Have you ever needed a mechanic for your car and just didn’t know where to turn?  I bet that you called some of your friends; you looked in the yellow pages or “googled” companies in your area and then checked their websites.  You followed up with telephone calls to determine what their hourly rate was and how long a waiting period before you could get your car serviced.  You determined if they have emergency services available, and whether they can pick you up at work and take you back, which, while not crucial to the maintenance of the vehicle is a perk which can sway you in the direction of one over the other.  All of these are factors that are important in determining whether that mechanic will suit your needs.  Once you processed all of that information you likely made an appointment with the best suited mechanic.  In taking these steps you are trying to make sure you get the best person to handle your vehicle; one who is that perfect “fit” for your car and circumstances. After all a good mechanic is worth his weight in gold! 

Choosing a lawyer should require the same type of questions

If possible you should choose a lawyer who specializes in Family Law.  This dedication to one field means the lawyer has become an expert in that field and is able to quickly assess your situation. You may also want to ask whether the lawyer you are considering has had dealings with the lawyer who may be representing your spouse.  It is generally good for the lawyers involved to have mutual respect and understanding between them which can assist in negotiations between lawyers. 

Your first step should be to:

Seek information from others who have already gone through the process and ask them how they liked their particular lawyer or even the lawyer who was acting for their spouse. Ask someone you trust and not necessarily just someone speaking out in the local coffee shop.  I have one friend who I can always turn – doesn’t matter whether I’m looking for a plumber or a decorator, she’s always “got a guy”.  I’m sure you also have your contacts.  If not, check the local law association or even the lawyer who handled your house transaction.  They may be able to recommend someone to you.

Questions to ask include:

  • whether the lawyer or a member of his team were easily available to clients,
  • what the rates charged were,
  • how long it took to resolve the case
  • whether they felt overall that their lawyer had performed well and done the best job possible for them.

Once you have decided on a lawyer or law firm, you can make a telephone call to the lawyer of your choosing to arrange your initial interview.  You should ask at that time what the initial consultation fee is and are there are any papers you need to bring with you. During the interview you can determine if it is the right fit for you.  You must be comfortable with your lawyer. You may not like what he or she is telling you but you must have a sense of confidence that the lawyer knows what they are talking about, that they have a good grasp of the family law concepts and that he or she has your best interests in mind.  Consider whether the lawyer appears to be more aggressive than what you would like; or whether they appear to be open to negotiating with counsel or considering other alternatives such as mediation or arbitration if those options are suited to your particular case.

You may also wish to look at whether the firm is technologically up to speed, particularly if your work style involves mainly working with information through your Blackberry, laptop or otherwise. 

Once you have completed the initial interview you can then decide whether or not you wish to retain that counsel or continue your search.  If you are unsure of the legal advice provided to you or the style of the lawyer you met with, it is open to you to get a second opinion, much like you would if you were considering a particular medical procedure.  Justice Harvey Brownstone notes in his book “Tug of War” “once your lawyer’s advice has been confirmed, follow that advice.  The reason you hire a lawyer in the first place is because he/she has the knowledge and experience to advise you of your rights and obligations.”  Continuing to seek a lawyer who will simply tell you what you want to hear will be a costly yet ineffective exercise.

So whether looking for a mechanic or lawyer follow the same steps and hopefully you will be able to find that perfect fit for you, a person you can in turn feel comfortable recommending to another.