Do Not Be Intimidated
Are you intimidated by the whole aspect of finding a lawyer? Don't be. Attorneys are people whose skill sets include reading, writing and research. It is their job to use these skills so divorce will not devastate their clients financially and emotionally. Simply put, you are your attorney's boss and deserve respect. The divorce proceeding in which your attorney represents you may have life-long consequences, so do not be timid in your search.
The Search Begins
There are several different places you can search for an attorney.
- Getting referrals from friends and family members is probably the best way to find a lawyer.
- Ask your local or state bar association to help you find a family law attorney. While some associations have rules which may prevent them from giving out attorney referrals, they can probably still lead you to an approved referral service.
- Visit the websites of prospective attorneys to get a feel of how their offices are run.
- After you find a lawyer you want to represent you, check with the American Bar Association to find the body which tracks attorney disciplinary actions in your state to see if your attorney has an official history of trouble.
Find a Lawyer Who Talks the Talk
Be certain the writing and verbal skills of your attorney and his support staff are up to par. As your advocates, your attorney and his staff will communicate both orally and in writing with the court and opposing counsel on your behalf. This communication will determine the outcome of your case. If you have realistic doubts about a prospective or current attorney's communication skills, fire him and find a lawyer who speaks and writes well.
Schedule a Consultation
Because family law is time sensitive, it is important to get representation as soon as possible once divorce is imminent. Most reputable firms have systems in place which dictate that prospective clients who call in are immediately forwarded to either an attorney or a staff member who can schedule an appointment for a consultation. The longest you should wait for someone to contact you after your first call is one or two days. Likewise, you should not have to wait long to have an initial consultation.
Help Your Attorney Help You
Follow your attorney's instructions and respond to his requests. Promptly give him documents for which he asks. Be sure to arrive on time for meetings or appointments he arranges for you. If you are, for any reason, unable to go to an appointment or meet a deadline set by your attorney, notify him or someone in his office immediately.
Earn Your Lawyer's Respect
Be certain to always conduct yourself in a mature and responsible manner when communicating with your attorney, spouse and/or opposing counsel. Though divorce often brings out the worse in people, stay in control of your emotions. Avoid using profanity and never initiate an argument with your spouse during meetings and/or court hearings. This will probably irritate your lawyer and make negotiating difficult. Keep in mind that athough your attorney may be your legal representative, you are ultimately representing yourself.
When Things Go Wrong
If your attorney routinely refuses your calls and/or you think he is possibly "slacking" on your case, speak up.
- In a professional manner, notify him (or his assistant) by telephone that you are not happy.
- If necessary, call the court to determine your case's status. Your local clerk's office should be able to tell you which, if any, pleadings or documents are on record with the court for your case. Be sure to have your case number available when you call.
- If you determine your attorney is missing deadlines or acting negligently in some other way, call the judge handling your case immediately and notify him of your concerns.
- If necessary, fire your attorney and find a lawyer you can trust.