- Why did you get into family law? This will help you understand if family law is really a passion or just a way to make money. You want someone passionate about family law.
- How long have you been in practice and how many clients have you represented? This will tell you the lawyer’s experience level. You want a lawyer that is fairly experiences – a history of 20 to 30 clients.
- How many client have you represented with <state your specific situation>. This will ensure you are not the first type of case he/she will handle.
- Look around his/her office. Are their pictures of family/friends? This will tell if the lawyer is family oriented or not. You want a family oriented lawyer – he/she will better empathize with you.
- Does his/her office feel impersonal with an expensive or a modest décor? This will tell you if the lawyer is money motivated or not. You don’t want a money motivated lawyer (higher legal bills).
- Is his/her office cluttered or neat? You want a neat office because an organized lawyer will translate into a lower legal bill.
Most lawyers will offer a 60 to 90 minute free consultation; take that as an opportunity to get educated and determine if that lawyer is a good personality fit.
Step 3: Understand The Retainer Agreement
Once you’re ready to hire a lawyer, the lawyer will ask you to review and sign a retainer agreement. This agreement, at minimum, outlines:
- Responsibility of the lawyer to you and you to the lawyer
- Responsibility for costs and which type of costs,
- Lawyer’s billable rate or flat fee,
- Terms of legal bill payment,
- Retainer amount,
- Rights of either party to terminate/cancel the agreement,
- Refund policy if the agreement is canceled/terminated.
At minimum the retainer should feel right. If it feels too one-sided, then discuss it to see if the lawyer is willing to change the agreement. If not, move on to the next interview.
Step 4: Develop A Mission Statement
Okay, if you’ve reached this stage, congratulations for doing your homework. It is important to understand that, as stated above, your lawyer represents you, not the other way around. I know this seems like a harsh statement, but it’s true. You are paying your lawyer because of his/her expertise and experience. It is no different than a company hiring a consultant. You should think of it the same way. Similar to a consultant, you should work to develop a strong relationship.
I made my relationship with my lawyer simple by creating clear direction - telling her my mission; “All I want is what is fair and equitable”. I must have said this a hundred times during my divorce. This helps your case in several ways because it will:
- help you make decisions by providing a framework
- create clear direction for your lawyer
- make for more efficient negotiations.
All three will result in shortening the duration of your case, lowered your legal bills and create settlement reflecting your intentions.
In the end, by doing your homework, developing questions, understanding the retainer agreement and creating a mission statement, you will make the best of the situation and keep your legal fees down. Best of luck to you.
For more tips about separation, please read our blog at www.thedivorcedguys.com/blog