Are you charged with a crime, and you’re perplexed about your next move? It’s a great idea to hire a professional criminal defense lawyer. Consulting a defense lawyer is beneficial because you’ll navigate the legal system successfully. Being charged with a criminal offense is distressing, regardless if you’re innocent or at fault. Note that the criminal and legal procedures can be overwhelming and confusing, especially if you’re a first-timer. Criminal offense has plenty of questions from the police, paperwork to file, and evidence to gather. If there’s a minor mistake in these processes, they’ll be a higher probability of fine, sentence, and harsh charge.
There’s no need to take chances because a criminal offense is a serious offense that might ruin your future. Many individuals may think that it’s cost-effective to represent themselves in the courtroom. This isn’t the case because you’ll lose a lot of money in the long run and time. Therefore, it’s a wise deal to hire a reputable defense lawyer because you’ll have a higher chance of winning the case. A criminal defense attorney will perform an in-depth investigation in order to prove your innocence in the courtroom. There are numerous benefits to why you should consider hiring a reputable criminal defense lawyer.
The right criminal defense lawyer should have a minimum of five years in this field. In addition, these professionals have an excellent reputation. An experienced defense lawyer has enough training in criminal law. Therefore, this explains why they’re competent in this field. Also, there in-depth training has allowed them to identify the blind spots that will lead to your release. Note that you’re advised to hire a professional defense lawyer because they have represented numerous clients with the same criminal case. An expert defense lawyer will analyze your case bit by bit in order to identify the right perspective to employ in the courtroom.
2. They Posses the Right Resources
Representing yourself can be a daunting task because you don’t have sufficient resources that can effectively handle your case. The right criminal defense lawyer will gather relevant evidence, look for witnesses and cross-examine them, analyze your case, and prepare a winning strategy. The best criminal defense attorney will have ways on how to obtain court resources that will help you win your case. Expert defense lawyer knows how to identify experts who’ll help you succeed in the case. In addition, their sufficient resources will help them to effectively tackle your case.
3. Time Management
Time is an essential element in a courtroom. The way you respond to various questions plays a major role in deciding your sentence or release. Therefore, it’s a great idea to invest in a professional defense lawyer who has been in this field for quite some time. Preparing a criminal case can be a tiresome and time-consuming task, especially if you have insufficient expertise in this industry. Therefore, representing yourself will waste your fruitful time because you’ll have to conduct in-depth research on how criminal cases are handled. Therefore, it’s a great idea to hire a professional criminal defense lawyer with sufficient knowledge and skills in this field. These experts will save you precious time. Therefore, you’ll have enough time to enhance production in your area of specialization. You can also spend this time performing your day-to-day activities or taking adequate care of your family.
The right criminal defense lawyer will help you save a lot of money in the long term. For instance, if a lawyer helps you win the case, you’ll escape the jail term and higher fines, which might consume a huge amount of your money. The best criminal attorney will catalyze the process or slow it down, depending on any foreseen challenge. It’s affordable to hire the right criminal defense lawyer because you won’t miss your working days. This means you’ll increase production in your line of business because you’ll have peace of mind. Note that the right defense lawyer will negotiate for lower fines if you’re guilty. Also, these professionals will ensure you’re paid damages if you’re cleared innocent by the court of law.
5. Protection From Hefty Penalties
In a criminal charge, the plaintiff will work extra to ensure they win this case. Therefore, it’s important to hire the best defense lawyers because you know how to identify the weak links in your case. If you’re innocent and accused of a crime, it’s so painful and distressing to receive a hefty penalty for something you’re not aware of. The criminal lawyer will help you avoid severe penalties that might ruin your reputation. If the judge finds out that you’re guilty even if deep down your heart, you know you’re innocent, then a criminal defense lawyer will play a vital role to ensure you get a fair penalty. You’ll, therefore, receive a reduced fine or sentence.
6. Enough Knowledge on the Legal System
In order to succeed in a criminal case, it’s important to understand the different parties involved, such as the judges and prosecution lawyers. Avoid Do It Yourself technique because you won’t have any idea about the plaintiff, their lawyers, or the judge. You’ll be an easy target because the prosecutor will use tactics that will lead to higher penalties or jail terms. The right criminal attorney will have interact will numerous prosecutors and judges. This will help them understand how they operate, what they dislike, and what perspective to use in order to win the case. A highly trained lawyer will plan a defense strategy that will improve your chances of winning the case.
7. Dealt With Similar Cases
An experienced criminal defense lawyer will have dealt with numerous cases through previous clients. This allows them to know the right procedure to use in order to win your case. These experts have won numerous cases that are identical to yours. Therefore, investing in these experts will help you win the case. This is the reason why a professional defense lawyer will have an excellent reputation in this industry.
8. Advice on Possible Outcomes
A professional defense lawyer will advise you on various outcomes of your case. An expert defense lawyer knows the possible penalty for your case. Therefore, they’ll help you with the best tips and employ the best techniques in order to give you peace of mind.
9. Access to Law Enforcement Conduct
Your knowledge through Facebook, Television, or media isn’t enough to help you understand how law enforcement should obtain their evidence. The best criminal defense lawyer will have adequate knowledge to identify improper procedures by law enforcement agents. This will help them identify loopholes and blind spots in your case. Therefore, the lawyer will make sure that all your rights are put into consideration when conducting their investigation to gather evidence. Improper protocols in the process will lead to the dismissal of your case.
Above-listed are benefits of hiring a reputable criminal defense lawyer.
Find the answers below to some common questions about filing for divorce in Tennessee. (For more information on Tennessee family law, see the information and resources on our Tennessee page.)
How long do I have to live in Tennessee before I can get divorced?
Generally speaking, you have to reside in Tennessee for at least six months before you can file for divorce in the local courts. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-104 (a).) If you or your spouse are in the military and stationed in Tennessee (but you have a permanent residence in a different state), the court will permit you to file for divorce in Tennessee if you’ve lived in the state for at least one year before filing. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-104 (b).)
If I moved out of the marital home to another state, where do I file?
Most states have residency requirements, which means you must have established a permanent home in the state before you can file for divorce. Residency requirements prevent spouses from “forum” or “judge” shopping by moving to new states that may have more favorable divorce procedures for the spouse. For example, Michigan divorce law requires that the filing spouse reside in the state for at least 6 months and the county for at least 10 days before filing for divorce. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 552.9 (1).)
You must be a resident of Tennessee for six months to file for divorce here. You may file in the county where you or your spouse live, so if your spouse still resides in Tennessee, you can file in the county where your spouse lives, even if you no longer live in the state. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-105 (a).)
If you’re unsure of where you should file for divorce, you should contact a family law attorney before submitting any paperwork.
What if my spouse lives in another state?
Your spouse living in another state may make your case more complicated. An attorney can help you weigh the pros and cons of filing in Tennessee or in the state where your spouse lives. If the court in Tennessee does not have jurisdiction (the power to accept your case), you may be wasting your time and money if you file here.
Why is it more difficult? Divorces take time and, in many situations, court appearances that you will need to attend. Additionally, you’ll need to “serve” divorce papers on your spouse out of state, which can be costly and time-consuming.
How do I serve papers on my spouse?
In all states, including Tennessee, the spouse filing for divorce must provide the other spouse notice of the case, by making sure the spouse receives copies of all of the divorce paperwork. The court may refer to this process as serving papers, which means giving official notice by delivering a copy of the divorce petition to your spouse.
