Choosing a family lawyer can be a very difficult and stressful process. Everyone has fears that they will end up with the lawyer who is money driven and does not care about their situation. Lawyers are very different from one another, and it is important to get the right fit for you. After all, we are dealing with your family and your future.
How do you ensure you get the right fit?
1) Meet with the lawyer before you decide. If necessary, meet with more than one. It is very important that you and your lawyer trust each other, and that you feel as though your lawyer understands your goals and what is most important to you. If during your initial meeting you don’t get a good feeling, trust your gut and move on. It is way cheaper and easier to move on early in the process than to try to switch lawyers part way through.
2) First impressions matter. The organization and initial feeling of the firm can be an indication of the treatment you will receive as a client. Lawyers rely heavily on their support staff, and good lawyers will ensure they surround themselves with good people. You want to make sure the firm feels friendly and welcoming as a whole, and makes you feel as though you are not just a number but an actual person with specific needs.
3) The elephant in the room – Costs.
a) Hourly Rates. Most family law matters are dealt with on an hourly basis and lawyers hourly rates vary widely. Typically, an hourly rate is based on experience. Experience, however, does not always mean valuable or applicable experience. Quiz your lawyer about what their experience is and if they have had your type of file in the past. If cost is a particular issue to you, also ask what options you may have to keep costs manageable.
b) Junior v. Senior. There is no hardline definition of what a “senior” or “junior” lawyer is. Senior lawyers have been practicing longer, but don’t fall into the trap of believing that necessarily means they are better. There are plenty of junior lawyers out there who are fantastic, are most up to date on the current laws, and have the best passion for their work. Be wary of lawyers who continuously refer to themselves as “senior counsel” as this may be an indication that they have a false sense of their own abilities. Dig a little deeper.
c) Case Specifics. Some cases can be resolved out of Court, others may require litigation. Litigation is always costly. There are plenty of methods of alternative dispute resolution that may be appropriate for your case, and may save time and money. Be sure your lawyer advises you on all of your options, not just those focused on litigation, and whether or not they are willing to pursue those alternatives.
4) Be upfront about your expectations, and ensure you get answers that make you comfortable. Ask the lawyer what their standard of practice is. For instance, if you are someone who likes constant communication with your lawyer, you will not find success with a lawyer who takes a more hands off approach (though keep in mind, every communication does cost money). On the other hand, someone who does not like to move quickly or feel like they are under time constraints may feel pressured by a lawyer who wants to get things done expeditiously. Either way, there is no excuse for a law firm not returning your calls within a reasonable amount of time. One to two business days is industry standard, unless your lawyer is away or fully booked on a file, in which case someone at the firm should be able to notify you and help you out in the event of an emergency.
5) Keep in mind that a lawyer can’t promise anything. Be wary about a lawyer that tells you they will get you everything you are asking for without any hesitation. Court is very difficult to predict, regardless of the strength of your case. You should find a lawyer that is willing to go to bat for you, but also tell you when your demands may not be achievable. A good lawyer won’t promise the moon just to get you in the door.
6) Trust the experience of others, but take them with a grain of salt. Research your lawyer. Positive reviews are a good indication that a lawyer and their staff will treat you with respect and take your case seriously. Ask around for personal recommendations, particularly people who have experience with the lawyer in their professional capacity. Also keep in mind that some people have had negative experiences as law, by it’s nature, is confrontational. No matter how good a lawyer is they won’t win every case or be the right fit for every person. A single poor review may not be reflective of the lawyer’s abilities, but be more of an indication of a bad fit. On the other hand, multiple poor reviews are a red flag. Google reviews, social media reviews, and Lawyer Ratingz (www.lawyerratingz.com) are all good places to start.
There are many fantastic family lawyers out there who will make it their goal to guide you to the best outcome possible. Shop around, do your homework, and most importantly trust your intuition.
Article by Candace Wray
Although we are a law firm, this blog post does not constitute legal advice. It is for informational or entertainment purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as financial or legal advice of any kind. You should consult with a lawyer before relying on any of the information contained in this blog post. We can be contacted at (403) 981 0700 to set up a consultation with one of our lawyers who can review the specific circumstances of your matter and provide you with personalised legal advice.