Many people don't know where to start when they're looking for a family law attorney. There are even statistics to support this as some studies have shown that most people spend two hours or less gathering information and selecting their attorney. So here are some tips to help you find the right attorney.
1. Determine the type of lawyer you need.
In most states, a licensed attorney may practice in any field of law and not long ago most lawyers were general practitioners, meaning that they handled cases in many different areas of practice. Now days most attorneys concentrate on very specific areas, such as family law, and most states have a process of specialization for attorneys.
The law has become very complicated. Some jokingly say that our laws become more complicated as a direct result of their being so many attorneys! It is more likely that as our culture got more complicated, our laws followed. Whichever, the result is that it has become necessary for lawyers to concentrate their efforts on a particular field.
2. Utilize referral sources.
Like many areas, good old fashioned word of mouth is often the best way to find an attorney. If you know of friends or family members who have had a positive experience with an attorney, you know that you're much more likely to.
Another way to find a lawyer that does the kind of law you need is through other lawyers. You or someone you know probably knows a lawyer they could call and ask for a referral. Even if the lawyer you ask practices criminal law and you need a family law attorney, the criminal lawyer will be able to give you some referrals in the practice area you need.
There are also referral lists maintained by most local and state bar associations. The downfall of using these services is that there is usually no screening on the qualifications of the particular lawyer with the individual need. It is then up to the consumer to inquire sufficiently into the lawyer's experience compared to the need of the consumer.
3. Look online to research lawyers in the area you need.
The internet is an extremely beneficial source of locating a lawyer. Many websites maintain directories of lawyers nationwide. Most law firms these days maintain websites and usually you can find those through any search engine. Often lawyers are active in professional or community organizations which may be featured on a website. It's a good idea to review an attorney's website. This will tell you about the person and the areas they practice so you'll know more about them before meeting in person.
4. Meet in person
The initial interview is extremely important. I offer a free initial consultation so that you can get all your questions answered. Take with you to the interview all of the documents and other information that relates to your problem. Don't be afraid to ask your lawyer about his or her credentials and how many cases similar to yours that she has handled.
Prepare a list of questions to ask when you get there - what is the law related to your case? What are the realistic outcomes? What is the lawyer's philosophy for handling your case? Do they recommend a fight to the end, winner take all approach or one geared more toward settlement? Consider your comfort level with the attorney and the personal compatibility. Did you get a feeling of trust from the attorney? Did the attorney seem to know what she was talking about? Did the lawyer seem confident about your case?
5. Establish reasonable expectations.
Many people have never dealt with a lawyer before, so they don't know what to expect. First and foremost, you should expect frank, easy to understand advice. Your lawyer should point out for you the strong and weak points of your case and give you a realistic expectation of the potential outcomes. They should keep you informed and send you copies of documents pertaining to your case. If a lawyer gives you a guaranteed result, run the other way!!! Lawyers are prohibited from guaranteeing any particular outcome, so be very leery if this happens. Don't expect your lawyer to act as a psychologist, financial advisor, tax planner, or to give any other advice outside of her expertise. If you need advice in other areas, consult a professional in that area.
6. When in doubt, get a second opinion.
Just as in the field of medicine, you might get three different answers from three attorneys. If you are left with a feeling of uncertainty after discussing your problem with one attorney, please do see a second.
To wrap this up I do hope that if you need a family law specialist you will come to me first. I'll meet with you personally, answer your questions, suggest things for you to consider that you may not have thought of and give you a clear and easy to understand evaluation of the probable outcome of your issue.