To properly serve your spouse, you can request a sheriff or a process server in your spouse’s home state to deliver the documents. Additionally, you can ask an adult family member or friend to hand-deliver the paperwork if it’s safe to do so. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-103 (a).)
Alternatively, you may send copies by certified mail to your spouse’s residence or, if you don’t know where your spouse is, publish a legal notice in a newspaper selected by the court. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-2-215.)
How much does it cost to serve paperwork?
The cost for service depends on how much the local sheriff or private process server charges, but usually, fees are under $75. Publishing a legal notice can be more expensive, however. Depending on the newspaper, you can spend $100 or more.
In all states, including Tennessee, the spouse filing for divorce must provide the other spouse notice of the case, by making sure the spouse receives copies of all of the divorce paperwork.
Do my spouse and I need lawyers if we agree on everything?
Technically, no. If you agree on all divorce-related issues, such as property division, child support, child custody, and spousal support, you can present a signed settlement agreement to the court. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-103 (b).) But as a practical matter, an experienced family lawyer will still need to draft your agreement to make sure everything is accurate. A divorce is a lawsuit.
Remember, there is no such thing as a standard divorce. There are many things you will need to consider during the divorce that it makes sense to hire a lawyer to explain things and represent only your best interests. Very few lawyers will represent both parties because of the potential for a conflict of interest.
What is a conflict of interest?
A conflict of interest happens when an attorney’s duty to a client is compromised. An attorney who represents both spouses in a divorce might face such a conflict if a benefit to one spouse would be detrimental to the other. If one lawyer represents both spouses, the lawyer cannot advise them in negotiating for better settlement terms.
What are the grounds for divorce in Tennessee?
Tennessee law requires a filing spouse to list a reason or “ground” for the divorce. The law allows divorce on either fault or no-fault grounds. Fault grounds mean that one spouse’s behavior during the marriage caused the breakup.
A fault divorce can be expensive and time-consuming because you have to submit sufficient evidence to prove the misconduct you claim caused the divorce.
The fault grounds for divorce are:
either spouse, at the time of the marriage, was and still is naturally impotent and incapable of procreation
either party has knowingly entered into a second marriage, in violation of a previous marriage that has not ended
either spouse has willfully or maliciously deserted or left the other, without a reasonable cause, for one year
either spouse has been convicted of a crime which, by the laws of the state, renders the party infamous
either spouse has committed a felony and been sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary
either spouse has attempted to take the life of the other, by poison or any other means showing malice
either spouse has refused to remove with that person’s spouse to this state, without a reasonable cause, and has been willfully absent from the spouse residing in Tennessee for two years
the wife was pregnant at the time of the marriage, by another person, without the knowledge of the husband
habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotic drugs by either spouse, when the spouse has contracted such habit after marriage
either spouse is guilty of such cruel and inhuman treatment or conduct towards the spouse as renders cohabitation unsafe and improper, which may also be referred to in pleadings as inappropriate marital conduct
either spouse has offered such indignities to the other spouse’s person as to render the other spouse’s condition intolerable, and thereby forced the other spouse to withdraw, or
either spouse has abandoned the other, or turned the other out of doors, and refused or neglected to provide for the other while having the ability to do so. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-101.)
A no-fault divorce is one alternative to a fault divorce. With a no-fault divorce, the spouses do not blame each other for the breakdown of the marriage. Instead, they simply tell the court they want a divorce based on “irreconcilable differences,” which means they can’t get along anymore and no longer want to be married.
Finally, you can ask the court to grant you a divorce based on separation. In order to qualify for this, you must be able to show that you have been living in separate residences, and not cohabiting as spouses, for at least two years (this ground applies only if the couple has no children).
How long does a divorce take?
A mutual-consent, no-fault divorce takes about two to six months. If there are no children in the marriage, there is a mandatory 60-day “cooling-off” period after the spouse files the complaint. If the couple has children, it takes a minimum of 90 days. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-101 (b).)
A contested divorce can last years, with the average case lasting a year or more. Finally, if the spouses agree to divide a pension, it might take an additional 60 to 180 days after the court grants the divorce to complete the division.
Can I get an annulment?
Rarely. Annulments may be available if the marriage was illegal (for example, incestuous) or based on fraud or duress. The court will also approve an annulment if one party was underage at the time of the wedding. The rules and applications for annulment can be complex, so it’s best to speak with an attorney to discuss your options.
An annulment is similar to a traditional divorce because both processes end the marriage. However, after an annulment, the court treats the couple as though they were never married.
Despite an annulment effectively erasing the marriage, the effect of annulment will not render the couple’s children illegitimate. In other words, if you had children during a marriage that the court later annuls, the law treats the children the same as if you and your spouse were legally married and divorce. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-125.) It’s also important to understand that if you request an annulment, the court will not award alimony to either spouse.
What is a legal separation?
In effect, a legal separation allows the court to award one (or both) spouses financial support and maintenance without an actual divorce. The legal separation process is similar to traditional divorce, so it can be as time-consuming and expensive as a divorce, but in the end, you’re still married.
Separation can be an appropriate way to end your partnership if religious or other reasons require you to stay legally married. However, at the end of a legal separation process, you and your spouse will remain legally married, so the law prohibits you from marrying someone else until you complete a traditional divorce. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-102.)
Do I have a right to a jury trial in my divorce case?
No. If the case goes to trial, the judge will make the final determinations.
What about mediation?
Mediation is a confidential, out-of-court method for spouses to settle the divorce without asking a judge for help. A mediator is a trained, neutral third-party who will facilitate a conversation between the spouses to settle any divorce-related issues. Mediation is most beneficial with custody and visitation issues because the spouses will have to maintain an ongoing constructive relationship to parent their children successfully.
Mediators usually recommend that the parties review any potential settlement with independent counsel before signing. Mediation works best when the parties come to the table in good faith and fully disclose their assets and debts. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-130.)
Can I change my last name at the time of divorce?
Yes. The only limitation is that a person cannot change names to perpetrate a fraud. It’s common for divorcing spouses to change from their married last name to the name they used when they were single.
If you have additional questions on filing for a divorce in Tennessee, you should speak with an experienced family law attorney. Additionally, you can find approved divorce court forms on the Tennessee State Court Website.
No matter the circumstances of a divorce, the people involved will always experience some form of turmoil – whether it’s emotional, personal, or otherwise. After all, people go into their marriage with the hope that their relationship will continue to stay strong for the remainder of their lives. However, maintaining a relationship is difficult, and in some cases, problems can occur that simply make it impossible for the marriage to continue with a sense of comfort, and trust. Unfortunately, when married spouses are forced to consider the potential for single life, they can face several concerns, about how they’re going to ensure financial stability alone, and how they will regain their confidence.
Of course, that isn’t to say that divorce is always a completely negative process. If you find yourself in a position where you simply cannot find happiness in your marriage, then a divorce may help you to retake control of your life and find the future that works for you. Though it’s easy to get lost in the heartache surrounding the end of a relationship, it can also be important to draw attention to the potential positives that can come from divorce and the sense of freedom that comes with extracting yourself from a toxic situation.
In some situations, when a marriage ends, the restrictions that have prevented a person from seeking a happier life crumble away with it. After all, if your relationship has made you unhappy, stressed, or even depressed, then getting out of that situation is the first step to healing, and discovering a more fulfilled version of yourself. Mr. Darren Shapiro often finds that his clients move on to live more peaceful lives after their divorce is completed – even though the initial feelings of filing that paperwork can be distressing. If a relationship cannot work, then both sides need closure if they want to move on with their lives. While each might miss the other from time to time, they will also gain the freedom that allows them to open up a new chapter of their lives.
