In my Three “Baby Steps” to take when thinking about a divorce blog, the number one step suggested was getting legal advice as early as possible. So, how do I find the RIGHT “someone” to give me that advice? You could try Googling this question and you would find 50,000,000 search results on this topic. All, I am sure, are good and informative. However, after doing this for 41 years I have my own set of questions that seem to always get asked to me.
1. Is experience and expertise important? A resounding YES. Would you go to see your internist if you had a foot injury? Of course not. The law is no different. Texas has board certification in many fields and Family Law is one. Seeing a lawyer who is Board Certified means that he or she has been practicing for at least 5 years and that attorney spends significant amount of his or her practice hours working in family law, which includes divorce. The lawyer has had to undergo a peer review to be able to sit for an extensive examination on all areas of Family Law. Even if not Board certified, does the attorney of his or her Firm devote a significant portion of their practice to Family Law cases? In matters that involve the future of you and your children, you don’t want your lawyer to be a “Jack of all trades and a Master of None” – as the old saying goes.
2. What is the lawyer’s “winning” record? This question has been asked of me hundreds of times and, after all these years of doing this – I still don’t know how to answer it. How does one know what it is? Family Law and divorce involve many factors and issues. No one “wins” in a divorce anyway. The standard set out in the law as to the property issues in a divorce is a “just and right division” and as to children it is what is in their “best interest”. So, how does one quantify his or her past results – sort of a “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” perspective it seems to me. If “winning” means you end up believing your attorney was always looking out for your best interests first, and genuinely cared about you and how you and your family would do after the representation ended, and finally, did everything possible to obtain this result – then the final score will only be known years down the road.
3. Should my lawyer be from the County where I live? A less resounding Yes – but a Yes nevertheless. The experience and expertise of the attorney should be your first consideration, but given equal skills, expertise, and experience of two attorneys or Firms – between the one who has its office in the County where you live and one that has it’s office outside that county – definitely seek the services of the attorney or Firm that practices regularly and primarily in the county where you live. The benefits to you and your case are immense ranging from less expensive in travel time to and from the Courthouse- to familiarity with the procedures and practices of each Court in that county – to simply knowing the nuances of your county such as schools, churches, roads and time travel, and the major employers and businesses in that county.
4. Do I need an “aggressive” attorney or someone better suited to “settle” my case? The answer to this question is in the mirror – what do you think fits best with your expectations and comfort level? Your personality, the nature of the issues in your case, the relationship you have with your spouse at the time the divorce is filed are all more important than some label being attached to the lawyer. It is all about your level of comfort and what you think fits your needs for the upcoming process in getting you through this situation that matter most.
5. Is it better to have a Firm or a solo practitioner as my attorney? Again, it depends on you. The divorce process is arduous and often times longer than you would want it to be. So, you need to feel totally comfortable that the attorney or attorneys you hire are available, have time to take care of your needs, and have the expertise and experience to cut through matters quickly to get to the bottom line. You need to feel that the attorney you hire cares about your case and your future and the future of your children post- divorce.
Answer the above questions to your particular circumstances and take the 3 Baby Steps I outlined before and you are more than intelligently down the road on getting through this crisis in your life. Finding that “Right Lawyer” for you will be addressed in my next blog.