Divorce presents a range of emotional, financial, and planning challenges that are specific to your best interests. To find the right lawyer, you must consider your own unique situation and requirements. Choose carefully, as the consequences, positive or negative, will flow from that lawyer-client relationship. Therefore, you must find not only a skilled, experienced lawyer but one that you can talk and work with. Many law firms offer a complimentary meeting, in which they can give you reliable legal information regarding practical circumstances as well as answering some of your vital questions from the outset. During the private session, you should get a sense of the lawyer’s interpersonal communications. Most experienced family practitioners have developed skills in working with people in crisis, change, and divorce recovery.
You would also benefit from a lawyer with significant experience and demonstrated skill in family law. Your friends may mean well when they propose their real-estate lawyer or barracuda litigator, but that’s probably not the best divorce lawyer. The best family lawyers restrict their practice to family law and alternative dispute resolution; this is in the best interests of their clients. You may encounter lawyers who practice in other areas in addition to family law, but no matter what, stay away from the family-law dabbler.
Try to find a lawyer dedicated to the client-centered approach — that is, working for your needs and priorities and not falling into a generic cookie-cutter approach. Look for a lawyer that demonstrates exceptional skills and dedication to cooperative and interest-based negotiation. Settlements don’t just happen; they are part of a process of advanced consultation, full client participation, and strategic direction. Make sure you choose a lawyer that reflects the real challenges and opportunities of modern practice — it’s the lawyer that should be adaptable, not you. Think of the old adage: when your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Nigel Macleod practises family law, mediation, and Collaborative Divorce in Ottawa.