Choosing a family lawyer can be a daunting task. Before you reach for the Yellow Pages, here are a few tips to ensure that you find the best lawyer for you and your family.
Do you like them?
Most family lawyers are happy to have a short consultation with you free of charge. All should at least offer a telephone chat so you can get an idea of the type of person you will be dealing with.
You will need to work closely with your family lawyer, trust his or her judgement and guidance at times of deep emotional stress and confide information that you may not have even told your family and close friends. The best representation always comes with a relationship of mutual trust and respect. If you don’t like them, it is not going to work. You will not get the answers to all your legal problems in 30 minutes but you will get the opportunity to ‘interview’ your lawyer.
How much will it cost you?
Rates will vary from firm to firm. As in life, you generally get what you pay for. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about fees and how payments can be made. For example, like Woolley & Co, do they offer fixed fees or standing order payments to help you budget? Are there things you can do yourself to keep costs down? Who will be dealing with your case? It is sensible for routine tasks to be undertaken by a more junior lawyer (provided it is at a lower hourly rate) but it can be very disheartening to develop a relationship with your lawyer at a meeting only to find out later that your case is being dealt with by another member of the team. Ask what procedures are in place if you have queries about invoices. No one should be charged for wanting to know how their bill has arisen.
Are they any good?
Family law is constantly evolving and with a specialist practitioner you can ensure that he or she is not just on top of the law but also experienced in dealing with the complex emotional and practical problems that come with a separation. Asking for recommendations from family and friends can be a great way to find the right person but, if it’s not possible, get online and look for lawyers (like me!) who display client testimonials. It will give you a great insight into how they work.
Trust your own judgement
Do you have confidence he or she will be firm when necessary? Does he or she understand your values and priorities? Will he or she keep you focused on the future or just write letters that summarise your anger and disappointment? Will he or she take some of the worry out of making difficult decisions for you and your family? After all, you are paying good money for the service so it should be as pain free as possible.