For most of us, a divorce attorney is the only attorney we will ever know. Where should you begin? What questions do you need to ask? How can you tell if you are choosing the right attorney? Below are some suggestions to help you in the process:
Many clients find an attorney by doing a web search. Though a good start, you should also ask friends, relatives, and colleagues for recommendations. It is especially helpful to ask people who have been through a divorce what attorney they used, and what their impression was. Also, ask attorneys you may know who practice a different area of law whom they recommend. Often they know each other through the local bar association, and can point you in the right direction. That being said, you should take all recommendations with a healthy dose of perspective. Everyone’s divorce, obstacles and costs (more and takes longer than they want it to!) differ depending on the circumstances of that particular case. Thus, if it is important to remember that your case may differ.
Go Research the State Bar of Texas website, where you can look up any attorney by name or location. It will tell you whether the attorney is in good standing, and if any grievances have been filed against him or her.
Just like you would not ask your dermatologist to deliver your baby; it’s not a good idea to ask your tax attorney to handle your divorce. Find a lawyer who is experienced in family law and mainly practices family law cases on a regular basis. There are wonderful attorneys who practice in more than one area; family, criminal, wills, etc, but make sure they do frequently handle your type of case. The law is complex, wide ranging, and changes regularly, and no attorney can claim to be competent in all areas.
Most attorneys have a geographic area where they usually practice; therefore, allowing attorneys to know the judges, the courthouse staff, and other attorneys. While attorneys are licensed to practice statewide, they usually are more familiar with the local practices and rules in the courts we appear in most often. Additionally, you more than likely will pay high travel costs for an attorney who practices outside of your county.
Most attorneys will have you sign a contract to formalize their representation of you. It is extreamly important to have a contract and know the terms of your agreement. Have your attorney to go over the contract with you, so everyone has a clear understanding as what they are agreeing to. Do not just sign what is put in front of you without reading and understanding it. Most importantly, make sure you have a written contract/ agreement with any attorney you work with.
People talk about “retainers” all the time when hiring family law attorneys, but the use of a true retainer in a divorce case is very rare. A retainer is an amount of money paid to an attorney, usually on a regular basis, to assure that the attorney will be available when the client needs her or him. It is usually paid whether the attorney does any legal work for the client or not. For that reason, it is common only with large companies and very wealthy individuals.
Most family law attorneys ask for an amount of money up front, as a deposit for future fees and expenses. In Texas, the attorney must put the money you provide in a trust account, and the interest on those funds usually goes to help fund legal services to the poor. As the attorney does work on your case, he or she tracks his or her time, and bills you for those hours. The attorney takes payment out of the trust account, and transfers it into another account. The attorney cannot touch your money until he or she actually has done the work. And if the attorney completes his or her work on your case and there is money left in your trust account, you will be entitled to the rest of your money.
Some attorneys (understandably) find it simpler to just charge a flat fee for services - $10,000.00 for a divorce, $1,000.00 for a name change, etc. That way they do not have to deal with the complications of trust account billing. It is a bit of a gamble on both sides; if your divorce ends up taking a lot of attorney time, you come out ahead; if your matter turns out to be very simple and quick, the attorney comes out ahead.
We all want our attorney to be cost-effective, but cost will not make a difference if the attorney is not effective. A more experienced divorce attorney is going to charge a higher hourly rate, but will likely be more efficient in their performance.
If you have the simplest divorce in the world, you do not need the best-known, most powerful litigator in the county. On the other hand, if you have extensive assets or complicated issues, you do not want to hire someone who is just out of law school. Think about the tone your ex-spouse might want to set in your divorce. Different attorneys have very different styles, and none of us are right for every case. If your ex-spouse might want to be aggressive, ask around and find a lawyer with a reputation for being aggressive. If you want to build a good co-parenting relationship with your ex, you probably want to look for someone with more experience in collaborative law, mediation, and other relationship-building techniques.
In some larger law offices, most of your contact will be with an assistant, and not with the attorney. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it saves you money, since the assistant’s hourly rate will be much lower than the attorney’s, and most legal assistants are wonderful. A sole practitioner with no staff will likely answer the phone herself, but then again, when she’s in court or at mediation, you will not be able to reach anyone. In this case, it’s a matter of personal preference.
Good luck to you in your search for a divorce attorney.
MAS Law Firm has a team of experienced family law attorneys that believe on providing quality legal services to its clients. The firm has been representing clients for family law since 2000, and have represented thousands of clients over the years for contested divorce, uncontested divorce, child support, child custody, and other family law matters. If you or a loved one is looking for an experienced family lawyers in Dallas Fort-Worth area, our dedicated team is here to help you. We offer installment plans and accept all major credit cards.
Call us at 972-789-1664, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out the form on top of this page to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION appointment with a member of our family law team. We look forward to helping you with your case.