This question must be answered by first determining your goals for the case.

If your goal is to fight your face off and money is no object, pick an expensive, litigious lawyer.  If your goal is to divide things pretty fairly and not spend a lot of money, find a lawyer who advertises being more client-centric, and is more settlement minded.  If your goal is to fight your face off but you don’t want to pay lawyer a lot, start practicing witchcraft because that isn’t going to happen without a little black magic, a sacrificial goat, and the bottled tears of children.

That’s pretty much it.  The more litigious your case (meaning, the more you fight), the more expensive it will be.  Trial is expensive because it takes so much time to prepare for, plus you’re paying the lawyer for all that time out of the office.  In addition to trial, you may be paying the lawyer to conduct expensive discovery.  Lawyers make their money by billing you for their time working on your case.  So, the more time they work on your case, the more it will cost you.  And we work off retainers, which means you pay in advance, so there is typically no getting around paying the bill.

So, back to the original question:  How do I choose a family lawyer?  Quite simply, figure out what your goals are, meet with a few lawyers, and see how they respond to your stated goals.  In addition, make sure they promise the following:

  • Good communication (you should know what is going on in your case at all times)
  • Timely responses to emails and phone calls (this doesn’t mean same day, but two weeks is too long, and not at all is unacceptable)
  • Collaboration (it’s your case – you should be involved in the substantive decisions)
  • Ethics.  I realize this defies ever lawyer joke.  And if you’re the client looking for a litigious lawyer, this defies logic.  But trust me on this one.  Unethical lawyers make bad case decisions, which will hurt you.

If they don’t promise these things (and especially if they don’t follow through after you’ve hired them), find a new lawyer.

Lastly, like any relationship, chemistry is important.  Find a lawyer you like!  Not just one you can stand.