Escaping a conflict-rich relationship can be particularly important for spouses who are exposed to regular abuse. For these people, divorce finally allows them to escape a horrific situation and discover a new life. However, even if you didn’t experience abuse in your marriage, it’s important to remember that no one should be forced to live a life that’s rife with unhappiness. Sometimes relationships simply don’t work – and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. You may even find that your divorce allows you to meet the person that you were truly meant to be with – or explore other, more fulfilling relationships.
One very important aspect to be aware of when you are considering divorce is that breaking apart a marriage doesn’t necessarily doom your children to development issues. Mr. Darren M. Shapiro frequently finds that his clients are concerned about the impact that their divorce will have on their children. However, the truth is that although divorce can be hard on all the members of a family dynamic, it can also help your children to understand that life doesn’t always go according to plan, and sometimes people need to make changes to find happiness. While divorce will always be a complicated process, it can be much better than the alternative – exposing your child to a high-conflict relationship. Usually, as Psychology Today outlines, the negative impact of a divorce can be minimized with the use of routines, reassurance, and rituals.
In some cases, parents may be able to further reduce the negative impact of divorce by staying away from high-conflict scenarios like litigation. For example, those who feel that they might be able to make the most of a negotiation-friendly solution might consider the process of mediation. Through mediation, parents and ex-spouses can discuss their needs in a safe and supportive environment with an objective mediator. Mr. Shapiro frequently recommends mediation to his clients when they want to attempt to maintain positive relationships with their ex-spouse, or simply avoid the negativity inherently present in litigation. Though this solution won’t work for everyone, it can be a positive option for many individuals who want to reduce the confrontational aspects of ending their marriage.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that financial concerns can represent a huge issue for people considering divorce. Many people are concerned that they won’t be able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle when they separate from their spouses. However, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t feel trapped within an unhappy marriage simply because you’re concerned about money. While divorce can be an expensive process, there are ways that you can minimize your expenditure. For instance, mediation is typically less expensive than litigation, and during the course of your divorce, you may be able to protect yourself from future financial disruption.
If children are involved in a divorce procedure, then the New York Courts will place their interests first when making decisions regarding support and maintenance. However, in most situations, they will do their best to ensure that no spouse is destitute as a result of a separation. If you are considered the “less-monied” spouse, then you may be able to access support or maintenance. What’s more, if you take on primary custody of the children, you could also receive child support payments too. If you are the more monied spouse in a relationship, then you can stop your ex-spouse from receiving an inheritance, or gaining access to future assets you might receive following the completion of the divorce. Crucially, the payments offered to any person in a divorce will center around several factors, as Mr. Shapiro reminds his clients, though there are guidelines in place under the New York law since 2016.
Mr. Shapiro recognizes that divorce is always a complex process – but that doesn’t mean there can’t be positive aspects to it. If you believe that you could benefit from divorce, please contact our principal, Mr. Darren M. Shapiro at your earliest convenience for a free thirty-minute consultation. Our office litigates, negotiates, mediates or practices collaborative law depending on the specifics of each individual matter. You can call at
No lawyer is thoroughly knowledgeable about every type of law. Think through what you need a lawyer to do and invest some time finding the right one to solve your problem, whether it’s European data privacy or collecting child support payments. By using the right lawyer, you will avoid paying someone to learn a new area of law on your dime. For example, if you need help with a commercial office lease, do not rely on an attorney who primarily does immigration law. You will regret it.
Lawyers in Utah are not allowed to say they are an “expert” in an area of law, so you may need to ask others for recommendations, research their profiles on their websites, or quiz a potential lawyer about their experience with the specific type of work you need to be done. Spend five to 10 minutes talking with the lawyer to see if there is rapport. If you do not feel comfortable talking with him or her, then move on to another prospect. A good relationship helps create good results.
Think about what you want your lawyer to accomplish. What are your goals? What would be the best result and what would be an acceptable result? What can you give up? What are your biggest concerns?
Gather up the details you would expect a lawyer to need, such as copies of contracts and notes about phone calls, names, and addresses. By helping your lawyer be efficient, you can lower your bill, set the performance standard higher, and most likely see a better end result.
Whether starting a relationship with a new lawyer or resetting an existing relationship, work together to set agreed-upon expectations. How often do you expect an update? What method of communication do you prefer (phone, email, letters)? How quickly will calls or emails be returned?
To keep money issues at a minimum, find out the lawyer’s hourly rate at the start. Ask how often invoices are sent as well as payment terms and methods. Ask whether a retainer will be required and what is billed in addition to time (telephone calls, emails, postage, etc.). Inquire about an expected total fee for your project, which will make it harder for the attorney to significantly exceed the estimate without a good reason. For some matters, you can ask for flat-fee billing. These may be uncomfortable questions, but asking upfront can avoid real discomfort when the invoices arrive.
Don’t Waste Time
Lawyers basically sell their time. To keep invoices in line, be concise with requests and avoid chitchat unless you expect to pay for the privilege. Avoid rambling emails and long phone calls repeating what you have already communicated. If you are concise and polite, you increase the chances of regular and effective communication within your budget.
Accept Advice, but Understand the Attorney Role
A lawyer has a duty to represent you as his client as well as a duty to the court system and various professional ethical rules. Your lawyer will have the right to decide how some legal procedures are carried out, but generally, the role is to advise you of legal risks and describe strategies or options to accomplish your goals within the law. Most lawyers will lay out choices, but expect you to make an informed decision based on your business goals, risk tolerance, the projected costs, and other factors important to you. Your lawyer will often make a recommendation, but will not make a decision for you because how you choose to balance the factors involved will determine whether you will consider the outcome a success.
At the same time, if you consistently ignore your attorney’s advice, it will undermine the relationship and the attorney may suggest you find a different lawyer better suited to your goals or temperament.
Pay Your Bill
Lawyers are often pressed for time. They fear running out of work, so they may take on more work than they can comfortably manage. Other things being equal, your lawyer will most likely choose to work on matters for clients who pay their bills on time. Abraham Lincoln recommended always collecting payment in advance so it was clear the lawyer knew he had a client and the client knew he had a lawyer. It is still good advice.
At some point in one’s life, a person will encounter a family law matter from marriage to child custody that will require legal settlement. Since family law refers to legal concerns surrounding the marriage, divorce, child custody and support, and other related issues, the individual involved must have a family law attorney who can provide the best legal advice and representation. Hiring a family law lawyer can be financially and emotionally exhausting. Therefore, it is essential to get an attorney from a law firm dedicated to family law matters. Here are some tips on how to find the right lawyer who can represent you in court or work out the best legal settlement.
Do Your Research – While most law firms you see online put
up the good advertisement of their family law lawyers, doing your homework will
help you trim down to the best attorneys for you. Search the internet for the
best lawyers in your area who can represent you in court. Find someone who can
give you the legal advice you need during these times. By doing your research,
you can land the right attorney for the job.
Find an Attorney You’re Comfortable Working with Your Legal Case – Since there are many lawyers out there, it’s essential to find someone you can trust with sensitive information. An expert lawyer is a good start but is not enough if you’re not comfortable working with him or her. It is crucial to find someone whom you can trust and communicate with during the legal process.
