How to Choose a Family Lawyer
Legal issues involving families can bring tremendous emotional and financial issues to members, but a family lawyer can offer much needed relief. A lawyer will give you professional advice on how the laws can be applied to your particular situation and work to promote your interests. But as expected, not all lawyers are created equal. So how do you choose the right one?
Areas of Specialization
Do they practice only family law or is it one of a lot of practice areas? In bigger cities, you will find more lawyers with a specific practice niche, but in smaller towns, they will usually practice in a number of areas.
Level of Experience
Experience is just one factor to take into account. Lack of experience is not inevitably a reason not hire a specific lawyer. There are lots of able and competent young attorneys who are passionate with work and who offer great service. However, one question to consider asking them is what support system they have in case they encounter an issue they don’t exactly know how to address.
Prior to meeting with a lawyer, know their hourly rate. Anyone’s budget is different. A first meeting with a family lawyer will often last from one to two hours, depending on the attorney and the nature of the case. When booking a consultation, ask if they will be charge you for it, although in most cases, this is free.
The Retainer Agreement
The lawyer must provide you with a written Retainer Agreement which details the services they must give you, the deposit and fees, and the billing method. Review the Retainer Agreement meticulously before signing it, making sure that you understand it, and asking as many questions as you have. You don’t sign anything yet – yes, you have the right to take the document home with you so you can review it and think long and hard about it.
Be sure that you are aware of the lawyer’s billing practices. Know how often you will be billed (for example, hourly); how often you need to replenish your retainer;how your account statements will be given to you; whether they have payment plans available; and what the consequences will be if fail to pay everything you are billed. Find out how frequently you will be billed (for instance, per hour); how often your retainer must be replenished;how you will receive your account statements; any payment plans available; and the consequences of failing to pay all that you are billed. Find out how often billing is done (by hour, for instance); how often you are expected to replenish your retainer; how you will be given account statements; whether payment plans are offers; and what happens in case you fail to fulfill your financial obligation to your lawyer.
Financial Documents and Other Necessary Paperwork
Finally, when meeting with your lawyer, bring along copies of your last three Income Tax Returns and Notices of Assessment, if any, and of course, proof of your income. You should also bring with you any records of any other assets and debts (for example, credit card statements, bank statements, etc.