Choosing a family law attorney is an extremely personal decision. The attorney who represented your mother, or your brother, or your neighbor in their divorce or family law matter may have been an excellent pick for them and their case’s circumstances, but that doesn’t mean that their attorney would be the best choice for you.
There are certain criteria that you may require that they did not. Perhaps they were in a very unique area of work, such as the military, and their attorney was extremely knowledgeable about military divorce. Perhaps they required phone calls from their attorney on a daily basis, and their attorney had availability to accommodate that special request.
Types of Questions to Ask During an Initial Consultation with a Family Law Attorney
There are many “non-legal” issues which arise in an attorney and client relationship, such as stylistic characteristics, and more, which can impact one’s satisfaction with an attorney. Asking the right questions during your initial consultation interview can help you assess whether the attorney is the right choice for your case.
1. Ask Questions that Reveal the Attorney’s Style and Approach
Do you have a case which requires someone to be very aggressive up front? Or, do you have a sensitive situation and want feelings to be treated delicately to obtain the optimal result? There are certain things to ask an attorney which can give you an idea of their “style”, such as:
(1) How quickly do you return client phone calls and emails?
(2) Do you push for clients go through mediation or settlement conferences?
(3) Do you serve the other party at the beginning of the case, or are there other options?
(4) Do you insist on full discovery and depositions prior to reaching a settlement?
(5) What do you usually do if the other side won’t respond to you? What if they won’t provide responses to discovery?
(6) Do you encourage mediation with your clients?
(7) Do you ask for appointment of a Child Representative or a Guardian Ad Litem?
(8) How many trials do you do each year versus settlements for your family law cases?
All of these questions will give you a feel for how the attorney behaves in the courtroom and how they treat clients. These are things that clients may not realize or look out for when they are interviewing lawyers and learn later that they really dislike about their lawyer, or really like about their lawyer. Asking the right questions can help you be happy for the duration of your case.
2. Ask Questions Regarding the Attorney’s Team and Office Support
No one wants to be surprised by who is actually handling their case. If you want a specific attorney, be sure to ask if that attorney will the one handling the day-to-day operations of the case. Ask if there is anyone you can contact when said attorney is unavailable or out of the office.
Look at the retainer contract and see if there are ways to mitigate your legal fees:
- Is there a paralegal or administrative professional who has a lower hourly rate?
- Do you have associate attorneys? Will one of them be involved in my case?
If you look at the details of the retainer agreement, it can tell you a lot about how the office operates, and may give you ideas as to how you can mitigate your fees (i.e. asking for an associate to handle your case versus a partner to keep costs low, etc.)
Be Sure to Ask Questions Specific to the Area of Law Necessitating Your Need to Hire an Attorney
Some attorneys will advertise that they practice a specific area of law, but they may “dabble” in many other. Some clients are fine with his, while other clients want to hire a lawyer that takes a more specialized approach to practicing law. Some clients may have multiple issues that they want handled by one attorney, such as a foreclosure or an estate plan. It may or may not be beneficial to find one attorney to suit all of those needs.
Other clients find attorneys that practice in multiple areas of law may be spread too thin or lack the focused expertise important for their case. If these points matter to you, be sure to ask questions about the this.
For instance, if you have questions about how to create a parenting time schedule, you can ask the attorney:
- Do you have a has a sample parenting schedule you offer as a starting point for every case?
- How mediation works and/or how many mediation sessions are required?
- My case is before “Judge X” – do you have experience with cases before this Judge?
Asking the right questions can give you an idea of how much experience a family law attorney has in that particular area of law.
Overall, Be Prepared for the Attorney Consultation
Of course, not every question that one should ask an attorney prior to making a hiring decision is covered in this post. There are always issues that are very specific and unique to each client. In general it helps to come into an initial consultation with a family law attorney with a list of questions important to you. Typically, consultations are an informal meeting to meet the attorney, get a sense of their approach and personality and see if they are a “good fit”. Having a list of questions can help to ensure you are hiring the right attorney for you. Gather your thoughts prior to your consultation and know what is most important to you so you’ll be ready to ask the right questions and select the best attorney for you.
If you’re facing a divorce or family law matter that needs the input of experienced and respected Chicago family law attorneys, contact us today to schedule a consultation. You are not just a case, you’re a person. We understand the fears and questions that come with divorce and family law issues and are ready to help bring understanding and certainty to what can be a chaotic and uncertain time.