Finding a really good lawyer is easier than you think, but you need to ask the right questions. When I am interviewing prospective clients, I ask the same questions. You should think about these questions when considering who you should hire to represent you.
I start with the first question, “well, what kind of lawyer do you want?” If you are looking for a family law lawyer, do you care what gender your lawyer is? Some do care, some don’t – and truth be told, there is no right or wrong answer, unless you have a preference. In family law, some clients are more comfortable with a female lawyer, thinking they may be more sympathetic and compassionate to their case. Others want a male lawyer, because they think he may garner more respect of the court. In 2019, these notions are generally obsolete – male and female lawyers are equally represented in the professional, neither has a monopoly on compassion, and it is the individual lawyer’s character and talent that determines their respectability, and not their gender. But if you feel more comfortable with a female lawyer over a male lawyer, or vice-versa, then chose accordingly.
Next, I ask the question, “do you want to mediation friendly lawyer, or do you want a trial lawyer?” Some lawyers are both, but my experience has shown that some lawyers are more adept at one form of case resolution than the other. It doesn’t make them better or worse, just different. It all depends upon your family law case – is it going to be amicable, with the ability of both parties to talk to one another and think first of what is best for their children? Or is one or both parties already creating a list of every family member and professional service provider they have ever seen, to see if they will take their side in the eventual court battle? Some lawyers are brilliant at crafting fair separation agreements, minutes of settlement or mediation reports. Other lawyers are highly skilled and always ready for the court battle to begin (and end). Once again, there is no right-or-wrong answer, except that as a family law lawyer, I always strive to resolve a case in a manner that is the least costly and the least time-consuming for the client, if possible. Sometimes the nature of the case makes this impossible, so you need a lawyer with the capacity to be use all their tools in their toolbox to address the case at hand.
Finally, I will ask a prospective client, “how much time and money do you want to spend on this case?” Very few clients want to see themselves financially or emotionally bankrupt at the end of a family law case, although there a small few who are prepared to go down with the ship, so long as the other side is in the same boat at the end of the day. To those I say, “sorry, I am not the lawyer for you.” For all others, it is important to get a true sense of the cost – in terms of time and money – that this case will take to see it to completion. In most cases, a very good lawyer will be able to give you a reasonable estimate of both. It is neither a promise nor a guarantee, as the resolution of a case will depend upon such factors as:
• the number of the parties involved
• the health of the parties involved
• the complexity of the legal issues involved
• the legal representation of the opposing party (or lack thereof)
• the availability of the opposing party’s lawyer
• the number of documents involved
• the degree of hostility between the parties
• the opposing party’s cooperation in disclosing information and producing documents
• the need for evaluations of property, businesses and pensions,
• the need for temporary motions and/or applications to court,
• the availability of court dates
Depending upon these factors, a case involving two lawyers can resolve for less than a few thousand dollars and within a few weeks. Others may take more time and more money, but most eventually settle. No case should leave the parties destitute and the lawyers as the only financial winners.
Most lawyers may have little or no ability to assist you with an early resolution of your legal matters, depending on the cause of the delay. But a really good lawyer will keep you fully informed of all events as they develop in your case, and they will do what they can to minimize any delay or cost-overruns.
Personally, I consider it a “win-win” if I have helped the parties to reach an efficient and effective settlement or resolution where parties are able to visualize sharing a cordial “first dance” with their former spouse at their child’s future wedding reception.