Choosing a family law attorney in Raleigh, NC can be a very difficult decision. The right lawyer can make a real difference both in the outcome of your divorce and how you make it through the very emotional process. You want a trusting relationship. You want a lawyer who is serious about your case and listens to your needs. You want a lawyer who moves your case forward to the conclusion. Here are some tips on choosing the right lawyer.
Whether you’re considering a divorce, attempting to work out custody and support issues, planning an adoption or facing another family law issue, choosing the right family law attorney can ease your mind and produce better results. Your lawyer becomes your partner in the process, helping you achieve the outcome you want within the boundaries of the law.
Here are some tips to help you select an attorney whom you can trust, who listens to your needs and who keeps your case moving forward until it is concluded.
Find an attorney you can work with.
Your lawyer will be your partner throughout your case. You may need to confide sensitive or embarrassing information to your attorney – things you would prefer not to tell anyone. You’ll be speaking to your attorney frequently, and you’ll need to be able to provide information and understand your lawyer’s explanations of certain steps in your case or how the law applies in your situation.
Consequently, choosing a lawyer you trust and can communicate with is crucial. While a law firm’s website and other materials provide a good start, don’t base your decision solely on the law firm. Instead, speak to each attorney you’re considering. Ask questions like: Does the attorney have experience with cases like mine? Do they explain things in a way that makes sense to me? Do they answer my questions? Do I feel like I can trust this person?
Interview prospective attorneys with your needs in mind.
When you contact a law firm to speak to a prospective attorney, be as clear as you can about what you’re looking for. Many lawyers will agree to speak to you for no charge so that both of you can determine whether you’ll be a good “fit” for one another.
While speaking to a prospective attorney, keep the following issues in mind:
- Does your personality mesh with the attorneys? No matter how experienced a lawyer is, if you do not get along, your case will be more difficult.
- Communication and promptness. Ask each lawyer how you can contact him or her and how long it will take them to get back to you. Excessive delays or “radio silence” from your lawyer can cause unnecessary aggravation, so choose an attorney who is dedicated to regularly touching base.
- Willingness to work within your budget. It’s important to talk about money, so that you can get the results you need without draining your bank account. Most attorneys are accustomed to discussing fees and costs up front and will appreciate meeting a prospective client who also understands the need to budget wisely.
Ask for advice, but make your own decision.
Asking friends, family members and co-workers to recommend an attorney is one way to collect information about family law attorneys and law firms in your area. Attorney guides like Martindale-Hubbell or Avvo can also point you to local law firms, as can reading law firm websites and reviews.
No matter where you gather your initial information, however, speak to the lawyer before making your decision. Remember that every family, and every family law case, is unique. Your needs are different from the needs of friends or family members, even if they faced a similar problem. Also, remember to take online reviews with a grain of salt. It may be impossible to tell who posted them or what agenda the writer had when they made the post.
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Pick a lawyer, not a law firm.
The most important relationship is not between the law firm and the client, but between the law partner and a client. Seek out a relationship with an individual partner in a firm as your lawyer. Never have a relationship with a law firm — have a relationship with a lawyer. Make it that partner’s responsibility to manage your case. If your case is passed off to an associate, demand an explanation and demand to know the associate’s experience. If the law partner that drew you to the law firm wants to pass off your case to an associate, then you should be thinking about another firm. Ask the lawyer you meet with this question: “Will you be handling my case?”
Ask yourself: “Do I like this lawyer?”
You must be able to get along with your lawyer. The initial interview is as much about deciding if you can have a working relationship with your attorney as it is finding out about how the law applies to your case. If the lawyer you are meeting with is abrasive, distracted, disorganized, or acts in any other way that does not give you confidence, consider how you will feel later on in the case if you chose this lawyer.
Demand expertise and experience.
It used to be common for North Carolina lawyers to handle all manner of cases from divorce to traffic to real estate. More and more lawyers are limiting their practice to specific fields, including family law. You would not go to a general practitioner for open-heart surgery, and you should be very hesitant about going to a lawyer who does not limit his or her practice to family law matters if you need a divorce.
Fees: Don’t give your lawyer a blank check.
You should be able to get a very good idea of the cost of your case from your Wake County lawyer. Ask if there is an option for a flat fee so you will know what the case will cost you. Unless a lawyer can offer you a flat fee option, you have no way of knowing how much legal representation will cost.
Settlement and litigation.
Settlement and litigation are two sides of the same coin. Most family law cases settle out of court. Some do not. You need a lawyer that is equally comfortable in settlement negotiations and the courtroom. Ask your lawyer what training and experience he or she has had in family law negotiations, mediation, and collaborative law. Ask your lawyer if he or she has the experience to handle your case in court should attempt at settlement fail.