Interview Qualified Attorneys Before You Make a Decision – The best way to find a good family law lawyer is by interviewing qualified attorneys. In doing so, you will see who’s the right one for you. You’ll have a quick look at who’ll potentially represent you in court when you interview family law attorneys in your area.
Check the Fees – Although you need legal advice and representation, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get the best legal services. Ask for options such as a flat fee so you can keep your expenses at bay.
Look for Expert and Well-Experienced Attorneys – Find an attorney who knows the ins and outs of family laws. Additionally, the lawyer must have enough experience and know-how to handle different situations throughout the legal process.
GHC Law Firm features some of the best family law lawyers who have the expertise and experience to give legal advice, help with settlement and litigation, and assist you in other areas of family law matters. If you’re in need of expert legal assistance, contact us today, and we’ll be happy to give you a hand!
The internet is full of exceptional legal content. More and more law firms publish regular blogs and if you do not provide your website visitors with well-written and educational content, they can just go elsewhere. So how do you capture your audience’s attention? What makes a good law firm blog article?
There are certain characteristics of effective, impactful blog posts that legal marketers should keep in mind. Here’s our breakdown.
1. Start with why.
Every blog post you write should have a purpose – just like your blog overall. Before you put pen to paper, consider your end goal and work backwards. Is it to inform on a specific topic? To drive traffic to a certain landing page? Know what you are hoping to accomplish and work from there.
2. Understand your audience and what they want to read.
Once in a while, talking about what’s going on in your firm can be interesting. But generally, your audience is going to be looking for legal information, checklists for complicated legal processes, or updates on legislation or cases. In general, it’s a smart marketing practice to build out personas of who your target audience is. Then, build out a section on their interests and what they’d like to read – and create posts based on that.
3. Listen to your clients.
One of your greatest resources for new blog topics is your clients. They come to professionals seeking advice, answers, consultation and reassurance on a daily basis. Take note of their questions and pay particular attention to the language they use to describe them. These will make great fodder for relevant, useful and search-friendly blog posts.
4. Write for readers and for search engines.
Speaking of search-friendly, you want to make sure your target audience can actually find your law firm’s content, and SEO (search engine optimization) is the bridge that’ll help you get there. The better visibility your blogs have in search results, the more likely you are to garner attention and attract prospective and existing clients to your website. Make use of keywords (without keyword stuffing), craft an engaging meta description, and follow the rest of these tips to write blog posts that rank well on search engines like Google and Bing.
5. Write what you know.
If your firm specializes in certain areas, write about those. Write about what you are an expert in and have significant experience in whether it be energy law or divorce law. This positions you as a thought leader, and builds credibility and loyalty. If you try to fake it with other topics, people will see through that and you’ll lose their interest and their trust.
6. Use evidence.
This is something lawyers should be comfortable with! The best blogs have strong research backing them up, and the citations to prove it. This is a big reason Google favors content with several links and citations. The more research you perform on your topic, the more credible your information will be, and the more likely it is to rank in search engines. You can also set up free Google Alerts on specific topics in your area of expertise and review them daily. If something is breaking in the news, you’ll be on top of it.
7. Take a fresh approach.
As you perform your research, you are going to find no shortage of posts that share the sort of information you’re writing about. It’s important to avoid “herd content”. That is, content that others have written about extensively, or are trendy right now. It’s certainly smart to write about subjects that are trending – but take your own approach and add a unique perspective. Don’t just replicate what someone else has already said.
8. Be helpful.
This might seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many corporate blogs do not do this. When people are searching online, typically they’re looking for answers to a question or help with a certain scenario. Provide the information they’re looking for. Answer their questions. Offer solutions.
9. Don’t focus on length.
Though some studies show that articles with 2,000 words or more tend to rank better, that doesn’t mean you need to meet that number all the time. Research shows you should focus on saying what you need to, without filler or fluff. If that means that your blog is only 500 words, that’s ok. If it’s a complex topic that takes 3,000 words to explain – that’s fine too. Make your law firm’s blog as long as it needs to be to get your point across.
10. Avoid walls of text.
Especially with longer content, this can be hard to do. However, it’s critical to keep the reader interested and visually stimulated. Be sure to include images, headlines, graphics, and bullets with your text. Break up paragraphs into only a few sentences. Keep bullets short. The new standard in content is visually interesting pieces with a variety of media formats.
For a comprehensive guide on crafting a content strategy, tips on measuring the effectiveness of your content distribution and plenty more, download our eBook: The Law Firm Guide to Content Marketing.
Lawyers and law firms derive many benefits from effective blogging – but if no one reads your blog, you’re wasting valuable resources that could be applied elsewhere. Taking the time to research timely topics that are of interest to your target audience is key. Keep these 10 tips in mind for more compelling content.
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As an attorney whose practice is exclusively dedicated to family law, I have learned that maintaining a good working relationship with a client is critical to the ultimate success of the case – and an essential component of achieving the client’s goals during the representation. The importance of establishing and maintaining a good working relationship with your client, from commencement through to conclusion, cannot be overstated.
Establishing a good attorney-client relationship starts during the initial consultation. At the outset, the attorney should create an atmosphere of trust, identify the potential legal issues involved in the case, elicit facts and circumstances from the client that is relevant to the legal issues, and most importantly, assess the client’s credibility and make a determination as to whether the attorney and client can work well together to achieve the client’s goals. Trust is earned; it takes time to build trust and create a comfort level for the client, and that process starts at the commencement of the engagement.
Creating a Good Attorney-Client Relationship: Start with the Initial Consultation
The initial consultation provides an opportunity for both the attorney and prospective client to get to know one another and decide whether the relationship will be effective and productive. Attorneys have different styles and “bedside manners” in terms of how they interact with their clients and work with them on legal matters. Not every attorney is a good fit for every client, and not every attorney will share the same opinion or perspective on how best to handle the client’s matter. It is critically important – both during the initial consultation and throughout the case – to set and continue to manage the client’s expectations as to the outcome of contested issues.
During the initial consultation, clients often ask the attorney to render a legal opinion regarding specific issues in their matter. An attorney can provide a general framework of potential outcomes, but at the inception of a case, it is difficult (if not impossible) to render a legal opinion with certainty as to the ultimate outcome. Clients will rely on their attorney’s opinions and analysis, so be judicious when discussing possible outcomes. There is no benefit to anyone in the process if you simply tell the client what he/she wants to hear and fail to fully explain possible outcomes – and what it may take in terms of time and money to pursue the client’s goals. The attorney’s obligation is to assess the issues and to provide the client with the most accurate analysis possible, including an honest assessment of all the potential outcomes in their case –favorable and unfavorable. Tread lightly, but honesty really is the best policy.
Technology and Divorce
The technology boom has had a significant effect on how clients choose their attorneys. Prior to a prospective client even stepping foot in your door for a consultation, he/she has likely already conducted legal research online concerning his/her case, consulted with other attorneys and/or family and friends about the case, and learned about your professional background and experience practicing law. This can result in the client already having a specific opinion as to how you should handle the case. You need to manage the client’s expectations regarding how you intend to handle issues in their matter – and ensure that your client understands and agrees with your strategy.
Much of what can be found on the Internet by way of attorney websites, legal blogs, and open forum discussions are effective in providing a general overview and framework concerning a legal issue or body of law, but lack specificity in regard to the variables and different facts and circumstances that ultimately dictate the outcome of a client’s particular legal issues. Given that there is easy access to this kind of general information, today’s litigants self-educate more than ever – but the attorney still has the ultimate responsibility to make sure the client fully understands the issues in their case and the relevant statutory authority and case law that will impact the determination of these issues.
