Firstly, Happy summer and I hope you are enjoying our beautiful – hot – weather!
So you’ve decided to take the big step of making an appointment with a divorce lawyer, as we discussed in my recent blog: “Does having a first meeting with a divorce lawyer mean that your marriage is over?” Now, how do you choose whom you will meet with? Ways include:
- Do a Google Search:
Joan (from my above blog) does a Google search using search words which deal with her objectives, for example the words “family law,” “family mediation,” “collaborative family law.”
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
Beware of using SEO as the only way to choose the lawyer with whom you’ll meet. Be careful to widen your search further than the lawyers who come up on page 1 of a Google search! The lawyers’ prime position on Google search may have everything to do with their SEO expert’s ‘expertise‘ and much less to do with their legal skills! I suggest you take the time to do your research, and scroll past page 1 of the Google list, to pages 2, 3, 4 and so on, to find the lawyer who feels right for you.
- Read the blogs and other information on the lawyer’s websites. They will provide helpful information for you, not just about the law but also about the lawyer. My objective when creating my website was to provide clear and informative information for people going through separation or divorce.
In the first meeting the lawyer should discuss the various processes one can use when one separates. Mediation is a very important process. If you are interested in using mediation, I recommend that you research before you meet the lawyer whether they are trained in and experienced in mediation. For example, on my website I’ve listed both my mediator credentials (Master’s of Law in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)), plus my family lawyer credentials (my law degree Juris Doctor), plus my 37 years experience in family law and mediation.
Joan chooses three lawyers she found on her Google search who stood out for her. She reads their web sites from “cover to cover.” Joan is quite unique in this: I’m amazed at how many people come to see me without having read my website! Joan decides on one lawyer from the three, who most appeals to her. Her next step is to contact this lawyer, Liz Smith. Joan then prepares her list of questions and concerns and tries to get a good night’s sleep so her head will be clear before the meeting.
- The client who doesn’t know what questions to ask: People are often worried about this when they meet me for the first time. In fact, I reassure them that, in my view, this is an excellent state to be in, as they don’t come with preconceived beliefs of what the law is and how they expect their case will go!
- The Greek Chorus:
Be careful to take “legal advice” from friends, family, and neighbours! While it’s nice that they care about you and want to help you, be careful about taking their advice as the right advice for you. Everyone’s situation is different and unique. The divorce lawyer who follows the methodology of first doing a detailed interview with you to find out the detailed facts plus the emotional dynamics of your particular situation, is the best person to provide you with legal advice for your particular situation!
This method is great; however it’s sometimes difficult because people can’t remember who their lawyer was! My theory is that it’s a part of their life they want to put behind them; therefore they ‘forget’ their lawyer’s name! Also, your issues may be different from your friends’ issues. You need to find a lawyer who is a good fit for you! It may be helpful for you to meet with several lawyers in order to assess that.
Joan knows that she doesn’t have to hire Liz for ongoing work after the initial consultation if she decides to proceed with her separation. (See my above-mentioned blog on this.) This eases the pressure of having to make a decision in this meeting as to whether Liz will be her lawyer on her case.
- “Go with your gut:” is good advice for many important life decisions. It can also apply when choosing one’s family lawyer. I’ve found in my 37 years of practice as a divorce lawyer and mediator, that often when clients decide to hire me “on the spot” after the first meeting, these become the most productive lawyer/client relationships.
- Be careful of the lawyer who tells you only what you want to hear. Family law is not simple; and ‘wishful thinking’ will not get the job done for you! Instead, the lawyer can only advise a client after having thoroughly interviewed her/him regarding the facts and emotions surrounding their situation. See also my blog: “Family law and Divorce matters are 90% Emotional and 10% Law.”
- “Sleep on it:”
When a person meets me for an initial consultation, even though they may tell me at the end of our meeting that they wish to retain me, I usually recommend that they ‘sleep on it.’ Joan, after a good night’s sleep, will read again in detail Liz’s web site, including her background, experience, blogs and articles, credentials, areas of practice and testimonials. If Joan has not been happy with her meeting with Liz, then she has the 2 other lawyers to contact. Then the same steps as above follow.
- In Conclusion:
I hope my article has provided you with helpful tools as to how to choose the lawyer for your initial consultation. Please refer also to my web site, which provides a wealth of relevant information.
Feel free to pass this article on to friends or colleagues who may be ready to take this next step. And finally, just a gentle note that referrals for my divorce or Mediation services are appreciated!
Until next time!
Anne Freed holds a BA (Honours Sociology), JD (Juris Doctor, Law Degree), Master of Laws Degree (LL.M.) in Alternative Dispute Resolution, Advanced Training in Mediation, Arbitration and Collaborative Practice, Certification in Collaborative Practice
© Anne E. Freed, July 2018