Shopping for a lawyer can be a difficult and daunting process for many. For most people, attorney hunting is something happens maybe once or twice in a lifetime and if you are seeking representation for a family law or domestic matter, the stakes and pressure can be even higher. How do you know who to choose, and whether you are comfortable with them representing you? Below is a list of things to consider while seeking legal representation:
- Price: Generally, attorneys do not work for free, and for many clients the concern over cost is not one that they can put aside when looking for a lawyer. Feel free to ask what rate the firm you are talking to is offering. Remember that most reputable firms won’t be able to give you a total cost for a case when everything is said and done, as every case is unique, and an experienced attorney will have managed cases that run a wide gambit of prices and factors. It may be tempting to go with an attorney who claims to be able to perfectly predict everything that will happen your case and put a surprisingly reasonable price tag on it, but they are probably more interested in getting your through the door than through trial. Beware attorneys offering flat rate fees for divorces as they might not always be prioritizing their family law practice and the work necessary to properly assess and work every case.
- Communication: Ask your prospective firm about their policy on communication. Most reputable firms will have a policy, either official or otherwise, that all communications from client to attorney must be replied to in a reasonable amount of time, usually between one and two business days. Family law cases can have tight deadlines and unlike many types of cases, the issues of family law matters are usually getting started when most businesses are closing for the night or weekend.
- Openness: Ask yourself if you feel comfortable talking to your attorney or their representative. It is important that you feel comfortable talking about exceedingly personal issues in this setting, as your attorney is probably going to need to pry into a number of sensitive details of your life. If you feel judged or uncomfortable, or don’t feel you can be frank and honest with your attorney, you should probably keep looking.
- The Retainer: Is the retainer clear and does it detail the necessary points? You will notice, as you shop around, that different firms will have remarkably different retainer lengths, but it is important that you review the document before signing to make sure you agree with it.
- Offices and resources: Ask your attorney what resources they have available. Is there a paralegal who will be assisting in your case? Does the attorney have access to your documents and case file through the cloud, or are they confined to the office to review for your case? Do they have access to research tools or a legal library? Is the attorney a solo practitioner, or do they have access to other attorneys who share responsibility for cases? This isn’t to downplay solo practitioners in favor of large firms – you might find that the long practicing solo practitioner has an excellent network of other attorneys in the area to reach out to, whereas the practicing associate in a large firm is on his own. Whatever makes you feel comfortable is what is important.
- Considering Complaints: It is a sad fact that people are more likely to leave reviews and comments when they are dissatisfied with a service than when they are pleased. Use your own best judgement before relying on reviews posted online and whether they are legitimate or helpful. If you have concerns, bring them up with the firm or attorney you are speaking to.
- Court Experience/Practice Experience: It might seem like an obvious question, but it is important to know if the attorney you are speaking has practiced in your jurisdiction and in your case. While age is not a guarantee of skill, be wary of attorney’s who have no experience dealing with a matter like yours or working in the courts your case will be heard in.
- Don’t Expect Advice: Remember if you speak to an attorney during a consult, they aren’t allowed to offer you legal advice. Until you retain that firm and enter into the attorney-client relationship with them, don’t expect free legal advice.
With years of experience in representing clients in family law matters in Virginia, DC, and Maryland, the attorneys of the DiPietro Law Group would be happy to meet with you and discuss your case. We treat every case as unique and important, and would be happy to discuss your matter with you and see how we might be able to assist.