Divorce attorneys meet with prospective clients all the time. By the time someone is sitting in the chair across from us, they are typically carrying a lot of stress around, so a big part of our job in that initial meeting is to listen: to what brought the client to that chair, and what they need to happen next.
If you are facing the prospect of divorce, it can feel good to get your worries off your chest. But you should save some of your consultation time to ask the attorney some questions, too. After all, an initial consultation with a divorce attorney is a job interview, and you are doing the hiring. And hiring a divorce attorney is a big deal. All attorneys are different, and a lawyer who is a good fit for someone else might not be the best for you. What should you ask an attorney before hiring them to be sure they will meet your needs?
Why you should ask this: there's no substitute for experience.
Now, there are some attorneys with decades of practice under their belt who are not good divorce lawyers, and newer attorneys with the dedication and energy to do a great job, so years in practice shouldn't be the sole determining factor of whether you hire an attorney. Still, an attorney who has extensive knowledge of the law, courts, and judges you will be dealing with can be a great asset.
Why you should ask this: Twenty years of "practice in family law" doesn't mean much if the attorney only handles two divorces per year.
Remember that you are looking not only for length of experience, but more importantly, for depth. It is better to have an attorney with two years of experience who practices only family law than one with twenty years who only handles the occasional divorce for one of his business clients.
An attorney who dedicates his or her practice primarily or exclusively to family law is most likely someone who is truly concerned about the needs of people in divorce, custody, alimony, and child support matters, not someone who advertises that practice area just to bring in more revenue. Also, an attorney who focuses on family law is more likely to be up to date on developments in the law than someone who takes a divorce case now and then.
Why you should ask this: If your divorce has complicating factors, you need to know your attorney is prepared to deal with them.
Every marriage and every divorce is unique, of course, but certain cases involve situations in which experience is helpful, such as the division of a family business, the enforcement of a premarital agreement, or the need to provide for a child with special needs. Your attorney should be prepared to discuss with you how these factors will affect your case, and how he or she plans to approach them.
Why you should ask this: You will be working closely with your attorney, and should be sure your views are compatible.
Some attorneys bill themselves as aggressive and win-at-all-costs. Unfortunately, sometimes the cost is to your stress level and wallet. You want an attorney who will advocate forcefully for you if necessary, but who listens to your goals and thoughtfully plans to help you achieve them. Divorce is hard enough. You need an attorney who will empower you, not one who will ignore your input and make you feel as if you have even less control over the situation.
It's not necessary that you and your attorney look at things exactly the same way; it can definitely be helpful to have someone who will give you a different perspective on issues. But you should feel comfortable with his or her general philosophy and approach to your case.
Why you should ask this: Divorce is expensive, but a good attorney will help keep it from being more expensive than necessary.
This question is also a good way of discerning whether your attorney's primary interest is in lining his or her pocket, or meeting your needs. Experienced family law attorneys will be able to give you advice on keeping your costs down in a way that doesn't compromise your case. For instance, you may be able to gather certain financial documents yourself so the attorney doesn't have to spend (billable) hours chasing them down.
The answers to these questions should give you a good feel for whether an attorney is a good fit for your needs. Above all, trust your gut. If an attorney has impressive credentials, but you feel uncomfortable with him or her, keep looking. Never be afraid to interview multiple attorneys before retaining one (but be aware of any time constraints you may be under to respond if your spouse has already filed for divorce and served you with papers).
If you are considering divorce, we invite you to contact our law office. We look forward to answering these questions, and all your questions about Texas divorce.