Choosing A Lawyer
Once you find yourself in a situation in which you’re going to need a domestic relations attorney, the single most important decision you will make is choosing the person who will represent you. If you’re like most people, you’ve never done this before. People find attorneys in all sorts of ways, -- perhaps you’ll ask friends for referrals. Since you’re reading this, you’re also looking on the internet. While there is no formulaic approach to choosing an attorney, there are some guidelines which can help make your decision a little easier.
Do it now! Even before legal action in your divorce is started, there are things you and your attorney can do to put you in a better position. The sooner you start working with an attorney, the better off you’ll be once your divorce starts.
Talk to several attorneys before you choose one. Don’t hire the first person you talk to. Your attorney will have a profound impact on the rest of your life, and it’s important that you are as comfortable with him or her as possible. Like all people, different attorneys have different approaches and styles. Some of these will be a better fit with you than others, but the only way you’ll find out is to talk to several.
Limit your search to Family Law specialists. Lots of attorneys in general practice handle family law matters. But domestic relations is a highly specialized area of the law, — for example, it has its own separate court system, its own set of procedural rules and its own judges. The law in this area changes constantly, and a lawyer who concentrates in family law is in the best position to have the current and comprehensive knowledge you need. We’ve seen far too many clients whose divorce or other family law matter was handled by a general practitioner, leaving some issues resolved incorrectly, in an ambiguous state or even not addressed at all.
Listen carefully and use common sense. Watch out for the lawyer who says things like:
"Just leave everything to me." Sure, it's an emotional time for you. And it's tempting to unload a lot of the responsibility in this difficult process to a professional. But remember, it’s your life, not your lawyer’s. When your case is complete, your lawyer moves on to the next client, but you’re left with whatever judgment or agreement was entered. You must be an integral part of the process, and your lawyer should understand this.
"I'll get you everything he (or she) has." Watch out for the lawyer who promises you the world, because he or she can’t deliver it. Even if your lawyer can negotiate a completely one-sided agreement, which is highly unlikely, the agreement must still be approved by a judge, and the judge is required by law to make sure that the agreement is fair to both parties in light of all of the circumstances of your case.
Your comfort level is important. How do you feel when you’re sitting and talking to the attorney? Does the attorney do all the talking, or does he or she listen carefully to you? Does the attorney respond to what you say, or do you get the feeling that you’re hearing a canned “new client” speech? Is it easy for you to talk to this attorney? As we said earlier, the attorney you choose to represent you is going to have a profound impact on the rest of your life. It’s critically important that you feel comfortable speaking with this person.
Does the lawyer charge for the initial meeting? At Helman & Neustadt, we do not. We don’t think that you should have to pay to talk to someone to find out if you want to retain that person to represent you. You don’t have to pay to try on a suit to see if it’s the right fit; and we believe that you shouldn't have to pay to meet with a lawyer to see if s/he is someone with whom you feel comfortable. You need to find out if we’re the right lawyers for you, and we need to find out if we think that we’ll work well together and that we'll be able to provide you with effective representation.
We hope that this brief outline gets you thinking. If you’re here on our website, there’s a reason, and it’s not too early to talk to a lawyer. Do it now. While we’ll be happy to speak or meet with you, you may be more comfortable with someone else. That’s fine. We want you to have the best representation for you.