A Divorce Lawyer’s Top Tips to Her Friend About How to Choose a Divorce Lawyer
What do divorce lawyers tell their friends about how to hire a divorce lawyer?
Well, the other day, an old friend of mine reached out with some rough news. His marriage is struggling and he has reached the point where it’s time for him to meet with a divorce law firm to get his arms around some of the potential impacts to him and his family.
My friend lives on the other side of the country, and wanted my take on how he should find the right divorce attorney to hire.
I share with you the main tips I shared with him.
Look for an Experienced Divorce Lawyer Focused on Your Goals
Each person, marriage, and family is unique. You want to find a divorce attorney whose legal and negotiation skills are top-notch, but that’s not the only thing that matters. Divorce is anything but “one size fits all.” For example, one client’s primary focus could be the smoothest transition possible for their children, while another client’s main goal could be getting to the other side of the divorce process as soon as possible. A third client’s priority might be financial — such as maximizing alimony or property division. In order to tailor your divorce to your priorities, your divorce lawyer’s first task must be helping you to identify and prioritize your goals.
As I told my friend, “You also want to make sure they are committed to learning about your family, your situation, and the things that matter most to you.”
(Honestly, if they don’t talk about how critical this is right on their website, it’s a good clue they probably don’t prioritize it.)
Many very skilled technically divorce lawyers fall into a trap of “just doing what they do.” They focus on what they think of as “winning,” or a good result based upon their experience. But if what they think of as a “win” isn’t what is a “win” for you — well, what’s the good of that?
Take Away: Your divorce lawyer needs to care about what you want for your post-divorce life.
Read: First Steps
Find a Divorce Attorney Who Will Tell You The Truth, Even When You Won’t Like It
Sometimes, one of your goals won’t be an outcome that a judge is likely to order or your ex is likely to agree to. You need to know that. As you make decisions about how to move forward with your matter, you need to have your lawyer’s very candid assessment, even — no, especially — when s/he has something to tell you that won’t like.
By the way, this includes telling you the truth about where you stand on your retainer or other legal fees with up-front, timely billing and candid discussions about where the case is and the potential legal fees associated with the different strategic decisions you’re making. You need to be able to make your decisions about your strategic plan and how to move forward with your eyes wide open.
Take Away: Your divorce attorney must tell it like it is, even when it’s not what you want to hear.
Select a Team of Family Law Attorneys at a Divorce Law Firm
You’ve heard the expression — “jack of all trades, master of none.” It applies when selecting a divorce attorney. You wouldn’t hire a general surgeon to operate on your brain, and you shouldn’t hire a general practitioner to represent you in your family law matter.
Time is the only finite resource, and divorce and family law is constantly evolving. What that means is that an attorney who handles real estate closings and business disputes, for example, has to do his best to keep abreast of all those areas of the law, plus what’s happening in divorce and family law. You want a lawyer with a singular focus on family law — without distractions.
You should also choose a divorce and family law firm over a solo practitioner. Make sure that your law firm has the manpower and capacity at their law firm to get you the attention and care you were promised. You want to know that if your lead lawyer is in court and you have an urgent issue arise, there is both another experienced family law attorney and a paralegal to remain focused on you.
Take away: Your attorney should be on a legal team that limits their practice to divorce and family law.
Choose Divorce Attorneys Experienced in Litigation, Collaborative Divorce, and Mediation
Once a legal team understands your values and goals (see Tip #1), they should be able to help you understand the pros and cons of all three approaches to divorce so that you can choose the right fit for you, your spouse, and your kids if you have them.
I shared this comment with my friend: “The reason that I am harping on this is that the decision of how you want to go forward and work through the divorce will impact you and your family for years to come. For example, I don’t want you to wind-up in a litigated divorce just because the lawyer you met with only litigates rather than because it’s best for your family.”
The process you choose for your divorce is critical and will have long term effects on you and your family. Have an initial consultation with a law firm whose lawyers practice in all three approaches so that you will be able to get experienced guidance to help you select a process for your divorce.
Take Away: If you’re working with a divorce lawyer focused on your goals, the divorce process you choose should be based on you, not your attorney’s partiality or absence of training or experience.
You and Your Divorce Lawyer Must Vibe and Be Compatible
This is the “trust your gut” tip — the one for which there is no objective standard. You must feel comfortable with the legal team you hire if you are to work effectively together. You must gel. Your experience should feel calm, orderly, and warm. You and your team are going to spend a lot of time together talking about very personal issues — you want to make sure it’s a “fit.”
Take Away: Trust your gut.
Take Action: First Steps
Freed Marcroft’s attorneys guide select clients through the legal aspects of divorce and family law issues while remaining mindful of their overall wellness.