Choosing The Correct Lawyer
Choosing the correct lawyer, is one of the most important decisions a person
dealing with the break-up of their marriage or other difficult family
law matters can make. Attorney styles and experience (with fellow attorneys,
the type of case, and the particular court) can dramatically impact not
just the outcome of your case but the manner, cost, and resulting impact
of the litigation on the parties and any children involved. I hope this
page will help guide you in your search for the right attorney for you.
Choose an attorney that is not only capable and competent to handle your
legal matter but also compatible with serving your true overall goals
— and that you get along with. The best attorney for one person's
divorce may be the absolute worst for another.
Keep in mind, at the onset of
family law litigation, you may not be psychologically and emotionally capable of
making the most rational decisions. Nevertheless, it is at this point
that the critical decision of who to retain to assist you must be made.
Other than deferring to friends, parents, and others to assist you in
hiring an attorney (which often results in
their imposed views and desires rather than your own), I recommend that you
consider how your judgment may be clouded in this difficult time and take
a moment to step back from your fear and anxiety, speak openly about your
present concerns, and get a feel of how any attorney you consider helps
you with your issues while you process them yourself. I believe that an
attorney that merely takes and executes marching orders from a distraught
client without counseling as to the short and long term ramification of
such a course of action fails their client.
Consider the following when choosing an attorney:
1. Do you want a specialist or a generalist?
Does the attorney handle cases in a wide variety of practice areas or confine
their practice to one or more concentrations?
Do you want or need a Board Certified Specialist and what does that mean?
Is this evidence of a particular knowledge and experience you need for
your case, or will this merely mean higher fees to you?
2. Does the lawyer have experience with the Court in which your case will be tried?
In smaller counties, judges tend to see the same set of attorneys on a
frequent basis where reputations are created, and the court's tendencies
and local rules become known. Out-of-town attorneys often do not have
the same feel for a judge making it more difficult to advise a client
on what the court tends to do in similar circumstances or how a judge
likes to conduct specific types of hearings. This impact is lessened somewhat
in the larger counties where the volume of attorneys and cases results
in a more standardized approach.
3. If your case involves children or a marriage, is the attorney married
or have children? Is the attorney divorced himself, which may provide
some real life understanding to what you are going through?
Late night feedings, sick children, and balancing family and work have
an entirely different meaning when you have been there yourself. The love
of a parent for their child is impossible to fully understand until felt
yourself. Dealing with the dissolution of a marriage or issues relating
to one's child takes a special personality. Someone that can empathize
with the hardships and identify and address future problems that are likely
to arise. Does the attorney have a viewpoint from which you can discuss
these issues? You don't want to be forced to explain to your attorney
what being married or being a parent is like.
4. Is the lawyer committed to staying current on the law? How much Continuing
Legal Education (CLE) does the attorney attend each year in family law?
To remain a licensed attorney in Texas, one must participate in legal education
each year. This requirement can be met by attending seminars on virtually
any legal subject. Does the attorney take only the minimum number of courses
each year? How much of the attorney's schooling each year regards
family law? This is often a clear indicator of an attorney whose real
practice and interest lies elsewhere. The world's best criminal defense
attorney may be a horrible family law attorney, but often people try to
“do it all”.
Look for attorneys that are members of the College of the State Bar of
Texas. Membership requires that the attorney attend twice the requisite
number of hours of training each year and indicates a commitment to staying
current on the law. However, it remains important to ask what type course
work the attorney regularly attends to ensure that it covers the practice
area at issue.
5. Does the attorney speak directly with you about problems in your case
or make unreasonable promises and expectations?
Beware of lawyers that will only tell you what you want to hear or that
inflame your emotional responses. In hiring a lawyer, you need someone
that will look at your problems objectively and help you accomplish your
goals. Avoid any lawyer that serves merely as a louder mouthpiece for
you – that is just an ineffective and costly bull horn.
6. Are you able to speak freely and comfortably with the attorney? Is the
attorney open to discuss and understand your real concerns and feelings?
You have to feel comfortable with your attorney or you won’t have
the mutual understanding necessary to really convey information and ensure
your interests are pursued. Some attorneys are very cut & dry and
sometimes even terse. I proudly have a reputation as a “hand holder”
and will strive to keep you comfortable and well informed throughout your
lawsuit. Keeping in mind that attorneys generally charge by the hour,
this is a difficult balancing act, but you must look to yourself for what
you need and desire from your attorney: someone to guide and assist you
through the process or someone to merely turn your case over to and allow
them to control its direction.
7. What kind of relationship does the attorney have with his fellow attorneys,
and if known, opposing counsel?
Professional attorneys that are respected and personally liked by other
attorneys can streamline your case, avoid unnecessary skirmishes (saves
money), and more persuasive in the courtroom as the Judges know these
attorneys are only bringing to them that which needs the court’s
assistance to resolve.
8. How does the lawyer charge for legal services and costs?
Make sure you understand how fees are covered. Does the attorney use paralegals
at a lower rate to handle legal work performed under the attorney’s
supervision thereby lowering your fees? Or are you hiring a sole practitioner
who is charging at their attorney billing rate for all work done on your case?
9. If your case is likely to include unique or unusual facts, discuss them
with your attorney. Does the attorney have any experience or knowledge
relating to the issue?
Oftentimes family law matters include mental health issues, drug or alcohol
addictions, financial issues, or domestic violence. Has the attorney ever
dealt with cases involving issues similar to those present in your case?
Does the attorney have any knowledge or training dealing with such issues
or have ideas in how to address them? For example, a working knowledge
and familiarity of the issues likely to arise in your case will assist
your attorney in crafting requests for relief and dealing with these issues
as they arise in a knowledgeable and reason based approach as opposed
to one based on fear, prejudice, and uncertainty. It is also important
that any attorney you speak with be willing to bring in and work with
experts as needed to address specific issues that fall outside their legal
10. Does the attorney typically settle cases without trial or frequently
have to try cases? Is the attorney willing and able to try cases when
Family law is unlike any other area of law. Trial and the actual process
of litigation can often be very damaging to the parties, their family,
and especially children. Does this mean that hearings should be avoided
altogether? No. But when a client's goals can be achieved without
the stress, cost, and emotional strain that hearings and trial create,
I feel it is demanded of the attorney that they find a way to achieve
the client's objectives in this less painful and costly manner. Further,
the advent of alternative dispute resolution and general nature of the
legal process now encourages the resolution of matters without court intervention.
A family law attorney with a record of frequent trials may indicate an
inability to resolve cases that should be settled and should be a warning
sign to a potential client.
Nevertheless, there are cases that have to be tried and anyone going through
a family law matter needs to know their attorney is willing, able, and
competent to try their case when necessary. Sometimes issues arise on
which compromise is impossible either due to the positions of the parties
or by their very nature (e.g. should a child's name be changed or
whether or not a child should be permitted to move across the country).
While some cases demand and require the finalization that can only come
from the conclusion of trial and the court's ruling, I recognize that
many cases may be resolved through means that are less costly both financially
and emotionally. I am trained and have experience as a litigator, in the
Collaborative Law Method, and as a Mediator. My goal is to assist you
in getting not just the final result, but a stable result that will not
hopefully minimize future court intervention in your life. Relying on
my substantial contacts and experience with fellow attorneys, financial,
and mental health professionals I strive to employ the appropriate procedures
and professionals in each case to assist in fulfilling my client's
true long term and holistic goals. Each case and client is unique and
I strive to treat you as such.
Contact me today to make an appointment or for more information on how
I may best serve your needs. I hope this website assists you in making
the very important decision of choosing an appropriate attorney for your
personality, case, family, and self.