Consider providing clients with specific references to statutory authority and/or relevant case law concerning their matter so they have an opportunity to read and review some of the authority and information you may be relying upon in assessing their case. I encourage clients to be invested in their case: to educate themselves, and to ask questions whenever they are uncertain about any aspect of their case. You should always keep an open line of communication with your client.
Developing and Maintaining a Good Attorney-Client Relationship
After the client has retained you, the focus shifts to further developing and maintaining a good attorney-client relationship. Maintaining the relationship requires diligence on the attorney’s part, and also on the part of the attorney’s staff. Your staff serves as an extension of you, and your client expects the same professionalism, courtesy, and respect from your office as they do from you. When your staff falls short of meeting these expectations, this reflects poorly on you. Having a good support team is critical to effectively representing and keeping clients happy.
I am often interviewed by clients seeking to hire new counsel to represent them. The principal complaints I hear from clients relate to their frustration in not being able to communicate directly with their attorney, the lack of timely response(s) by the attorney, and difficulty in gaining access to the attorney. Clients expect that their attorney and his/her staff will respond promptly to inquiries or questions, including providing correspondence and/or pleadings received, and keeping them apprised of the status of their case. With the proliferation of email and text messaging, clients expect a rapid response to their inquiries.
Set ground rules with your clients regarding how you will respond to their queries; establish an easy and expedient method of communication between counsel and staff, and specify the manner in which your office will provide correspondence, pleadings, and other written materials received during the pendency of the case. Setting expectations as to how communication will be handled will greatly reduce the possibility of misunderstandings – and help prevent clients from looking for a new attorney.
You need to remember that clients often come to a family lawyer’s office at the worst of times. They are nervous, anxious, looking for guidance, and paying for effective legal counsel. To create an effective and productive attorney-client relationship, you need to foster an atmosphere of mutual trust and honesty, establish ground rules for communication, and manage the client’s expectations regarding the potential outcome of their case. Ultimately, your responsibility is to advocate on behalf of your clients, provide guidance and recommendations to them, and formulate a plan to achieve all realistic goals. Successful representation requires establishing and maintaining a good working relationship with your clients.
While you always want to employ general marketing best practices for your law firm, it is important to also implement focused strategies that work for your key practice areas. If you are a family lawyer looking for a few effective digital marketing strategies for your practice area, then this is the post you have been waiting for.
You already know that you need to employ good legal marketing practices to help your law firm grow. You likely already have a website, know SEO is important, understand the benefits of a good testimonial, and more. However, you also know you want to make sure you are using strategies designed to work for your main practice areas.
For instance, personal injury lawyers often find success in advertising large jury verdicts. But when you are a family lawyer representing clients through a divorce, they probably are less excited by the dollars and cents they may need to pay their soon-to-be-ex-spouse to fully divide their property. So, if you are looking for a few digital marketing tactics just for you as a family lawyer, then keep reading.
What Sets Family Law Apart?
What largely sets family law apart from other specialties is the type of client you are serving. First and foremost, you are generally dealing with someone that is going through a high-stress situation.
While many legal issues are stressful, the stress of family law matters is likely even higher than other run-of-the-mill cases. Instead, these people are dealing with highly emotional situations, such as divorce from their spouses, waging custody battles over their children, coping with the trauma of domestic violence, or facing end-of-life decisions. Sometimes they are managing all of these problems at once. These are clients that often require a greater degree of compassion and empathy than those you deal with in other practice areas. Furthermore, in some circumstances they may even harbor an unusually high level of animosity or resentment towards the opposing party, making resolution of the matter highly contentious.
In addition to the high stress of your client, they are not always going to be repeat customers. You may frequently encounter one-and-done customers. These are clients who likely only need your services once – such as for a single divorce without children or to set up a power of attorney for an aging parent. You may never see these clients again.
This does not mean that you won’t necessarily have frequent fliers. Some people have multiple custody and support issues that pop up throughout their child’s upbringing or may experience various familial issues where you become their go-to attorney.
However, even if you help the same client repeatedly – such as through two, three, four, or more divorces – it is still unlikely that those representations occur in back-to-back months or even years. Instead, there is probably some time between each representation in which you need to find new clients.
Another key distinction between family law and other practice areas is the level of competition within the practice area. Family law matters are common. There is always someone that will need a family law attorney.
This also means that there are lots of lawyers practicing family law, whether they be general practitioners who happen to take family cases or dedicated family law specialists. An abundance of lawyers means increased competition for the same pool of business. You need to be aware of this competition when creating your marketing strategy.
Tip 1: Share Everything You Have To Offer
When you develop your website and update your profiles on the various lawyer directories, you want to make sure you are marketing the full range of services you provide. Unfortunately, many lawyers often fall into the trap of assuming that “family law” and a few key services, like divorce and child custody, are enough to reach their potential clients.
However, many clients only think in terms of their specific problem, such as “I need a child parenting agreement.” They are not necessarily thinking of the different types of lawyers who can provide that service.
This means that you need to highlight the many different services you provide. Of course, you want to list the basics, such as alimony, child custody, child support, divorce, etc. However, also think of the more niche issues you handle.
Do you take grandparents’ rights cases or represent non-traditional families? Do you help with adoption matters? Do you handle appeals? Are you a family mediation specialist? Do you write prenuptial agreements? What about powers of attorney or wills? Highlight them all on the services page of your website and all of your attorney profiles.
Tip 2: Prioritize Local Marketing
Local marketing matters for most practice areas but is crucial for family lawyers. When your potential client searches for a divorce attorney, you want her to find you. Your local clients likely want a lawyer near them. They do not necessarily want to drive an hour or two (or more) to get assistance with their family matter.
Start by fully optimizing your Google My Business (GMB) profile. This includes completing your GMB profile set-up and updating your information. Make sure your core name, address, and phone number (NAP) are correct. Link your profile to your website. Choose the correct categories that describe your practice. Set your hours and pick your primary location(s). Update your attributes, such as any Accessibility information, required Appointments, or Health & Safety measures undertaken in response to COVID-19. Finally, add pictures and videos to your listing. Once you have updated this profile, make sure you keep it up to date.
After optimizing your GMB profile, you want to focus on your lawyer directory profiles. Various lawyer directories offer free profiles, such as our Justia Lawyer Directory, and other lawyer directories, including Avvo, FindLaw, LawLink, Lawyers.com, and Martindale. On these directories, you want to ensure that your NAP is consistent with your GMB listing. You also want to complete your profile fully so that it is more useful for your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, as well as any potential client who views your listing. Remember, vary your biography on these different profiles so that you don’t inadvertently hurt your SEO ranking by creating duplicate content issues.
You should also update other local business directories. You can leverage services like WhiteSpark and Yext to help you fully optimize your NAP data in these local business directories across the web.
Make a concerted effort to get reviews and testimonials. These are the new word-of-mouth advertising online. Ninety percent of consumers read online reviews before they decide to visit a business and 88% of consumers trust those reviews like they would a personal recommendation. This means that positive reviews can work wonders in generating leads for your firm.
You will want to solicit Google Reviews, as these will be most prominent in the Google search results. You will also want to keep an eye out for reviews on Bing Places, as well as Yelp. You can get reviews on some lawyer directories, such as the Justia Lawyer Directory and Avvo, and various social media sites.
