How do I find a divorce lawyer?
When a person asks "how do I find a divorce lawyer", they are actually asking three questions. First, how do I find a divorce lawyer I can afford? Second, how do I find a divorce lawyer I can trust? Third, how do I find a divorce lawyer that is good? You can substitute good for great and for best I suppose. The point is, you are really asking this - How do I find an experienced and skilled divorce lawyer that I can afford and trust?
Well, that is why we wrote this article, because the question (or three questions) is a fair one. This article is written with California in mind because, we are after all, California divorce lawyers.
Step 1 to finding a divorce lawyer - Internet search
You are reading this article because you found it on the internet or someone referred you to it. How you find a divorce lawyer on the internet is done in the same way. You put in a search term, one that fits what you're looking for and voila…you have a list of divorce lawyers to choose from. Or do you? Not really. You see, the problem with the internet is you're not really sure what you're getting until you dig deep. And here is how we think you should.
First, let's assume you found 4-5 divorce lawyers whose websites you like. How do you find the best divorce lawyer among your list? Start out by looking at their client reviews or testimonials. If they don't have any on their site, that doesn't mean they are not good lawyers…but it does make you wonder, right?
Then, take a look at what they write about. Does the entire website just talk about them or do they impart knowledge about the different areas of divorce through informative family law articles? Also, are their divorce and family law articles published on reputable sites outside of their own?
Finally, how accessible are they? Chances are there is a contact us form or an email address. Did you get an immediate response when you contacted them? No? What do you suppose that means for the prospect of them effectively communicating with you after you hire them?
You see, it's more than just some nice pictures and a bunch of self-serving stuff on the page. It's about substance and really providing information designed to help, not just sell, when you're trying to find a divorce lawyer.
Step 2 to finding a divorce lawyer - Referrals
Referrals are great…if they come from the right source. At our law firm, we get a lot of referrals. We get them from former clients, present clients, clients' mothers, fathers and other family, colleagues, people in the business world, you name it. I have had a lawyer I went up against in a divorce case hire me later on for his own personal divorce.
From whom you get the referral is just as important as to whom you get a referral. If the person referring you has personal, first hand knowledge of the divorce lawyer's representation (he or she is a former client, as one example), then chances are pretty good that you are getting a good referral. If not, then find out how they know the divorce lawyer and what experience they have had. If they heard about the lawyer from a friend's friend who heard about the lawyer from a third cousin, then maybe there isn't much value in that referral after all.
Step 3 to finding a divorce lawyer - Reputation
In my opinion, nothing speaks louder about a lawyer's reputation than what the clients say about him or her. Lincoln said that a lawyer's reputation is his stock in trade. With that, we agree. There are reputable sites out there that give you divorce lawyer reviews and those reviews are from clients and sometimes colleagues. There are also not so reputable sites that are designed for ranting, where disgruntled opposing parties (the spouse on the other side of the case that lost) or competitors write bogus nonsense.
When evaluating a lawyer's reputation, make sure you are looking in the right places.
Another great way to gauge a lawyer's reputation is references. I am not sure why, but clients seem shy about asking for references. Don't be. Do it. Ask the lawyer for other clients he or she has had with whom you can speak. Chances are, a good lawyer can give you several from which to choose. Talking to others who were in a similar situation as you is a great way to helping you find a right divorce lawyer for your case.
One word of advice - stay the heck away from lawyers who like to refer to themselves (or are known) as pit bulls, really aggressive or similar words. The best divorce lawyers are neither of those things. The best divorce lawyers are intelligent, client focused, reasonable and result driven. Divorce attorneys that huff and puff, spend a lot of your money, and make you a bunch of promises they can't keep are the scourge of our profession.
Finally, on the issue of reputation, check out the lawyer's State Bar profile. Make sure there isn't a serious discipline record. You don't want to hire a divorce lawyer and later on find out that he or she is facing serious discipline or has previously been suspended for serious misconduct.
Step 4 to finding a divorce lawyer - Courthouse
Many family law courthouses have a list of low-cost attorneys for divorce and family law cases. If you are on a tight budget or your issues are very simple, the list may come in handy. But don't just go for cheap because it's cheap. Look at this list and make sure the lawyer still fits.
Step 5 to finding a divorce lawyer - Consultations
The consultation isn't the end of the search process, it's the beginning. While it is perfectly okay to hire the first lawyer with whom you consult, it may be better to talk to at least 3 or so before you make a commitment. If you are getting the same answers from all of them, that should tell you that the answers may be right. If you are getting very different answers, then something is up and one way to get to the bottom of that is be specific - ask the lawyer to explain to you the law on the subject of your question.
For example, if you are a father in a child custody case that involves false allegations of abuse, ask the lawyer what the law is and how the facts, as you understand it, fits within what the law states. If you get a bunch of nonresponsive answers, that may not be a good sign. However, if the lawyer patiently goes over with you the law, your facts, how the court approaches the issues and what the court would need as evidence to rule one way or another, then you are getting a worthwhile consultation.
Obviously, that doesn't mean the divorce lawyer can predict the result of your case. Nobody can do that. California family law judges are given a lot of discretion in many different areas of family law. However, that discretion can work in your favor if the facts and evidence are on your side.
The bonus step to the question "how do I find a divorce lawyer" - Common sense
Communication, comfort level, a personality that fits yours, these are all important. Lawyers are human…even divorce lawyers, I swear. A family law attorney that doesn't have time for you before you hire him or her may not have much time for you after you retain him or her. One that makes wild promises that don't sound right and are contrary to what others have told you should put up some red flags.
We look at it this way. Are you trying to find a divorce lawyer that is right for your case or one that will tell you what you want to hear? If it's a second, you're wasting your time and probably a lot of your money. Divorce lawyers aren't hired guns and those that pretend to be generally do you a big disservice. Use your common sense. It's why you have it.
Want to consult with our experienced divorce attorneys? We are one phone call or email away and are ready to help.
We got some additional reading for you.
We have written a two-part article on divorcing a narcissist for both husbands and wives. Check it out. You'll enjoy it and, if you are going through or about to go through a divorce with a narcissist, it will provide you with some valuable insight.