You have been served with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Petition for Paternity, or Supplemental Petition for Modification; or, perhaps you need to hire an attorney to help you prepare one of these to serve upon the other side; or, there are post judgment contempt and enforcement matters or modification matters that need to be handled. Whatever it is, you realize that you need to obtain proper legal representation to help you. But, what is proper legal representation and how do you find it?
Your search for a Marital and Family Law attorney could certainly be confusing with all of the information “out there”. How do you sift through all of the nonsense and find the person that is right for you? First, do not open the yellow pages and second, remember that most attorney web sites have become merely expanded yellow page advertisements.
Next, you will want to begin gathering information. Seek out family and friends for recommendations and do your own independent research. In addition to letting you know what to look for, I want to help you know what to avoid. Once you get some names of potential family law attorneys that you would like to gather more information on, then, go to that attorney’s web site.
CAUTION: What do you see there? Do you see credit card logos on the web site pages? Do you see information that the attorney or firm is willing to make payment arrangements with you? Do you see that the attorney is willing to give you a “free” initial consultation? WATCH OUT! These are sales and marketing tactics and do not provide you with any information about the qualifications of the attorney or the quality of legal services that you should expect from the Firm.
TIP NUMBER ONE:
MAKE SURE THAT YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH THE ATTORNEY FROM THE START
When you pick up the phone to call an attorney’s office, you are taking the first step down what may be a long road. From the moment you call the attorney’s office, you should get a sense that your call is important and that the attorney and his or her staff are a team who is there to assist you. Ask yourself:
* Are you comfortable with your initial contact with the Firm?
* Did you have a good first impression?
* Were you provided with the information that you need?
* Were you provided with an appointment date and time promptly?
* Will you be seeing the partner or main attorney that will work on your case?
One thing that you should be aware of, many attorneys will not provide quotes for retainers over the phone. There are many reasons for this. Personally, I need to meet with the person, see about the dynamics of the case, ascertain the relative financial positions and needs of the parties, and then make some initial determinations. I actually have plans in my office where we will conduct an entire divorce proceeding for a low, flat rate plus the cost of filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This plan is not workable for everyone, but, if I do not take the time to meet with you and ascertain your particular situation, then you will never know what your options are. So, do not be concerned if you do not receive an immediate retainer quote during your first phone call to the Firm.
CAUTION: If the law firm or attorney that you call provides you with an initial retainer that seems low, WATCH OUT! A law firm that is merely trying to get people in the door can tell you any retainer just to appear to be more affordable than all the other firms, the only difference is, they will go through your initial retainer quickly and then ask for more money from you to keep representing you. You should look for an attorney that provides you with a realistic expectation of overall costs and fees based upon your particular circumstances. The old adage “you get what you pay for” holds true in this area as well!
However, do not be too surprised if the highly qualified attorney that you meet with tells you that she is unable to provide you with an estimate of the total fees and costs that you will pay in your case. This can be dependent on so many factors, the largest one being the stance that the other side is going to take in the litigation. Your attorney cannot predict this. But, as the case proceeds and your attorney sees the type of litigation that your spouse or the opposing side is taking, then she should be able to provide you with some further guidance as to the overall financial impact of your case.
Your initial meeting with the attorney should provide you with:
* An overall understanding of the law as it applies to your case
* An initial retainer quote along with a discussion of any acceptable payment arrangements based upon your circumstances
* An understanding of her experience in Marital and Family Law, including how many evidentiary hearings and trials she has conducted
* A timeline for the first three to four months of your matter
* An opportunity for you to ask all of your questions
* An opportunity for you to contact her to follow up with any questions that you may have following the initial consultation
When you leave your initial consultation with the attorney, you should feel that you were understood, that the attorney realized what your goals were in terms of the divorce or other family law matter, and that you and your questions were important and will continue to be important throughout the representation.
Copyright 2010 Tami L. Augen