Getting a divorce can be difficult to navigate and hiring a divorce attorney is necessary to help you understand the process and ensure that you are given a fair and equitable shake. It can take any length of time: from 2 months to 2 years or longer, depending on how you dissolve the relationship with your spouse.
This article will walk through the many considerations for hiring a divorce attorney.
One of the many ways prospective clients become aware of an attorney is through personal recommendations. While many personal recommendations come from actual experience with the attorney, sometimes a referral may stem simply from knowing the attorney through an extracurricular activity. Keep in mind that knowing the lawyer is a person of good character is important, but it doesn’t speak to the lawyer’s knowledge of the law, reputation with the judges and colleagues, ability to argue both orally and in written form.
Additionally, sometimes a lawyer may only be referred based on whether or not the experience with the divorce lawyer was positive. Even the slightest disagreement in divorce disputes can cause problems in the lawyer-client relationship. A client’s experience may be tainted by the fact that “he didn’t win anything.” It can also be extremely difficult to like someone you associate with what some people consider to be one of the most traumatic experiences, must less recommend that lawyer to someone else.
However, a referral from another attorney is usually reliable. While the legal professional is obviously expansive in some respects, an attorney’s reputation often proceeds them in the field; another lawyer is often aware of the divorce lawyer’s knowledge base and litigation skills.
Bar associations can also be sources for referrals for divorce attorneys. Many bar associations do require a minimum number of years of practice experience in order for an attorney to be eligible for the referral—which tends to be handled by a “lottery-style” system.
Online reviews on divorce attorneys are also helpful in making your decision. Platforms such as Yelp and Google allow users to leave reviews. Yelp is the internet’s number 1 review site because the reviews are considered reliable; Yelp ensures that reviewers are real and that the review itself is real. However, Google reviews are considered more unreliable because anyone can leave a review about the divorce attorney’s prices, work ethic, or the outcome of the litigation, and there is no dispute process. Other platforms such as Facebook and Avvo also provide reviews. Facebook holds credibility because, in theory, an individual’s actual face is used for their identity, but note that their review system is switching “recommend” or “do not recommend,” reflecting their current “like” button system.
As with personal referrals, there may be issues: online reviews have positives and negatives just like all things. For example, it is likely that anyone willing to review their divorce lawyer in public (and in writing) has an extremely strong opinion. Additionally, new technology allows bots or other automated services to leave reviews on attorney’s pages. Be aware of an attorney that has over 100 reviews; most legal matters are considered personal and private and clients don’t typically like publicly reviewing attorneys.
When reading online reviews to make a decision about selecting a divorce lawyer, be sure to look for the following:
- Do they mention the divorce attorney by name?
- Is the review on a site that is verified?
- Is the person leaving the review willing to attach their identity to the review? (i.e. is their photo attached to the review)?
- Does the person’s review read like that of a real person, or do they do things such as misspell words or type in all capitals?
Divorce Lawyers’ Websites
Just like any other business, law firms have websites. A webpage is a law firm’s face to the public. Most divorce lawyer’s websites will often have a variety of awards that the lawyer(s) have earned. Divorce lawyers will also list their publications on their websites. For both advertising and furthering education, it is not uncommon for lawyers to write professional articles or blogs about the law; continued legal education is recommended so that practicing attorneys are able to better understand or develop a particular area of law. Existence of these type of articles on a divorce lawyer’s website is often a great sign as to whether the divorce attorney is committed to their area of practice, or in the very least committed to their presence in the eyes of the public.
The Intake Process
Before hiring a divorce lawyer, you should schedule a consultation meeting with a lawyer. The intake process is essentially your first face to face meeting with the attorney. Depending on the route your pursuit (i.e. what type of divorce attorney you decide to meet with based on referrals and online reviews), you will either meet with a single attorney, or a team of attorneys.
You may also be set up with a legal professional that works for the attorney who will be handling your case; they may help you through the client-intake process before the attorney steps onto the scene. This is usually to prevent the attorney from learning confidential information about you before they are able to ensure that a conflict of interest exists between the attorney and another client of that attorney. For example, it may not be obvious that your wife is already a client of the attorney who you want to handle your divorce until after the consultation. After the intake, legal professionals are able to match addresses and names of current and former clients and be sure they aren’t privy to any information that could cause prejudice to the prospective client.
Due to the nature and length of divorce cases, it is important to build a relationship of trust with your attorney; you will soon be trudging through some intimate and personal details with this person, so it is imperative that you feel you can trust them before proceeding.
After choosing a lawyer to handle your divorce, it is best to maintain frequent communications with your divorce lawyer. It is frequently advised to maintain regularly scheduled meetings with your attorney in order to stay advised on the status of your case. In-person meetings will remove all uncertainty by allowing you to ask questions and ensure that you and your attorney are on the same page.