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How to Select a Divorce Lawyer
May 8, 2012
A recent article on CNBC’s Web site (quoting my friend, Randy Kessler, among others) discusses the importance of selecting a good divorce lawyer. One lawyer says: “Look for a lawyer the same way you would look for a surgeon — as if your life depended on it.”
That is not universally true. For most divorcing couples, there is little at stake because they don’t own much. Any competent lawyer can draft the proper papers and many of the factors suggested in the article (e.g., likability) aren’t really that important.
On the other hand, I am amazed at how infrequently potential clients who do need the right lawyer do not ask the right questions. The most common question which I get asked is “What is your retainer?” Is there a more irrelevant question? The retainer is merely a downpayment – the lower the retainer, the more that is owed later.
Very, very, very infrequently, do I get asked the following questions:
- How long have you been practicing family law?
- Is that your only area of practice?
- Have you ever been certified as a specialist by any organization? (I’ve been asked that once in 27 years)
- Have you ever handled a case with the issues presented in my case?
- If so, how many times and with what degree of success?
- [If there is a known lawyer on the other side] Have you ever practiced against this lawyer? What is your settlement rate with him or her?
- How much of your practice is in the county my case is in? Do you belong to the local bar association? Do you know the family court judges in that county?
- What do you view as your strengths and your weaknesses?
Instead, I get “What is your retainer?”