Five Questions to Ask When Choosing a Divorce Lawyer

by Felicia Meyers, Partner

After you’ve made the difficult decision to end your marriage, your next important decision is selecting a divorce lawyer who will obtain the best results for you and your family.  When choosing a doctor or surgeon to perform a complicated medical procedure, a patient looks for a doctor not only with the requisite expertise and a doctor with a good bedside manner.  By asking the right questions of a potential attorney and getting a feeling that your personalities mesh, you can likewise increase your chances of getting an outcome that sets you up to thrive in your new, post-marriage life.

The following five questions can help you determine if a potential attorney is a good fit:

1. Have you handled cases like mine before?
Every divorce case is unique, but your attorney should have a record of success with cases that share some of the same characteristics as yours. Whether you are the parent who will have custody of young children, a high-net worth individual with significant assets to be divided or a baby-boomer ending a long marriage (a.k.a. gray divorce), your attorney should understand the challenges and issues involved in a case like yours and give you the likelihood of potential outcomes.

2. Do you know the opposing attorney?
An attorney who has prior experience sitting across the conference table from your spouse’s attorney may have a better sense of the opposing attorney’s strategies and approaches to divorce cases, and can better prepare you to know what to expect.

3. What percentage of your cases is settled before going to trial?
Almost everyone facing a divorce hopes to avoid going to court, which is very costly and more emotionally draining than reaching a settlement.  In the event that negotiations break down and a trial is unavoidable, you’ll also want to know the attorney is a seasoned litigator with a track record of wins.

4. What will it cost?
Don’t be shy about asking how your case will be billed and what the rates are for the key players (attorneys, paralegals and support staff). Don’t automatically assume that a higher hourly rate will mean that it is necessarily more expensive.  You get what you pay for. An attorney whose hourly rate is high may end up being a relative bargain in the end if she or he can resolve your case more quickly.

5. How available will you be? Do you respond to e-mails?
Electronic communication has completely changed our practice.  Thanks to e-mail, attorneys can now use the time they used to spend waiting in court to directly respond to client questions succinctly and immediately.