Five Critical Questions to Ask When Choosing a Family Law Attorney
How long have you practiced law and how long have you practiced in this area of law?
Any attorney who has graduated from law school and passed the state bar examination is allowed to practice law in any area he chooses. However, the longer an attorney has practiced and the more experience he has in an area of law, the more knowledgeable and efficient he should be. Several questions will assist you in determining an attorney’s experience, competence, and reputation in this area of law. What percentage of the attorney’s cases are similar to yours? Does the attorney belong to bar organizations focusing on this area of law? Does he give presentations to the public or other attorneys on topics in this area of law?
How easily will I be able to reach you?
One of the most common complaints about attorneys is their failure to respond to clients. Your attorney should be easily accessible to you. While he may not be available to speak to you at the time you call, he or a staff member should respond to your all within a reasonable time. Does the attorney guarantee a return call within 24 hours? Is the staff prepared to deal with emergencies? Can you reach the attorney after hours? Family law cases often result in late night or weekend emergencies which require input from your attorney.
How much will you communicate with me about my case?
Your family law case is extremely important to you. It should be to your attorney also. Your attorney should keep you fully informed of all activity in your case, whether it’s correspondence with the other attorney, court filings, or meetings with the magistrate or judge. Will the attorney send you copies of all correspondence and pleadings? Will the attorney consult with you on all important decisions that must be made in your case?
How are fees set and can I affect the amount of fees incurred?
Family law attorneys generally bill on an hourly basis. Although, a very simple case may be billed on a flat rate. The hourly rate is generally tied to the attorney’s years of practice and experience in the area of law involved. You want to know the hourly rate for the attorney and staff who work on your case, the expenses that will be charged to you, the downpayment you will be required to make, and an estimate of the total fee expected to handle the case. Will you be able to reduce the fees by actively participating in the collection of financial and other information pertinent to the case?
Will you help me deal with the collateral issues in my case?
Family law cases do not just deal with legal issues. They often involve psychological issues for the parents and children, insurance issues, investment issues, tax issues, and other matters related to a change in family status. While family law attorneys are generally not trained in these fields, they should recognize the issues and direct you to experts who can assist with these matters. Does the attorney have contacts in these fields? Will the attorney make an effort to advise you of these issues in your case?