Selecting an attorney to represent you in your divorce is an important step that can have a lasting impact on your future. To aid you in the process we have prepared a list of questions important to ask in a divorce attorney consultation.
How long have you been practicing divorce law in Illinois?
The most important question to ask during a divorce attorney consultation is about that attorney’s experience with Illinois divorce law. You want to make sure that the attorney that you hire to represent you in your divorce knows the divorce laws, the judges, the other attorneys in this arena and has several years of experience in representing litigants in divorce.
In what counties do you practice and where are most of your cases?
You also want to ask the attorney about the geographical area that they practice in most often. This will give you the information you need about their familiarity with the judges, rules, and practitioners in the location where your divorce is going to be filed.
If I hire your law firm, will you be my divorce attorney?
Many times potential clients will come into an attorney’s office to consult with an attorney and the attorney they consult with will not be their attorney. You want to understand if you are going to be represented by the person you meet with or once you retain the firm will you be represented by another attorney, such as an associate in the firm. If you want to be specifically represented by the person you are meeting with, that is fine but you have to make that known. Too many times I have had potential clients come to me saying that they interviewed and hired attorney X and firm X and they never saw that person again and were not happy with the attorney they have been working with. It is best to clear this up at your initial interview.
Do you feel you are a better negotiator for settlement or litigator for trial?
During a divorce attorney consultation asking this question will open up the conversation about the attorney’s preference and thoughts on mediation versus litigation. If you have a preference to mediate a resolution, then you need to select an attorney that understands and believes in this. However, if you have a preference for getting the case ready for trial and having a judge decide the issues, then you need to make sure you have an attorney that is a strong litigator in the courtroom.
How can I help you move the case along?
You will want to ask the attorney what there is that you can do to help move the case along. Attorneys need to know that you are interested in being an active participant in the case and will provide all of the information, documents, and details needed in a timely fashion so that your case can stay on track for either a mediated settlement or trial.
How and when do you do your billing?
These questions will give you an understanding of how the attorney does their billing, what they bill for, how much, and when and how you will receive your bills. This will also let you know if they bill you for things such as administrative work, phone calls. Faxes, what the expenses are, and if there are any expenses that are incurred without consulting you first. In addition, you will find out what the attorney’s retainer fee is and how that retainer is used. Is the retainer kept in the client’s account until the end of the case and applied or refunded at the end of the case or it is used to pay expenses and fees as your case progresses. Also, it is important to know if they bill in 0.1 or 0.2 or .25 increments which means that the lowest amount billed will be either 0.1, 0.2 or 0.25 – and go up from there 0.2, 0.4, 0.25, etc. You will also want to ask if there will be others law firm staff working on your case and if so what their role will be and what their hourly rate will be.
How do you keep in touch with your client?
This question will allow you to understand how they will relay information to you. Will it be via phone call, letter in the mail, email, text, etc. You will want to know what you will be made aware of and how. You will also want to let your attorney know during this part of the conversation whether or not you want to be at every court date or if you only want to be in court when required. The level of communication between the attorney and the client is driven by the client. If you want more or less communication, please make sure the divorce attorney understands.