Once you have started receiving reviews on the different platforms, be sure to monitor your reviews. You will want to flag fraudulent reviews to initiate an investigation process. If you receive negative reviews, you will want to react accordingly to mitigate any potential harm. We have some tips for managing your reviews in this post.
Gathering testimonials for your website is also important. This allows visitors to your site to connect with real clients who have worked with you before. It increases their confidence in your abilities when they see satisfied former clients. Furthermore, these (and your other online reviews) are great for overall digital reputation management purposes.
Tip 3: Build Helpful Content and Answers
You want to build out original, quality content on your website that will be helpful to the types of clients you serve. This means creating evergreen content that helps people faced with divorce, custody issues, and other family law matters in your jurisdiction. You can share this content on practice area-specific sections of your site, landing pages, or even your blog.
This content is good for SEO – which helps you perform better in search engine results – and also helps establish your authority and expertise in this area of the law and promotes trust with potential clients.
Remember, regardless of where you post this content (your site, a blog, or somewhere else) make sure you keep it up to date if the law in your area changes. Otherwise, you will be undermining your efforts to help clients and build trust.
You also should consider adding FAQs to your website if you have not already done so. This is a prime area for answering some of the most common questions you receive as a family attorney. It is likely to be a high-traffic section of your site for people looking for a simple answer (who are great potential clients) and these snippets of information are also good for SEO.
Finally, you will want to participate in various Q&A forums online. Answering questions in these forums help you reach clients who have a legal question now and helps you continue to reach clients searching for similar answers in the future. Similar to creating quality content, giving good answers on Q&A forums allows you to build your authority on the subject matter and boost your reputation.
As discussed above, your clients need to be able to find you when they are looking for a family lawyer. This means you are shooting for first-page visibility on Google.
You know there are multiple ways to appear on that first results page of Google: the local pack, the organic listings, and, of course, paid ads. While you can prioritize SEO in an effort to increase your organic ranking and can implement strategies to help your performance in local search, only paid ads to allow you to offer money in exchange for the opportunity to get that top spot.
Furthermore, the Google results page seems to consistently have an increased percentage of paid ads relative to organic search visibility. Even if you otherwise have great organic visibility, adding paid ads to your marketing plan helps you adjust your marketing strategy to this reality.
LSAs (Local Services Ads) are sponsored advertisements that appear at the top of the search results. These relatively new ads have the benefit of achieving the “Google Screened” designation and incorporating a law firm’s Google reviews. Another unique benefit of LSAs is that they are pay-per-lead, instead of pay-per-click (PPC). This means you only pay when you get a phone call or text message contact from your ad. With LSAs, you can decide to target states, counties, cities, or individual zip codes.
You can also leverage PPC ads to reach more clients. These are the ads that display the above search results but after any LSAs. Notably, LSAs do not appear for all search terms, so traditional PPC Ads may sometimes appear in the top spot of the search results.
To set up a PPC campaign, you will not only need to develop ad text and landing pages and optimize the campaign but also need to choose keywords that you will bid on. Each time someone searches for those words, a behind-the-scenes auction will occur to determine which ads are shown to the searcher.
You likely want to bid on the keywords that most directly describe your practice, such as a family lawyer. However, you do not want to stop there. In family law, you are likely to have potential clients that do not necessarily think of the lawyer they need as a family lawyer. Instead, these clients are thinking through a narrower lens.
For example, if your potential client has a child custody issue, they may search for a family lawyer. However, they are also very likely to search for a custody attorney. If someone needs a divorce, they are likely to Google the term “divorce lawyer”. Thus, you want to make sure you think beyond just “family lawyer” and bid on keywords that more closely describe the common issues you deal with.
You can also reach more local clients with your search ads by targeting them within a certain radius of your office or defining narrow geographical regions that you would like to reach while excluding locations that are outside of the sphere in which you practice.
Tip 5: Make Contacting You Easy
You want to ensure that it is very easy for your potential clients to contact you. When they decide they are ready to call a family law attorney, you do not want them to reach out to a competitor.
Make sure your NAP is consistent and accurate across your entire digital presence, from GMB to social media, directory profiles, and your website. You do not want a potential client to find an out-of-date or disconnected phone number when they want to call you now. Also, if you offer extended hours where someone is available by phone this is a great benefit to promote to potential clients.
Consider implementing a chatbot or live chat form on your website. This helps potential clients feel like there is someone they can talk to now who is ready and willing to help them start working towards a resolution.
Make contact forms prominent in various locations on your website. You can also include a Call to Action (CTA) on every page of your website. This CTA can be a small button in the navigation or some other prominent place that says something as simple as “Contact Us” and links to a contact form or allows your phone number to pop up for a mobile user when clicked.
Consider including a contact form (or perhaps a V-Card) on the biography pages of your law firm website. If a potential client decides your law firm is a good fit for his matter after reviewing the background of a certain attorney, then it is easy for him to reach out at that time.
Remember, if you include actual email addresses on your website, you are increasing the odds that you will receive spam at your law firm account.
Finally, consider offering free consultations or inexpensive strategy sessions where you can discuss the core legal matter facing your potential client. These types of meetings grab the attention of prospective clients who are still unsure about hiring an attorney. Having this type of personalized session is more likely to convert them from a prospect to a new client. Advertise these sessions clearly on your website and directory profiles. Bonus points if you offer these consultations via video conferencing!
Final Thoughts: Why Do You Care?
No one wants to waste their time and money on meaningless marketing. Instead, you want to be sure you are allocating your digital marketing resources to strategies that are tailored for your firm. Marketing your family law practice has a slight nuance to it that makes it different from marketing other types of law firms.
Most attorneys in private practice are employed by small law firms, defined as those with fewer than 20 lawyers. The majority work in even smaller firms. Almost half of all lawyers in private practice are solo practitioners. Another 20 percent are employed by firms of 10 attorneys or fewer, according to the American Bar Association’s 2016 Lawyer Demographics report. Employment in a small law firm presents a unique set of advantages.
Your Work May Be More Varied
Lawyers in small law firms are often generalists and engage in challenging, varied work across a broad spectrum of practice areas. This can be a marked contrast to the high degree of specialization seen in many large law firms. The exception for small firms is the boutique law firm, which usually focuses its practice on a specific, niche area of law.
Small Law Firms Offer Flexible Work Schedules
The cozy, adaptable environment of a small law firm can lend itself to more flexible work schedules among lawyers and staff. There may be fewer hands to contribute to those inevitable all-hands-on-deck emergencies that mark some areas of law, but a sense of camaraderie and teamwork often provides balance.
Small Law Firms Offer Flexible Work Schedules
The cozy, adaptable environment of a small law firm can lend itself to more flexible work schedules among lawyers and staff. There may be fewer hands to contribute to those inevitable all-hands-on-deck emergencies that mark some areas of law, but a sense of camaraderie and teamwork often provides balance.
You’ll Gain More Hands-On Experience
New attorneys and paralegals may perform more substantive legal tasks with less supervision than their mega-firm counterparts because the staff is more limited in a small law firm. This may lead to more errors that could put the law firm at risk unless safeguards in place, but it generally produces a faster-paced learning environment.
You’ll Have Significant Client Contact
Associates in small law firms may operate with greater autonomy and have more client contact than those working in large law firms where client contact is often reserved for more senior lawyers. This situation might be your ideal if you’re a people person and enjoy one-on-one contact with those you’re helping.
