Remember, knowledge is power.
Many attorneys practice what my friend, Kevin, calls “Door Law.” They’ll take whatever walks through the door. This doesn’t necessarily mean that an attorney who practices in many areas, rather than one, is to be avoided. It’s just that an attorney who limits his/her practice to one area is more likely to have handled a case very much like yours before.
With that in mind, here are some questions you may want to consider asking before you fork over your hard-earned cash.
The answer to this question may indicate how much time the law firm has available for your case. You want to have a sense that your calls will be answered. See how courteous the staff is when you make your appointment. This may be a good indication of how you will be treated as a client.
You have a right to know who will be representing you. Will the same attorney be present throughout the case? Many firms take a team approach in order to work more efficiently. Just make sure that you won’t be getting double-billed. Solo practitioners will generally do all the work themselves which leads to the next question.
Most family law cases are billed on an hourly basis. Some firms use flat fees only for uncontested cases and charge hourly for the majority of their cases. Most law firms will ask for a retainer or deposit to be applied to future work. Do not think this is all you will be billed for. This is just to get started. The more time the attorney puts into your case, the more it will cost you.
We bill differently from most firms. Most of our cases are flat fees. You will know after we meet what your case will cost up to a certain stage. The stage where most cases settle. If your case does not settle, then you will be given an estimate for the trial stage of your case. This way, you will know in advance what your case will cost you.
A firm which has handled cases like yours will likely be more efficient and thus more economical for you. Additionally, you should also inquire as to what percentage of the firm’s case load is in family law. The higher the percentage, the more acquainted with the law and the more efficient the firm is likely to be. With us, the answer is 100%. We practice only family law.
Ideally, the attorney should provide a general idea as to how he/she intends to proceed on your behalf. You should be listening for any resolution strategies that are alternatives to trial. Why? Because it will save you money. Ask the attorney if he/she believes in early mediation or settlement conferences. The vast majority of cases reach settlement prior to trial. If your attorney doesn’t mention this in your initial meeting, ask why. Early mediation works well in most cases and should be employed in almost all cases to save you both time and money.
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