Selecting the Right Divorce Lawyer
Your selection of a lawyer is as important as your decision to divorce. Your divorce is likely to be the most significant interaction you ever have with the legal system. Your life and your children’s lives will be forever affected by the outcome.
Hiring a lawyer is like anything else — you get what you pay for. If you are diagnosed with a serious illness, you do not hire the cheapest doctor you can find. You hire the best doctor you can find. The same is true of lawyers, especially in a case with all the potential life-changing consequences associated with a divorce.
Trust is the most important component in any attorney-client relationship. The time will come in your case when, if you are smart, you will rely on your lawyer’s advice. That will be difficult to do if you do not trust your lawyer’s knowledge, experience and ability to give you good advice. The smart client follows his or her attorney’s instructions and advice.
Lawyers earn their reputations by blending talent, intelligence, competence, judgment and integrity. A well-founded reputation for integrity is an attorney’s most important attribute.
Many people think they need a lawyer with a reputation for aggressiveness, i.e., a “bulldog.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Lawyers who are unnecessarily combative tend to be ineffective. The time for a lawyer to be aggressive is when doing so directly benefits the client. An experienced, effective attorney knows when to be aggressive and when not to. The best divorce lawyers tend to avoid overt displays of combativeness and aggression except in those rare instances when doing so is beneficial.
Investigate your lawyer’s credentials before you hire him or her. Meet with the lawyer before you hire him or her. Your first meeting with a lawyer should be educational. If you do not feel more knowledgeable about your situation and the applicable law after the meeting, keep looking for another lawyer. The one you met with is not the right attorney for you.
Do not hire a lawyer who guarantees results in court or who claims to have never lost a case.
Ask your lawyer about what he or she charges. Most charge by the hour for the time they work on your case and charge in increments of one-tenth to one-quarter of an hour for all phone calls, emails, text messages, letters, meetings, and so forth. Be sure you clearly understand his or her hourly rate and the hourly rate of every other attorney or staff member who may work on your case.
Most lawyers require the payment of a fee retainer. A fee retainer is payment in advance for legal work to be performed at a later date. The fee retainer is typically deposited in a trust account from which the lawyer is paid for work performed. Make sure the fee retainer is refundable.
Ask your lawyer if there will be additional costs other than attorney’s fees for services such as filing fees, court reporters, copies, faxes, long-distance phone calls, computerized legal research, expert witnesses and mediators.
Ask your lawyer if he or she will pay for the expenses upfront and bill you later or if you will be required to pay the expenses as they are charged.
Most lawyers require clients to sign a fee agreement contract when the lawyer accepts the case. Read the fee agreement carefully. Be sure you fully understand it. Always sign a fee agreement with your lawyer and retain a copy for yourself.
Make sure to receive monthly statements documenting the work performed on your case and the balance of funds remaining in your trust account.
If you want to discuss your situation with one of the divorce and family law attorneys at Herston Law Group, please click here to contact us for a consultation.
Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce, Matrimonial and Family Law Attorney.