Small Law Firms Offer Informal, Relaxed Atmospheres
Unlike more conservative mega-firms, the small firm culture is often more relaxed. Dress codes are less formal, and socializing among employees is often more common, from major events like a daughter’s wedding to Friday evening happy hours. Everyone knows each other on a first-name basis in a small law firm, which can foster friendly, comfortable working relationships.
Small Law Firms Have Abbreviated Partnership Tracks
The road to partnership in a small firm may be shorter than that of a large law firm because there are fewer attorneys and layers of management. This can be particularly advantageous if you prefer a faster track to success.
With fewer employees vying for assignments, promotions, and a slice of the profits, legal professionals in small law firms face less in-house competition than their big-firm counterparts.
Small law firm employees can more easily prove their worth to those in power, making it simpler to garner recognition and reward.
You’ll Have Greater Input Into Firm Processes and Management
Working for a small law firm may allow legal professionals greater control in the direction and management of their firms. Hierarchies are often less carved in granite, so senior partners may be more willing to hear suggestions and opinions from staff.
Best practices for family lawyers: from how to work with clients, excel in the field, & grow your practice to the value of acquiring complementary designations.
Family law is often overlooked as a weighty and important area of practice, but the truth is that it is a vital and complicated legal area. Think of the fact that when people marry or start a relationship they believe it is forever. Sadly, approximately half of all marriages end in divorce. This is not even counting the many relationships that fail without marriage but leave children to be dealt with after the breakup or a one-night stand.
Everyone is unhappy in a divorce and it can be one of the most stressful and traumatic events in one’s life. Some psychologists rank divorce among the worst possible events, second only to the death of a child or spouse. Divorces are difficult. Whether settled out of court, through mediation, or through a trial, a divorce can result in the following scenarios:
Parents spend 50% or less of their time with their children.
If one parent is paying child support and the other is receiving it, both sides are often dissatisfied with the amount; one feels that it is too little and the other feels that it is too much.
Similarly, if spousal support is ordered, the recipient feels that it is too little and the payor believes that they are paying too much (especially since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act removed the tax deduction for spousal support)
Spouses must divide marital debts as well as property
There is a tremendous emotional cost to every divorce or custody battle.
Attorney fees can be a delicate issue. Although usually untrue, many clients feel that they got a lousy deal and could have achieved the same result without having to pay for a lawyer.
Best Practices for Family Lawyers: Family Law Requires Broad and Deep Expertise
Do you outsource portions of your family law cases because you lack the experience or training to complete them yourself? Do yourself and your clients a favor by taking relevant seminars and courses and acquiring designations outside the law arena, such as:
Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®)
Certified QDRO Specialist (CQS)
High Conflict Institute (HCI)
If you find yourself regularly dealing with high-conflict people (clients, their ex-spouses, or even opposing counsel in some cases), consider registering for webinars and online courses from the HCI.
To excel in the divorce arena, an attorney must have a wide variety of legal know-how and must be versed in a diverse array of legal principles that go beyond divorce, custody, and support laws. A divorce attorney must also be familiar with:
Real estate law. Not only to deal with the marital home, but also to deal with investment property, commercial real estate, or a family farm in some cases.
Business and corporate law. This can be very important, especially in high-asset divorces where one spouse must be compensated for the marital portion of a family business or multiple business entities.
Tax law. Also, being able to read a spreadsheet, balance sheet, or a complicated tax return – whether business or personal – can be critical in many cases.
Retirement assets (including Social Security). Some divorces will involve gifts, inheritances, or tort claims.
Family trusts and wills. These could be key issues, especially when property has been accumulated over generations.
Ante- and postnuptial agreements.
Criminal law and personal protection orders. Domestic violence and alcohol or drug abuse are increasingly important factors in many divorce cases.
Consider the Divorce Variables
Every divorce will have numerous variables that can impact it to a greater or lesser degree. The first variable to consider is the reason the client (or their spouse) is seeking a divorce. The second is the client’s personality, outlook, and ability to make reasonable, intelligent decisions. The third the other spouse’s personality, reasoning, and idiosyncrasies. The fourth is the attorneys: how competent each one is, their personality, and attitude. The fifth variable is the judge: their personality, attitude, and biases.
Combined with these variables are several other factors that have an impact on the result. A wide variety of experts can be crucial. These can include therapists involved in counseling or psychological evaluations, or guardians for the children, or a “friend of the court.”
Where there are businesses, you will likely need to bring in a forensic accountant to help with a business evaluation or to establish true income for a self-employed spouse. There can be real estate appraisers for both commercial and residential real estate. Appraisers may be needed for art, jewelry or antiques, as well as collectibles. There can also be vocational experts, certified divorce financial analysts, and financial advisors.
Some divorcing clients prefer to work with mediators, arbitrators, or a collaborative divorce team in order to avoid court; the process they choose is another variable in a divorce case.
Best Practices for Family Lawyers: Tips for the Initial Consultation
Do not oversell a case. There will be problems when you cannot deliver what you promised.
Remember that the potential client is evaluating you just as you are evaluating them.
Block off plenty of time for a new client’s initial consultation; never make them feel rushed or unimportant.
Do not take phone calls or allow interruptions during the consultation.
Answer questions honestly. If you do not know the answer, say so and tell the client that you will look into the issue.
Elicit as much information as possible so that you have a good grasp of the case and potential problems at the end of the consultation.
Discuss fees, including how time is billed for phone calls, office work, e-mails as well as work done by other members of your staff.
Always present a written retainer agreement to new clients.
Provide the potential client with an outline and overview of the process as well as what to expect.
If you think there are potential problems, let the client know about them.
Beware of “shoppers”; some unscrupulous people will try to eliminate all of the leading attorneys by conflicting them out with a perfunctory initial client interview.
Similarly, do not become a potential client’s fourth or fifth attorney if you can avoid it. I was the first attorney on an infamous case where the client ultimately ended up going through more than 16 attorneys. In some divorces, there are personality issues or a breakdown of the attorney-client relationship – however, there is almost always a problem with a client who hires and fires his or her attorneys regularly.
If you have a team working with you, have the potential client meet the other attorneys or paralegals who will be working with you on their case.
Best Practices for Family Lawyers: Working with Your Client During the Case
Timely communication is critical, so try to return all phone calls the same day. Surveys have shown that most clients expect to have a phone call returned within three hours. If that is not possible, instruct your staff to apologize and explain that there will be a delay in returning their call due to court or other pressing matters. Respond to all e-mails and texts in a timely fashion as well.
Document everything, copying clients on all correspondence including letters, e-mails, pleadings, and any other information that is part of the case.
Face-to-face meetings during a divorce or custody battle can help to reassure distraught clients.
Divorces go in stops and starts. Sometimes there may be weeks or even months where little is happening. Check in with your client to make sure that he or she knows what is going on.
If there are court appearances or hearings, make sure that the client is prepared. It goes without saying that you must be prepared, too.
In court, be succinct. Judges do not want a long-winded presentation that never gets to the point. Pleadings and oral arguments should spell out what you want for your client and why.
Your client should be present at all court appearances if possible. This is important for four key reasons. First, decisions are often made that are critical to the case and the client must be involved. Second, if the motion goes well it is important for the client to see that. Third, if things do not go well the client must be there so that there is no third-hand information and so that you can do damage control. Finally, it sends a poor message to the judge if your client is not there.
