Assuming that you have several prospective divorce lawyers in mind to handle your divorce or custody case, you must investigate the qualifications of each attorney. Before investigating the qualifications of each attorney, you would be wise to set the bar on the minimum qualifications that are acceptable to you. An attorney's qualifications in the following 5 areas will help you in your investigation.
(1) Percentage of practice devoted to family law
(2) Years of experience
(3) Certified specialist
(4) Law school and education
Percentage of practice devoted to family law
An attorney's percentage of practice devoted to family law will help you assess how much experience and expertise he/she has with divorce and custody related issues. An attorney whose practice is 100% devoted to family law issues, such as divorce and custody, will likely have more expertise and familiarity with handling such cases than an attorney whose practice is not 100% devoted to family law.
Years of experience
An attorney is often valued by the number of years of experience they have in a particular area of law. The more years of experience an attorney has in family law, the more they can typically demand for his/her fees. Further, the more years of experience an attorney has with divorce or custody cases, the more likely he/she has worked on a case similar to yours and help you learn what you can likely expect and what the costs will be.
Is the attorney a certified family law specialist? Some attorneys may seek to become a certified family law specialist by demonstrating extensive experience and testing in the field of family law. There are certainly attorneys with experienced and expertise in family law that have not sought out to become a certified family law specialist. Attorneys that advertise themselves as "certified specialists" may demand a higher fee.
The fact that an attorney graduated from a prestigious law school does not necessarily guarantee that he/she is more qualified and more experienced in the field of family law than an attorney that has not graduated from a prestigious law school. The law school is however still something worth exploring because it may demonstrate how serious, dedicated, and committed the attorney was to his/her education. Additionally, some attorneys may have various education such as being a Certified Public Accountant or Licensed Clinical Psychologist. You will need to determine the value of the different education an attorney has and the cost that may go along with it.
An attorney that has taken interest in the field of family law will often have memberships to organizations in the field of family law. Some memberships are available to any lawyer and some memberships are more difficult to obtain. An attorney that does not have any memberships to organizations in the field of law can often create doubt in the consumers mind about their interest in that field.
The information above about an attorneys qualifications can often be found through the State Bar website or through the Bar Association. As you seek to know more about an attorney's qualifications, it is ultimately up to you to investigate the attorneys qualifications and set the bar on the minimum qualifications that are acceptable to you.
© 2006 Child Custody Coach
Selecting a divorce lawyer to handle your family law case is a very important decision. The following are a few important criteria to help in finding the right divorce lawyer.
Experience and Focus
Any divorce lawyer you consider should have substantial experience in handling divorce cases in your location. An experienced divorce lawyer will know the tendencies of the various judges in your jurisdiction and should be able to use this knowledge to your advantage. Additionally, that lawyer should practice primarily in the field of divorce law. Often people will hire a lawyer who practices primarily in some other area, thinking that any lawyer will do. However, divorce law is a very specialized field that requires particular skills and experience in order to have a likelihood of reaching a successful conclusion.
Past Client Testimonials
Perhaps the best way to decide which divorce lawyer to use for your divorce case is to find out what former clients have to say about that lawyer. While divorce is never an enjoyable process, some divorce lawyers have more success at satisfying their clients than others. If you do not know someone who has been a client of that particular divorce lawyer, you should consider asking the lawyer for a list of clients that you can contact who can describe their experience with the lawyer. While client confidentiality is important, any good experienced divorce lawyer should have at least a few former clients who are willing to vouch for him or her.
When a client becomes dissatisfied with a divorce lawyer, one of the most common complaints is that they were unable to communicate with the lawyer. It is very important that your divorce lawyer be accessible and prompt in responding to your phone calls, emails, and requests for meetings. While you can ask the divorce lawyer about their office policy, this is another area where you can best evaluate the divorce lawyer by hearing what former clients have to say.
If a former client of the lawyer tells you that they found it very difficult to contact the attorney, or that the lawyer either did not return calls or respond to emails or would take several days to do so, you should definitely avoid that lawyer. Divorce is an unpleasant and frustrating process under the best of circumstances. If you are unable to reach your divorce attorney, or at least someone on his or her staff, the frustration level can increase exponentially.
When you make your initial New Haven Divorce Lawyer appointment with the divorce attorney, you should inquire about a consultation fee. Some lawyers do brief initial consultations for free, although most experienced divorce lawyers will charge between $100.00 and $200.00 as a consultation fee, or will charge their normal hourly rate.
For example, I charge a flat $100.00 consultation fee with no additional hourly charges, regardless of the length of the meeting. Essentially, the consultation fee is to "weed out" those people who are not serious about the possibility of hiring me. Given that my normal hourly rate is $200.00/hour and the usual typical consultation takes about 90 minutes, the charge for my consultation is significantly discounted. Therefore, you shouldn't let a consultation fee scare you away from interviewing a particular lawyer.
During the consultation it is vitally important that you have a candid discussion with the prospective divorce lawyer about fees and what you can expect. Typically, an experienced divorce lawyer will require the payment of a substantial retainer up front, against which that lawyer's hourly rate and expenses will be charged. You should find out what that lawyer's hourly rate is, what the up front retainer will be, whether any portion of the retainer is refundable if it is not exhausted, and how often you can expect to receive invoices that detail their hourly charges and expenses. You also will want to know how detailed the invoices are. Once again, this is another area where you can get excellent information from those people who have been clients of that divorce lawyer.
While all the above issues are important, there is one final question you should ask yourself before hiring a divorce lawyer. Are you comfortable with that lawyer and are you confident in his or her abilities? If the answer is anything other than a resounding "yes," you should keep looking. Your case is too important to entrust to someone who does not inspire your confidence.