Choosing a lawyer to represent you in a divorce can be overwhelming. In addition to the more obvious factors to consider, such as experience or whether the attorney was referred to you by someone whose judgment you trust, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Your lawyer should be responsive. Keeping in mind that your lawyer may be in court, mediation, a settlement conference, or with other clients, your lawyer should still make a reasonable effort to return calls or respond to email messages in a timely fashion.
2. Your lawyer should remember the details of your case. In the beginning, it may take your attorney some time to remember the names of your children or keep the details of your assets straight. But when your lawyer continuously asks you for the same information, it could signal trouble.
3. Your lawyer should know about local court practices and procedures. If you know from the beginning that your attorney is branching out into a new jurisdiction, you have to be willing to cut him or her some slack. But familiarity with local practices and procedures is expected of an experienced attorney. In many cases, it’s wise to hire a lawyer who frequently handles cases in your geographic area. Of course, your lawyer’s overall experience or reputation may override that concern, but your lawyer should be upfront with you about his or her experience.
4. Your attorney should have compassion for you. Your lawyer is not there to be your friend or therapist, but you should feel like more than a number.
5. Your lawyer should be able to maintain professional distance. Many family law attorneys become overly involved or emotionally invested in your case. You need someone who can maintain distance and objectivity.
6. Your lawyer should treat you with respect. If you feel condescended to, you should walk away.
7. Your lawyer should be your advocate. Sometimes lawyers get so wrapped up in trying to settle a case – which in most cases will be in your best interests – that their clients end up feeling bullied. If this is happening to you, you either need to stand up to your lawyer or find yourself someone new.
8. Your lawyer should be professional. Making things personal between opposing counsel doesn’t serve you. It only detracts from your case.
9. Your lawyer should be truthful. Whether speaking to you, opposing counsel, or the court, your lawyer should always tell the truth. Attorneys must share settlement proposals with you, and they should also admit mistakes instead of trying to cover them up.
If your own lawyer doesn’t meet these criteria and you’re uncomfortable with the representation or advice you’re receiving, consider moving on and finding someone new.