Like anything else, divorce lawyers come in all shapes and sizes. Finding the right one for you and your case is important, and you need a specific approach.
Above all, look for an experienced lawyer who specializes in divorce work. There are lawyers who do divorce work, but it is only a small part of their practice, as they do other work as well. Your best bet is to find a lawyer whose practice is mostly, if not entirely, divorce work.
Start the process by getting three to five names of lawyers. You can call the local bar association, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, or other referral sources. Go online, research the lawyers and check out their background. Then set up interviews with those who look good.
The initial interview should be about an hour. Some lawyers charge for an initial interview, some don’t. You should have two goals in the interview. First, ask the lawyer about the particular issues in your case. Has he handled these before, and what strategy would he suggest? Second, try to see if the lawyer is a “good fit”. Do you like him? Do you think you can work with him? Will your case be important to him? Will he be responsive and answer emails and telephone calls?
End the interview by asking about fees and billing arrangements. Ideally, the lawyer should send detailed bills on a monthly basis. This will let you know what he is doing and the cost of each particular item.
Using the information you have gathered, and your instincts and impressions after the interviews, make your choice. When the case is filed, make sure that it is receiving the lawyer’s prompt attention and that the lawyer is dealing with the issues you think are important. He should be responding to your emails and telephone calls in a timely manner, and he should be keeping you informed as the case moves on.
Remember that the lawyer works for you, not the other way around. If you find that things aren’t working out – unfortunately, sometimes this happens – you can change lawyers. You have the right to terminate your lawyer’s representation and select a new one. If you change lawyers, your first lawyer is required to refund any unused portion of your retainer. He is also required to cooperate with your new lawyer and transfer all of the case documents.
Finding a good lawyer who is also a good fit is what you want. Do your homework, and trust your instincts.
Jay A. Frank is a senior divorce practitioner with Aronberg Goldgehn in Chicago. He has been selected as one of the top family-law attorneys in Illinois. With more than 35 years of experience, he focuses his practice on all aspects of Illinois family law.