It often seems as though the worst aspect of a divorce is the relationship between the client and his or her divorce attorney. I have been personally involved in over 1,000 family law cases during the last 18 years, and I do not recall a more common complaint, nor one presented with such vigor by prospective clients: “I hated my divorce attorney; he (or she) was awful!” It has been a great source of pride to offer these people a higher, more refined and more dedicated level of representation.
But how does one find a great attorney? Truly, it can be a daunting task. The consequences of selecting the wrong person are costly, both in terms of the outcome in your case, and the amount of resources you expend for mediocre, or even terrible, results. It is a little known fact that many attorneys are lazy, disinterested, overly focused on getting paid, and unwilling to exert the incredible amount of effort necessary to properly litigate a divorce or other family law matter. Fortunately, it is possible to make an informed choice, given adequate preparation and a few of helpful tips which I’m glad to share with you in the hope that your attorney can help, rather than hinder, the divorce process (which we all know is bad enough as it is).
With the emergence of the Internet, it is now possible to obtain a significant amount of information online about the attorneys in your area. It is important to find a divorce practitioner who specializes in family law and has 10 or more years of experience, whose office is conveniently close to you and to the courthouse where your case will be litigated, and whose office employs more than one family law attorney, with at least one paralegal for each, and a full-time receptionist. In addition to researching online, I suggest that you ask your friends and family if they know of a good family law firm. It is much better, although not crucial, if someone you trust can describe to you the level of performance exhibited by an attorney known to that person. Once you have selected at least two or three candidates for consideration, it is then imperative to contact the State Bar that governs your area to ensure that the attorney is in good standing.
The selection process begins with your first telephone call to the attorney’s office. Listen carefully to the receptionist…is he or she competent, caring, and efficient? It is very important to set up a consultation in person to meet with the attorney. Upon arriving at the law firm’s office, make note of the employees…do you perceive a sense of purpose? Look around at the furnishings…does this attorney have an office that presents like a literal legal “war room”, or is the furniture on wheels? Is the office messy and overrun with documents? Contrary to popular believe, there’s absolutely no excuse for an attorney to maintain a messy office!
It is important to note if the attorney is on time for your appointment. If he or she is tardy-then find out why. Was it due to a legitimate emergency involving another client (which may be a good thing, because you will want that type of focus if you have an emergency in your case), or is a lame excuse offered, or worse yet, none at all! Upon introduction, note the attorney’s eye contact and handshake and listen to your gut feeling: is this person supremely confident? Does he or she seem trustworthy? Is the attorney almost literally bathed in an aura of success? During the meeting, you should be afforded sufficient time to discuss your situation and the attorney should exhibit respect and a sufficient amount of interest and caring about the salient issues in your case. Fees should never be discussed until the very end of your conversation and if the attorney is rude or patronizing then I would immediately leave the office!
During your consultation, be sure to ask how many cases the attorney has been involved in, how many trials he or she has completed, and won, and most importantly, put the attorney on the spot: “What makes you better than your contemporaries, and why should I hire you?” If the attorney cannot answer these simple but essential questions, then it’s time for goodbyes.
Hopefully these tips will help you find the right attorney. Don’t despair; you would be surprised at how many prospective clients do none of the foregoing. With only a little bit of preparation, you can not only find someone who meets your needs but who will maximize the outcome in your case.
David T. Roberts, Esq.
Roberts & Robold, P.A. Orlando, Florida (407) 426-6999