How to Choose a Family Lawyer

December 12, 2014 • Notes from the Courtroom

If you’re looking for a family lawyer, chances are you are facing some major changes in your life.

Notes-from-the-Courtroom_mediterranean-babyAfter all, family lawyers mostly handle issues related to custody and divorce, support, estate planning, and real estate closings.  As a family attorney with nine years of experience, I am intimately familiar with all of these areas of practice.  I also handle adoptions, which is not true for all family lawyers.

The most important thing to remember when retaining counsel is that YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CHOOSE!  It is your choice to retain one attorney as opposed to another and you should take that choice very seriously.  After all, your attorney is going to be your exclusive advocate in an arena that is foreign to you at a very overwhelming time in your life.

Here are my top five tips to choosing a family lawyer:

1.  Don’t rely strictly on referrals from family and friends.  (While your cousin may have worked well with Attorney A, you may not.  Attorney B may be much more suited to your personality.)  Be sure to schedule consultations with at least three attorneys and meet with them in person before you make your decision.

2.  Be sure your potential attorney can readily provide you with answers to simple legal questions.  By simple, I mean they should be able to give you a brief overview of the law related to your case and offer a procedural outline.  If there is something they are unsure of, be sure they offer to look into it and provide you with information in a timely manner. Remember, as I tell all of my clients, knowledge is power!  Although you may not be a lawyer, you know your case better than anyone.  A knowledgeable client is a huge asset.  You need to know what you’re up against, before you enter the legal arena.

3.  Be sure the attorney you choose treats you with respect.  You may not like everything your potential attorney says, but if they say it with respect and confidence, you can rest assured he or she will be a strong advocate for you.  While it is critical that you allow your attorney to be in control and offer advice, they should never boss you around or belittle you.

4.  Be sure you leave your consult with a take-away.  For example, if I am meeting with a potential client regarding custody, I always provide them with a list of the sixteen (16) custody factors the court will contemplate to craft a custody order.  I also customarily inform a potential client what information I will likely need from them should they decide to retain me.  It helps mentally prepare my clients for what’s to come as it can be a very exposing and vulnerable experience.

5.  Ascertain the expenses and costs associated with the legal process.  Be sure to ascertain the potential attorney’s hourly rate, whether they require a retainer, and if so, how much.  It is critical that you can afford your attorney.  Pursuing legal action is a costly endeavor, but every attorney has their own rates and billing system.  It is critical that you fully understand same.  You should also ask about potential court costs and fees.  They will be in addition to your attorney’s fees.

Good luck finding the right family lawyer for you.  If you have any further questions, feel free to contact me regarding legal matters at nicole@ziccarellilaw.com.

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