Have your client keep a diary or journal to develop a case history as events unfold.
Have a closing letter at the end of each case and or a final meeting to go through any remaining issues and make sure that all of your client’s concerns have been addressed.
A well-informed client will be able to make more educated decisions throughout the divorce process. Always remember that the client must live with the results for many years – perhaps for the rest of their lives – so you want to help them make the best possible choices during the process.
Building Your Family Law Practice
Unlike other areas of the law, family law practice has few, if any, institutional clients. Thus, a family practice must “reinvent the wheel” every day: every time we finalize a divorce or other family law matter, we have to replace that client or case with a new one. The goal is to build a broad network for future referrals – and that requires satisfied clients. Remember that a satisfied client can help to build your practice while an unhappy client can do damage to your practice.
Don’t forget that your clients are real people with real problems, and some may be scared to death about what the future holds. Listening to a client’s issues with empathy rather than a tunnel-vision focus on the facts has been shown to increase client satisfaction – and the likelihood of positive reviews and referrals.
Work hard on every case and referrals will follow.
Maintain a regular blog on your website and/or on a top-ranked divorce blog such as DivorceMag.com/blog.
Write articles for or pitch story ideas to your local media. Establish yourself as their “go-to” expert for all family law and divorce-related stories.
Network and find opportunities to market in areas that are underserved.
Join a country club or other social organization and practice your “elevator speech” to let people know what you do in a succinct statement.
Give seminars and lectures, and attend seminars and lectures. Keep up to date on state and federal laws pertaining to divorce.
Network with other professionals who deal with clients in possible need of a divorce. Possible resources can include accountants, therapists, financial planners, realtors, and even people who run your local fitness club.
A Team Approach to Family Law
A “divorce team” might consist of secretaries, paralegals, as well as attorneys with complementary expertise. But you should consider including a therapist or divorce coach as well for three reasons:
A therapist can determine if a marriage can be saved.
If the marriage cannot be salvaged, a therapist or coach can help the client work through their emotions so that they are able to recognize a good settlement proposal when they see it.
A therapist or coach can help a client move on from their divorce and provide a support system going forward.
Cultivate relationships with financial professionals – forensic accountants, valuators, etc. – to call on for high-stakes or financially complex cases.
Include other experts on your team as needed; do not hesitate to seek outside advice early and often, so that there is still plenty of time to prepare for all contingencies.
Best Practices for Family Lawyers: Problem-Solving vs. Scorched-Earth Family Law Attorneys
More and more attorneys litigate with a “take no prisoners” attitude; they will shade the truth to get an unfair advantage for their clients. But in a family law practice, more so than other practices, reputation is critical. For this reason, in family law, a scorched earth tactic is wrong and harmful. Thoughtful representation is a better approach. For example, you should remind your clients that, as parents, they will have an ongoing relationship with their ex-spouse regardless of how the case resolves. Having a working relationship with their ex-spouse will be necessary to raise their children long after the dust has settled.
In the long run, being a problem-solving attorney rather than one who antagonizes the other side will make you and your family law practice more successful.
Practicing law is a very serious business. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot about it that’s quite interesting, fun, and even sometimes funny.
Every once in a while, it is a good idea to step away from the solemnity of it all and think about the lighter side of our business. Accordingly, we’ve compiled the top 10 fun facts about lawyers and the practice of law.
#1: How many lawyers does it take?
There are currently 1.34 million lawyers in the United States. The entire population of the U.S. is 327,522,508. That means that there is roughly one lawyer for every 240 people in this country. With numbers like that, you wouldn’t think it would be so hard to find clients.
#2: The first lady … lawyer
The first woman in U.S. history to become a lawyer was an Iowan named Arabella Mansfield. She had to sue the State Bar of Iowa in order to sit for its bar exam – a privilege that had been exclusively reserved for males. Born in 1844, Ms. Mansfield passed the bar exam and was admitted to the Iowa Bar in 1869. Though the law had always been the province of men, women began to study and teach the law during Ms. Mansfield’s era because so many men were called off to fight in the Civil War.
#3: Out of the mouths of babes
Nearly 150 years later, another female is poised to shatter barriers within the practice of law. A 15-year old girl from Ohio named Danya Hamad is reportedly on track to become the youngest lawyer currently practicing in the United States. Ms. Hamad has modest goals. In her own words, “My goal is to become the youngest lawyer in America and from there I want to change the world.”
She will not, however, be the youngest lawyer to ever practice law in the States. That distinction belongs to a man named Stephen Baccus who graduated from Miami Law in 1986.
#4: That’s not fair
Since 2002, the Institute for Legal Reform has surveyed corporate litigators and senior executives to rank the litigation climate in each state within the U.S. The survey is aimed at determining the reasonableness and fairness of litigation practices. The five states that rank as the most reasonable and fair? South Dakota, Vermont, Idaho, Minnesota, and New Hampshire. And the least? Florida, California, Illinois, Missouri, and Louisiana.
#5: Any correlation?
Interestingly, the state that was determined to have the most fairness and reasonableness in its litigation climate nearly has the fewest number of lawyers per capita of any state. Only Arizona and South Carolina have fewer attorneys per capita than South Dakota, which boasts just 22.2 lawyers for every 10,000 residents.
In case you’re wondering, the District of Columbia has the highest number of lawyers per capita. In fact, Washington, D.C. has 788.1 lawyers per 10,000 residents.
#6: Who said lawyers are dramatic?
There are a surprising number of celebrities who attended law school. Among them are John Cleese (Monty Python), Geraldo Rivera, Ben Stein, Gerard Butler, Jerry Springer, Ozzie Nelson (Ozzie & Harriet), Jeff Cohen (Goonies), and John Saviano (The Wonder Years). Imagine having your closing argument delivered by Geraldo and Jerry Springer!
#7: Worth their weight in gold
Lawyers in America earn vastly different salaries depending on where they live. While top attorneys are reportedly charging upwards of $1,500 per hour, that is certainly not the norm. Across the country, lawyer salaries are highly dependent on location.
The highest wages for lawyers are, not surprisingly, earned in California, New York, and Washington, D.C., where attorneys average $168,693 per year. The lowest wages for lawyers are in Montana, where attorney salaries average $83,330 per year. Per-hour rates also vary wildly within states. For example, in Arizona, attorneys in the Phoenix metropolitan area earn an average of $65.44 per hour, while lawyers across the state average just $49.22 per hour.
#8: How a bill becomes a law
Historically, lawyers dominated the Congressional halls. In fact, in the mid-19th century, nearly 80% of Congressional members were lawyers. Today, however, lawyers account for fewer than 40% of Congress people. History will tell us how that trend impacted lawmaking but the final analysis should be fascinating.
#9: Lawyering isn’t for everyone
Practicing law is such a labor of love. Law school isn’t easy, passing the bar exam isn’t easy, and practicing law is probably the hardest thing of all. Perhaps not surprisingly then, lawyers leave the profession all the time. Whether it is to become a pastry chef or a writer (guilty as charged), lawyers seem to find great success in other careers.
#10: They really love us
Perhaps more than any other profession, lawyers seem to be disliked by the public at large. As it turns out, however, they hate us because they envy us. According to one study, the reasons people aren’t fond of lawyers are: (1) they’re smarter than everyone else; (2) they have their own language; (3) they are intimidating; and (4) they’re expensive. Taken separately, those aren’t really bad qualities to possess.