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HOW TO CHOOSE AN ATTORNEY

By Henry S. Gornbein

Q. I am contemplating a divorce and wonder if you could give me some tips on how to choose an attorney? Friends and relatives have been suggesting lots of names, but I hear so many horror stories about the divorce process that I would like some advice on how to choose a good and qualified attorney.

A. You are raising a very important question. In calling a lawyer, do not hesitate to ask questions. The questions to ask include: How many years of experience does the attorney have? Does he/she specialize in, or primarily handle, divorce, child custody, and related family law matters? It is also important to ask the attorney whether he/she has had sufficient trial experience. If your case cannot be settled, the attorney you choose must be prepared to handle a full trial on all of the issues.

Start by setting up an appointment and preparing your questions in advance. Are your questions being answered? Are you rushed at the initial consultation? Do you feel that you are being listened to? Do you feel that this attorney will make you feel important and that you are not just a number in an assembly-line operation. How is communication handled? Do you feel that your questions are being answered fully and adequately, or do you feel that you are getting the brush-off? Will the attorney return phone calls? Ask about that!! Inquire about whether you will be copied in on all documents. I feel that it is very important for an attorney to try to return phone calls within 24 hours, and to copy a client in on all correspondence, including legal documentation and letters. It is your right to be kept fully up to date on all developments in your case.

Do not hesitate to ask whether you will be charged for phone calls and for your initial consultation. Bear in mind that a lawyer will be unable to accurately quote a fee without some preliminary investigation and research. Fees will vary with the complexity of the case, the time commitment involved, the skill and experience of the lawyer, as well as other factors. Payment of fees will also vary. In some cases, all or substantial portions of the fees are paid at the beginning of the case. In other cases, the lawyer may offer a payment plan.

In family law, attorneys typically handle complicated issues that can include dissolution of a marriage, custody issues, handling of real estate, the evaluation of businesses, tax issues, bankruptcy, and other complicated issues. Resolving these matters are made more difficult because of the emotional factors involved, and the fact that during the divorce, no one is really happy. It should be remembered that you and your attorney should communicate. Bear in mind, however, that your lawyer's job is to give you accurate information to help you make difficult decisions, not to tell you what you want to hear. Life, like law, is often in subtle shades of grey -- not black and white.

Henry Gornbein, J.D., President, American Divorce Information Network. Copyright, 1995 by: Henry S. Gornbein

Posted on Sunday, February 25, 2007 at 12:17PM by Registered CommenterSite Administrator in | Comments Off

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