Below is a list of top ten tips for choosing a lawyer for various legal services such as divorce, child custody, and related topics.
(1) BILLING. Ask if the lawyer does detailed billing. A detailed bill describes the task the lawyer performed each time he or she makes a time entry.
Detailed billing looks like this: “Telephone call with opposing counsel. Discussed issues regarding the holiday schedule and visitation exchange, will confirm with Guardian.”
Non-detailed billing looks like this: “Telephone call.”
(2) TRIALS. Ask how many cases the lawyer has taken to trial in the past year. Most divorces are settled out of court, and they should be. Taking a case to trial is an incredibly expensive way to get a divorce. On occasion, a trial may be absolutely necessary, but it should be a last resort.
(3) PHONE CALLS. Ask how quickly a client can expect the lawyer to return a phone call. The answer should be within 24 hours.
(4) CORRESPONDENCE. Ask if you will be copied on all correspondence. Ideally, you should be sent a copy of every transmittal on the same day it arrives in the lawyer’s office.
(5) WEB SITE. Does the lawyer have a web site with adequate information? If not, the lawyer may not be keeping up with technology.
(6) OUTCOME OF CASE. The lawyer who gives you the rosiest prediction for the outcome of your case may not be the best lawyer, just the most unrealistic.
(7) FEE AGREEMENT. Does the lawyer try to get you to sign a fee agreement while you are in the office? Ideally, you will be offered the opportunity to take the agreement home, read it, and get back to the lawyer if you wish to retain that lawyer. You should not be pressured into making this important decision.
(8) CREDIT CARDS. Ask if the lawyer takes credit cards if you are interested in paying by this method.
(9) HOURLY RATES. If the lawyer raises his or her hourly rate while your case is pending, does the new rate apply to you? Ideally, you should be able to expect the same hourly rate throughout your case.
(10) ASK. What is the lawyer’s best quality? Ask the lawyer this question. The answer should be appropriately self-confident while appropriately modest, and it should be a quality that matters to you.