If your marriage is over, you’ll need to understand your legal rights and options during all phases of divorce. Even if your divorce will be simple, the most reliable way to get the information you need to win your case is through the advice of a qualified attorney. We can help you with choosing the right divorce attorney for your unique situation.
Start choosing the right divorce attorney by asking in person and online
When you begin looking for attorneys, you’ll likely get some recommendations from friends and family, which is great. But after those names, you’ll probably start hunting for the right divorce attorney by using search engines for family law attorneys in your town.
When you do online searches, remember that a lot of factors play into internet search results, factors that don’t have anything to do with the effectiveness of a particular attorney. Like all searches, you’ll get pages of hits for attorneys. So, make sure you look past the first page of results to find those that may be winning attorneys, but not have the strongest online presence.
When you are staring at your google search results for attorneys in your area, choosing where to start can be difficult.
Will your divorce be stupid simple – or gut-clenching complex?
Take quick stock of your situation. Is your divorce going to be easy or complicated? Here are some factors that will drive any divorce to high complexity:
- Kids are involved
- Disagreement over custody and visitation
- Length of the marriage
- High amount and value of joint property
- Demands for alimony
If you don’t have kids, you weren’t married very long and you and your wife already agree on a property split, then your divorce will be pretty straightforward and simple.
If your responses, however, start moving to the other extreme, especially if there are several areas of bitter disagreement, your divorce will take some work.
Once you understand the complexity of your legal situation, think about the finances. How much can you afford? Are you so dug into your position on hot button issues that you are willing to slug it out in court for as long as it takes? Time in court equals mounting legal fees for your attorney, and if you lose a nasty battle, you may end up paying your wife’s legal fees as well. Keep your budget in mind when choosing the right divorce attorney for your case.
Now that you have an idea what you’re up against, you can better evaluate the level of experience you will need.
What You Need To Know About Legal Experience
Age and experience are not rock solid measures for an attorney’s performance. You want an attorney with a winning record. Furthermore, there is no correlation between age and experience; one doesn’t equal the other. There’s no natural law that makes all older attorneys as good as Matlock and all younger ones nervous fools or ambulance chasers. Experience levels can help with the initial narrowing down of your search, based on some common assumptions when compared to the complexities of your situation.
At this point, you’ve got a list of lawyers, you know where your divorce falls on a complexity scale, and you have an idea of the budget. Let’s take this knowledge and look at experience. For illustration purposes, we will describe levels of attorney experience like we would for a plumber, by creating three categories of experience based on years in practice: Apprentice (less than 5), Journeyman (5-20), and Master (more than 20). These category names are not used among attorneys, but are familiar to the rest of us.
Apprentice Attorneys (less than 5 Years)
These attorneys are fresh out of law school and have passed the bar. They are usually eager to gain experience and often offer lower hourly rates than the other categories. They are likely very up to date on technology, so their website may have lots of useful information available for you. They may be much more accessible, and easier to reach if you need to talk.
For apprentice experience level attorneys, their strengths are low cost, energy, and communications. You will also find that with their newness, and the associated small number of clients, they are very responsive to your requests and work your case often. Their weakness, though, is experience. There is a good chance your case’s nuances are the first time they’ve actually worked those details. One of the most important sub-factors for experience is how well the attorney knows your region’s interpretation of state law and the local application.
The time to use this level of experience is like hiring a plumber for bathroom repair. Use them when your issue is simple, but a total, complicated bathroom overhaul is probably not best suited for a brand new plumber. So look at your complexity. Consider this attorney category when your complexity is low. Your budget, though, may force you into helping a new attorney gain experience.
Journeyman Attorneys (5 to 20 Years)
This experience level rests with the attorneys that have worked past the newness of practicing law. They have some experience in the local family court, the judges recognize them, and other attorneys in the area have heard of them. It is within this range that all the attorneys work well and build their practice. As their practice grows, along with their experience, their rate usually grows as well.
The journeyman attorneys share the strengths of the apprentice, though the similarities in these areas begin to drop as their experience grows along with their number of clients. The journeyman will become less responsive as they are now juggling clients.
You do gain a good compromise with this level of attorney. While they may cost more, they have seen your case’s complexities before and will have good strategies for winning your case.
Master Attorneys (20+ Years)
Here finally we find Matlock. Everyone in town will know this attorney. Odds are the local family court judges have worked directly with the Master before taking their position as a judge. The Master level attorneys definitely know the ins and outs of your local system. They should have a history of winning in court.
This experience does not come for free. This level of experience is usually the highest rate in town. These attorneys are expensive, and in demand. They will not be as readily available as a less busy attorney. You may be assisted by paralegals and will usually have to arrange an appointment to speak with your attorney.
The fees for a master attorney will be the highest, and complex cases may require billed paralegal time as well, at a much lower rate. Your legal fees can add up quickly in a contentious case.
Remember – It’s All About Results
Having the right attorney is critical to winning your divorce case. You’ll need to take the time to research the attorney, their experience, and their history of winning cases. Don’t just go with a friend’s recommendation, because their case may not be as complex as yours or your personalities may not match.
Take the time to understand the uniqueness of your case and its complexity. When you understand your complexity along with your budget, you can quickly narrow your search into the right category for you to help reach a manageable pool from which to choose.
Have you been there, done that? How did you choose your winning divorce attorney? Tell us what you would say to the next guy in the comments below!
For more pointers on choosing the right divorce attorney, check out The Ultimate Guyvorce Guide to Divorce Lawyers for Men. Worried about those legal fees? Andy Nathan has an off-beat solution with 6 Tips for Crowdfunding Your Divorce.
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