague and friend, attorney Lorna Rhoades, and I both write the blogs and articles you’ll find on this site!) Or use anything else to get a real sense of them as a person?
For us, we teach divorce and custody seminars, so there’s more opportunities to see/hear from your attorney than just in the consultation. In normal times, we also have Girl’s Night Out events, which can be a great chance to meet and greet, but obviously we’ve stopped recently with the pandemic. (Boo, I know!)
You can also request copies of our books, which were co-written by many of our attorneys, or check out our Facebook page – several of our attorneys have done videos there as well. You can always come in for a second consult, too.
When I give advice that consults question, I always tell them to get a second opinion, too! When I was in law school, an attorney told me to never listen to an attorney who didn’t give you the answer you wanted and, while I don’t think that’s entirely good advice (sometimes we DO have to tell our clients that things aren’t a good idea, or that they won’t win if they follow a particular course of action), there is something to it, too. Talk to a couple attorneys and get an idea, and you’ll be in an even better position to rank one against the others and to whittle your list down to the one divorce attorney that you really want to work with.
For more information, check out our attorney bio pages, visit our library, or request a free book or report on our website. Ready to schedule your consultation now? You can do so online! See you soon.