While many of us are used to “swiping right” to choose the person with whom we may (or not) share an intimate relationship, the process of choosing the right family law attorney should be a carefully vetted process, and not necessarily one in which simple boxes (for example, gender and age) are checked.
Rather, the criteria for selecting a family law attorney should be more specific, and a prospective client should consider not only their own personal likes and dislikes, but what their family law attorney will need in order to navigate their matter in a way that is efficient and financially conscious, and one that will not leave a negative, possibly everlasting mark on the family far beyond the completion and resolution of the family law proceeding.
Here are some questions and issues that you as a prospective family law client may consider and ask your potential lawyer before signing the engagement agreement.
How will the work be divided between the managing partner and the associates?
This is an important question to ask for both efficiency and financial reasons. While associate family law attorneys are less costly, it is the managing partner that tends to be the “brand” of the firm. Thus, you as a prospective client should ask, for example, how involved will the managing partner be in your matter? Who will make the court appearances? How will the work be divided? How much oversight of the case will the managing partner provide? Many firms work in a team approach where the work is seamlessly handled between the managing partner and the associates.
Does the lawyer prefer to litigate or settle?
Some family law attorneys are more comfortable in the courtroom, others are more comfortable around the conference table; some can do both. As requests for temporary orders in a family law proceeding become more like mini-trials, it is important to determine whether your prospective family law attorney is at ease in the courtroom. Some relevant questions to ask include how many trials or hearings the lawyer has completed in the last few years and whether the lawyer is familiar with the judge who will hear your case Just because the professional you’re speaking to is a family law lawyer does not necessarily mean they like, or are willing to, head to court.
Which spouse does the lawyer tend to represent?
In most family law matters, one spouse tends to be the “breadwinner” and the other spouse is more of the primary caretaker of the children and often has been out of the work force for some time. It is important to determine if the family law attorney with whom you are consulting specializes in cases that involve this distinction as it may affect the division of a business, or custody. A family law attorney who has a solid handle of the needs of the issues in your marriage and divorce will be a far more suitable advocate for you.
How quick is the lawyer at returning emails or phone calls?
This may seem like an insignificant question, but in a family law matter, a quick turnaround response time to your emails or phone calls is important. A quick response time provides you with peace of mind, something that is invaluable during the process to resolve an often-stressful legal matter. Put this question to the family law attorney with whom you are meeting. This isn’t something any prospective client should take for granted.
Don’t be afraid to ask the family law attorney questions about their methods of practice, their stance on litigation, or their office procedures. Your relationship with a family law attorney is a unique professional relationship and you should feel totally comfortable with the attorney you will trust to work with you on your family law proceeding.