Don’t Do These 3 Things When Looking for a Divorce Attorney

The stakes are high in a divorce, since it involves your children and your assets.  For many people, it is their first experience with the legal system, and they aren’t sure where to start.  Good representation is essential for navigating the system, and avoiding these three mistakes when looking for a divorce attorney will help you have the best outcome:

  • Hiring an Attorney Who Is Not Experienced in Divorce. 

If you have an acquaintance or relative who is an attorney, you might think that he or she would be your best pick since you know and trust them.  While that relationship is valuable, you need to also consider the attorney’s knowledge and experience.  The practice of law can be very broad, and while one attorney may be a wiz at contracts and another at patents, you want to find someone who really knows the in’s and out’s of divorce.  You want someone who knows the judges and mediators in your area and who is comfortable helping you understand and thrive in the system.  One mistake some people make is assuming that all lawyers are about the same in handling a divorce, when in reality, an experienced attorney with years of practice in divorce specifically will give you an edge in your case.

  • Failing to Consider Whether Billing is Flat Rate or Hourly.

Money matters and should be one of your most important up-front considerations.  Your attorney will typically charge you either a flat fee or an hourly billing rate.  There are pros and cons to either option.  With a flat fee, you have the certainty of knowing up front how much your case will cost.  Typically, an attorney comes up with the flat fee price by taking about the average cost of various divorce cases, so by nature, some clients who choose the flat fee option will be overpaying and some who take the flat fee option will be underpaying.  The incentive in a flat fee case for your attorney will be to resolve it quickly and simply, which may impact your attorney’s enthusiasm for litigation or for responding to communications. Alternatively, with an hourly billing rate your pay for the time your attorney works on the case, which typically includes any time reading or answering emails, drafting documents, communicating with staff about your case, or appearing on your behalf. The upside of this billing system is that your attorney is incentivized to go the extra mile because you are paying for each step. The downside is that the bills can add up quickly, and you may end up paying more than you had budgeted.  You should discuss the billing method up front with your attorney, and you should share your thoughts and concerns openly with your attorney to decide the best billing method for your case.

  • Forgetting to Consider Your Attorney’s Negotiating Style

There is no single cookie-cutter style that will be effective for all situations.  Some attorneys are very aggressive, intimidating, and loud-spoken, and these “bull-dog” style attorneys can be effective if you are looking for an attorney who will send a strong message to the other side.  Other attorneys are more conciliatory, and can use their negotiating tactics to facilitate excellent settlements that the mroe aggressive attorneys may find challenging to broker. Another type of attorney may be less impressive in person, but may be extremely well-versed in the system or have excellent writing skills which make them very useful in a case where those skills are needed. You are in the best position to know yourself and your ex-spouse.  Don’t just assume that the loudest attorney on the block is the best. Consider whether your case will be more adversarial or more cooperative, think about your personal preferences, and choose the attorney whose skills are the right fit for you.

In Summary

Have confidence that you can find the right attorney for you and your case. You just need to find someone with the right kind of experience, figure out the most economical and effective billing strategy, and connect with the attorney who has the best skill-set for your particular personality and circumstances, and you will be in a good place to make the divorce process as successful as possible.