As a current member of the Utah Bar, and as a Divorce Lawyer, I can tell you that attorneys attempt to contribute to their community and routinely volunteer at my local Bar Association as an arbitrator of attorney\client fee disputes. This practice provides valuable insight into problems, un-met expectations and over-expectations consumers have with the divorce lawyers they hire. With this experience I offer this first in a series of guideline articles on hiring a divorce attorney.
Keep in mind that the engagement of a divorce lawyer is formally known as the establishment of an “attorney – client relationship”. The operative word in the foregoing description being: relationship. Like any relationship the key to success is good and open communication.
A threshold question is where do I find my divorce lawyer? A good place to start is with your local bar association. It is usually a good idea to engage a divorce lawyer located in Utah and who is certified as a specialist by the state bar association. It is well advised to have a local practitioner so that the lawyer is familiar with the Utah judges, commissioners, local rules, standards and practices. It is important to have a certified specialist so as to avoid a “dabbler”. The state bar association only certifies specialists who have demonstrated their expertise and pledged to more rigorous continuing legal education standards. Lawyers who go this extra mile give some assurance that they are dedicated to family law, know their stuff and keep current on developments. A dabbler is the lawyer who will take the occasional family law case to fill time or in the hope that it leads to a more lucrative engagement. Such lawyers should not be entrusted with the very serious issues of your family situation.
HOW TO CHOOSE A DIVORCE ATTORNEY
By all means check out your attorney selection in online review sites. Although these sites are not the end all and be all, they are often useful in seeing the experience of other legal service consumers. Pay careful attention to negative reviews and indications that the lawyer may not have communicated well. Of course, your lawyer is not the guarantor of results and a negative review may reflect unreasonable expectations, but it is generally a good idea to see how the community feels about a given divorce attorney.
Before deciding on your divorce attorney you should interview at least 4 lawyers. I am of the opinion that the best divorce lawyers will allow a 30 minute free consultation to meet with prospective clients. Even many high priced San Francisco divorce attorneys are amenable to brief meetings. If your prospective divorce attorney insists upon being paid for even a short interview, consider yourself forewarned that this lawyer insists upon being compensated for any and all time expended in their professional life.
Talk with your prospective candidate. Ask them questions about your situation and listen carefully to their response. As strange as this may sound, make certain that they are speaking to you in a language you understand and in a manner to which you are receptive. As a law student one is immersed in an entirely new lexicon and learns the specialized language and terms of art that are required to practice law. Many lawyers delight in wowing their clients with their knowledge and speak to them in a manner that is – consciously or unconsciously – calculated to be impressive and somewhat unintelligible to a lay person. By this artifice they hope to establish their superiority and make you feel that they must be really smart since you can’t understand what they are saying. Don’t be fooled. If you can’t understand what they are trying to tell you, it’s their failure – not yours. Their job is to guide and assist you. There is nothing so mysterious about your situation or the law related to it that it can’t be explained in plain English. If you don’t feel that you are receiving clear and direct communication, keep looking.
Ask your proposed lawyer their policy on phone calls. Over and over the chief complaint I hear when serving as a fee arbitrator is that the lawyer didn’t return phone calls. If the lawyer tells you that it is her policy to return calls within a set time, make certain that provision is written into the attorney/client fee agreement.
Smart lawyers and smart litigants focus as early as possible on establishing the facts associated with the marital estate and moving the parties as quickly as possible to a mutually agreeable stipulation as to the property, support and child custody/visitation issues. If the lawyer you are interviewing is a “flamethrower” and starts talking about the battle to come and their “no prisoners” policy – don’t walk away – run. Such an attitude nets you nothing, but does amply support that lawyer’s retirement fund.
The advice I offer is that when you are searching for a divorce lawyer, you should broaden your search and first consider a divorce lawyer/mediator. These professionals serve to avoid costly battles and move the parties to a negotiated agreement within the parameters of the law. Such a service is much less costly and far more effective than the traditional litigated divorce scenario.
Free Consultation with Divorce Attorneys in Salt Lake City
If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will fight for you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506
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