Finding the Right Lawyer

by Wes Cowell; updated 3 August 2015

 

Expect a free, initial consultation.  Expect a lawyer who lives and works in the 21st century — phone calls, mobile phone accessibility, e-mail, text messages, etc. If yourprospective lawyer "needs you to come in to the office," and asks you to "bring all your papers" . . . look for a different lawyer.  Need advice?  Call, leave your info, or schedule a consult.

 

Put together a short list of potential lawyer whose practice is concentrated in divorce.  Talk with them by phone to discuss your case.  If a lawyer refuses to discuss your case by phone, call another attorney.  The field of law clings to ancient ways.  Lawyers and judges often times things the way they do "because it's always been done that way."  Times have changed and the practice of law is changing, too.  If a lawyer can't handle text messages, e-mail, .jpgs and .pdfs of documents . . . you've got to work with another lawyer. 

 

Lawyers sometimes refuse to discuss a potential client’s case by phone to force you to come to the office where you may face a hard sell and have to pay a consultation fee.  This tactic works in favor of the lawyer and against the client.  It forces you to sacrifice time and money (and the lawyer makes money) just so you can learn the basics about how your case stacks up . . . and even then the lawyer may decline to represent you.  Consult fees are fine for in-depth interviews and  detailed strategizing.  For inital consultations, however, it's amistake.  The days of clients having to meet face-to-face with their lawyer went out with Abraham Lincoln.  Welcome to the 21st century.  Everything (EVERYTHING) these days is done by phone and e-mail and if a lawyer can't handle that, you don't want to work with that lawyer.

 

You're welcome to come to our office, if you want, but we don't require it.  We know you've got other things to do.

 

The better practice is to talk with an attorney, by phone, for free.  You risk nothing and gain some insight into the strengths and weaknesses of your case.  You also get a feel for the lawyer’s capabilities and experience.  If you need to talk with a lawyer about your case, call my office.  We’re experienced, trustworthy professionals.  The call is free, and there is no obligation.  See that phone number above?  Dial it.

 

In your consultation, DON'T focus only on the facts of your case. Inquire about the attorneys' hourly rates, their estimate of the total costs for your case, their retainer requirements and what types of retainers they offer (flat rate?). Ask how many years they've been in practice and what percentage of their practice is in the field of family law.

 

Fourteen questions to ask (and MY answers) when you're interviewing divorce lawyers:

 

  1. What are the advantages of filing first?  There are many advantages to filing first -- know what you're giving away before you give it away.  If the lawyer says there are no advantages, hang up and call my office.

  2. What can I do to get the best settlement possible?  I need to talk with you about your case.  Call.

  3. If my idea of my "best settlement" isn't possible, what is the next best?  I need to talk with you about your case.  Call.

  4. Do you refer cases out to other attorneys?  No.

  5. Will I work with YOU, or someone else?  You'll work with me or an assoicate -- a lawyer I employ to work in my firm.

  6. How long has your practice been concentrated in family law?  Since 1991 -- It's all I've EVER done.

  7. What percentage of your practice is made up of matrimonial and family law cases?  100% -- It's all we do.

  8. Can we do this case for a flat rate?  You bet; I prefer it . . . and you'll prefer it, too.

  9. What are your hourly rates?  It depends on the work being done -- call.

  10. How can I keep my attorney's fees to a minimum?  Go with a flat rate or settle early -- "He who settles early, settles cheap."

  11. How much do you think this case will cost?  In the end, will my spouse have to pay any of my attorney's fees?   Each case is different -- call.

  12. How long do you think this case will take?  Each case is different, but flat rate cases almost always concludemore quickly.

  13. What is your firm's policy on keeping clients informed and returning phone calls?  Phone calls are returned same day unless it's late -- then next day.  My clients get my cell phone number and that's fair game from 4:30 a.m.  -  9:00 p.m.  Documents -- whether we prepare them, the court issues them, or the other side sends them -- are scanned and e-mailed to the client the same day.  All documents are organized for the client online and are accessible from any smart device, 24 hours a day, forever.

  14. What can I do to make the attorney-client relationship most effective?  Ask for a flat rate retainer and make as many phone calls as you want, ask as many questions as you want, raise as many issues as you want.

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© 2019 Wes Cowell. This site is maintained and operated by Wes Cowell and Cowell Family Law, P.C.