One of the first things someone facing the prospect of divorce has to deal with is how to find an attorney. Choosing the right attorney can mean the difference between resolving your case quickly and affordably, or having it drag into protracted and expensive litigation. So how to go about finding the right person to represent you?
First, if you know anyone who’s been through a divorce–especially a friend or family member–that lives in North Carolina, ask them about their experience. Did they like the attorney? Did the attorney call them back or respond to emails? Did the attorney listen to their concerns and act accordingly? Most importantly, whether your friend “won” or “lost,” did he or she feel that the attorney did their best and would they go back to that lawyer in the future?
If your friend’s attorney doesn’t sound like the person for you, or you don’t know anyone who can reccomend an attorney, then you’re starting from scratch. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when talking to attorneys and deciding on who you want to represent you:
1. Do you like this person? This is not to say you’d like to have a sit down dinner with the attorney, but is this someone who you feel that you can talk to and that is listening to what your concerns are? This is probably the most important question to ask. You’ll be counting on this person and if you walk out of a consultation feeling as if your concerns were dismissed, your questions weren’t answered, or you were bullied or intimidated, then this is not going to be someone that you have a good working relationship with.
2. Are you going to be represented by the person you’re having a consultation with, or are you going to be represented by an associate? This is a question reserved for bigger firms. Often at a large firm, the heavy hitters have consults with prospective clients and lead the big trials while associates handle most of the day to day work. For some, this isn’t an issue. If this matters to you, however, be sure to ask about who will handle your case day-to-day.
3. Can you afford it? Legal representation is expensive, but some is more expensive than others. If you are thinking about hiring an attorney who has a great reputation but charges $300 an hour, make sure you have the resources to pay that attorney to stick with you until your issues are resolved. If not, you may want to consider someone else. Most attorneys in Wake County charge between $175 and $325 an hour.
Finally, there is one question not to bother asking: What are your Win/Loss rates. First, attorneys are not supposed to provide those sorts of statistics. It creates a false impression with clients as to their chances of success. Every case is different, and every client is different, and no attorney can ever predict an outcome based on his or her prior successes. Second, in family law “winning” and “losing” isn’t something that can easily be defined. So, this is a question that you shouldn’t be able to get an answer to. If you do happen to get an firm answer to win/loss rates, then you probably want to look elsewhere for representation.
The most important thing to look for is whether the attorney is someone you feel you can work with and that will keep your goals in mind when handling your case. Remember, ultimately you are the boss and you get to decide what the final destination is. The lawyer just tries to find the best way to get you there.