Hiring an attorney to represent you in your family law matter is a big decision, and it is often a very personal one. The family law attorney you hire will be privy to much information about your personal life, including your finances and children. You want to be sure that you are hiring an attorney who you believe will handle your case in the manner you wish, and who is likely to get the best possible result. While there are several questions that you should ask a family attorney before hiring them, below are three things that you must ask before making a decision about your representation.
What percentage of your cases go to trial?
In reality, very few cases – as few as 1-2% of divorce cases that are filed – go to trial. Still, this is an important question to ask your potential attorney because it will give you a clear understanding of whether that attorney or firm is right for you. For example, if you are interested in pursuing a collaborative divorce or using mediation to resolve your matter, but the attorney you are meeting with tells you that he or she tries 90% of their cases, you may realize that you do not want to be with such a litigious firm. Similarly, if you have an upcoming trial date for all of the issues in your divorce matter, you likely do not want to hire a first-year attorney who has no trial experience. Asking a family law attorney about the likelihood of trial at that firm may be a strong indication of whether that is the right firm to represent you in your matter.
Who will handle my case?
At many firms, you may meet with a partner of the firm for a consultation. However, it may be that firm’s practice that the partner handles the consultation and then passes off the case to another attorney. At other firms, you may be working with the attorney that handles the consultation from the outset. While neither is a poor practice, you may have a preference about which family law attorney you work with, and you should know from the beginning of your representation what to expect. This may also mean making your wishes known. It is also possible that an associate or younger attorney may handle the day-to-day issues and communication with the client, but all court appearances may be handled by a partner or more senior attorney. Again, this is information that you will likely want to know from the beginning of your case so that there are no surprises about exactly how your representation will be handled.
What are the details about billing?
It is important that you understand how you will be billed for your case, including the initial retainer, expenses through the firm, and court fees. In family law matters, you will be charged an initial retainer, which may vary in amount depending on what work must be done, the complexity of the issues in your matter, and various other factors. You should also ask and understand what work will be completed by the family law attorneys versus the support staff, the billing rates for each member of staff, and how expenses to the firm are addressed, such as postage and copying expenses. There are also filing fees that are charged by the court that may be paid directly from your retainer, or might be asked for separately. If you think that it may be necessary to file a motion in your case, you may want to ask questions about those particular costs, as well. Having a complete understanding of the billing of the firm from the outset of your case may make it easier to understand your monthly bill, and make you more aware of your actions as they relate to expenses.
If you have family law questions, contact the attorneys of DeTorres & DeGeorge to schedule a consultation.