Hiring the right family law attorney for your case can make your divorce easier, less expensive and more peaceful. Attorneys and law firms have different structures, philosophies and billing models. When you consult with a divorce attorney, these five questions may help you choose the right attorney for you.
Is the law practice limited to family law? Some law firms provide services in a variety of practice areas. Other law firms are devoted exclusively to family law. A firm that only practices family law is more likely to have the necessary family law knowledge, resources and experience to properly handle your matter.
Who will be doing the work on my case? In some cases, the attorney that you meet with in your consultation will not do the actual work on your case. This work can be assigned to associates or paralegals. Delegating work in this way may be a reasonable way of reducing the fees in your case. On the other hand, you may prefer to work with attorneys who do all of the work on your case themselves.
How much will this case cost? Family law attorneys usually bill by the hour from a prepaid retainer. In this situation, you pay for the attorney’s time, not his or her work. The worst part of hourly billing is that many attorneys will not even provide an estimate for the cost of a service such as a divorce. One alternative, fixed fee billing, provides the predictability of knowing how much a legal service will cost. I have written about why fixed fee family law is better than hourly billing for the client. In the context of an initial consultation, discussing a fixed fee requires attorneys to honestly assess the case and work involved, and requires them to submit this plan to the client.
What type of technologies are used and how will they benefit me? This might sound like a strange question, but would you hire an attorney who did not use the phone, computer, internet or email? If you did, you would know that you were at a technological disadvantage and that your attorney would be less efficient. These inefficiencies could harm your case or cost you money in the long term. Likewise, there are other technologies today, such as document scanners, online resources, collaborative tools, and videoconferencing that can allow your attorney to get more done in less time. These technologies can all benefit you by saving you money.
How often can I talk about my case, and how easy will it be for me to contact my attorney? One of the most common complaints people have about their attorney is that their phone calls are not returned. This is not a universal trait amongst attorneys. Many attorneys diligently return all client phone calls and emails before the end of the business day. Another question to ask here, and another frequent complaint is how much the attorney is going to charge you to return his call. If he a is fixed fee attorney, the answer is, nothing.