Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our marriages end in divorce. Although an emotional and stressful time, we need to consider our legal rights in choosing an attorney. This decision is one of the most important decisions in your divorce. Here are some suggestions on how to proceed with this task.
Ask trusted advisors for suggestions. You may get attorney names from your mediator, therapist, clergy, good friends, or colleagues. You are looking for a lawyer who meets your needs, so keep in mind that your friend’s attorney may not necessarily be the best choice for you.
You may want to call several attorneys. You may find that in a short phone call you will get a “feel” for their style and their approach, etc. After each call, ask yourself: “Was I comfortable with this attorney?” “Do I want to find out more about him or her?” Listen to your inner voice.
You may then narrow your list and meet with several attorneys for an in-depth interview. Many are reluctant to take this next step, due to the cost of visiting with more than one attorney, however, choosing the right attorney for you is critically important. Some attorneys provide a free, short, initial consultation. Do not use this free service as your reasoning for a choice. Evaluate the answers to the questions asked. Beware of any attorney who promises that he or she can get you every result you want. That rarely happens in the complex and gray world of divorce.
Ask the right questions: Do they support mediation? Why or why not? If so, have they had mediation training? (This can help but is not always necessary.) What is the attorney’s personal approach or philosophy on divorce?
Further questions to ask include: What are the fees? How much is charged for phone calls and emails? Does the lawyer send an itemized bill? What sort of retainer is required? Will you get back part of the retainer if it is unused? (If the answer is no, then find another attorney.) What is the actual process for hiring the attorney? May he or she be hired on a limited basis, as a consultant?
Most attorneys request that clients sign an “engagement” or “retainer” agreement that specifies the kind of services the attorney will perform as well as the fee arrangement.The agreement can be comprehensive or limited. Limited engagements mean essentially limited services and clients who are interested in this option should raise this when interviewing attorneys.
It’s important to keep all of these questions in mind to help you find the best attorney to protect your legal rights throughout a divorce.