Interviewing Divorce Lawyers
Before you meet to interview a divorce lawyer be sure that you want a divorce. Otherwise the purpose of your consultation is not to find a good divorce lawyer but to decide if you want a divorce.
While divorce lawyers can advise on the legal and practical consequences of divorce they are not marriage counselors. For help deciding whether or not to divorce, seek the advice of relationship experts.
Many divorce lawyers charge consultation fees for an initial interview. As you will (or should) be meeting with several lawyers, this can add up to quite a sum. However, the fact that you are paying for their time is a good incentive to be confident and make sure you leave the interview with all the information you need to decide if the lawyer is a good divorce lawyer.
To decide if a lawyer is a good divorce lawyer a large part of your interview will involve asking the divorce lawyer questions about their expertise, experience, fees and so on. Like many, you may find the idea of questioning a highly-trained professional daunting.
When interviewing divorce lawyers do not be apprehensive or nervous, or worry that you are insulting their professional standing by asking questions.
- Firstly, good lawyers value informed and pro-active clients.
- Secondly, lawyers may be awe-inspiring professionals but they are also in business. You are a potential customer who may ultimately pay thousands of dollars for their services. They should work to please you, not the other way round.
Be proud of the fact that you are acting responsibly by being selective about who gets your business.
- Educate yourself about the different routes to divorce – essentially, via mediation or through the court system – and know which route you would prefer. (Among other things, your interview should establish whether a divorce lawyer has a management style that is acceptable to you.)
- Prepare a list of questions to ask the divorce lawyer before your interview. Practice your questions with a friend so that you are comfortable with them. Don’t worry about whether or not you are using the correct legal terms. Lawyers don’t expect this – after all, you’re not a lawyer. The main thing is that the meaning of your questions is clear.
- Prepare a brief summary of your marriage. For instance, how long you have been married, problems leading to your decision to divorce, action taken so far, and complicating issues such as children, abuse, or substantial private or business assets. This will help you remember important points likely to affect the nature and cost of your divorce. It will also be useful if you are concerned about becoming overly emotional – simply give it to the divorce lawyer to read.
- Be prepared to be surprised by your emotions. Meeting a divorce lawyer will make your divorce a stark reality, something you may not have fully accepted yet.
- Despite common advice to the contrary, it is not necessary to bring your important documents with you. This is an initial consultation, the purpose of which is to evaluate the divorce lawyer. Asking you to bring what is often a very lengthy list of important (and at this stage irrelevant) documents presumes a relationship which does not yet exist. Indeed it may be viewed as a ploy to encourage a sense of commitment to the law firm. Documents are more properly requested at the “intake” stage, when you hire a lawyer for your divorce case.
Divorce Worksheets by US legal Forms make it easy to gather and organize essential information needed during divorce. Available for all 50 states.
Control the interview
Have a clear idea of the direction the interview should take, and guide it in that direction. It is recommended that you introduce yourself, provide some brief background details and ask your questions before you discuss your divorce in any more detail.
“Thank you for taking the time to meet me. As you know, I would like to file for divorce from my husband/wife. To give you some background… [Provide a brief summary of your marriage].
My main concern at this time is to find a suitable attorney for my divorce so before discussing my marriage in more detail, I’d first like to ask some questions about your experience, fees and so on. If you need more specific information at any time, please feel free to ask.” [Ask your questions]
Record the lawyer’s answers
As you go through your list of questions to ask a divorce lawyer, take the time to write the answers down. If anything is unclear, ask for clarification.
Evaluate the lawyer’s attitude and responses
Throughout the interview, particularly as you ask questions, evaluate the divorce lawyer’s attitude and the quality of their responses.
During an interview, a good lawyer should:
- Make every effort to put you at your ease
- Use ordinary language not jargon.
- Listen patiently and with interest to your questions
- Take the time to answer respectfully and to ensure that you understand their responses.
Do not hire a divorce lawyer who makes you feel uneasy and seems offended or impatient with your questions, regardless of how qualified or experienced they are. Remember, you will need to ask questions throughout your divorce in order to be an active participant in your divorce. If cannot do this, you risk unnecessary cost and conflict, and a settlement you regret.
After you have asked your questions, you may or may not have enough time to discuss your divorce in more detail. Thank the lawyer for their time and let them know you will be in touch. Do not commit yourself to hiring the divorce lawyer.
Do not be shy to mention that you are interviewing other divorce lawyers. Again, a good lawyer will appreciate your efforts to choose the right divorce lawyer for your case.
After the interview
Directly after interviewing a divorce lawyer take the time to go through the information you have gathered while the meeting is still fresh in your mind.
Write down your impressions of the lawyer on a personal level – your gut feelings about the lawyer. Did you like them? Did you feel they are someone you can work with? Did they strike you as someone other people are happy to work with?
Do not underestimate the importance of instincts in the selection process. A lawyer needs to be more than a good lawyer. They need to be a divorce lawyer you can work well with.
Finally, however favorable your impressions after interviewing a divorce lawyer, continue to interview other lawyers on your shortlist to be certain that you have found the best divorce lawyer for your case.
Copyright 2008 Caroline Mackenzie
Filed under: Divorce Steps and Planning