During the initial consultation, both you and the attorney will be checking each other out. You will be looking for comfort that he or she is qualified, would have your best interests at heart, and has a personality with which you can work. The attorney will be looking for a number of things from you such as whether you have realistic expectations, whether you can communicate effectively, and whether you can deal rationally in their world.
To make sure the attorney will represent you well, you should prepare a list of questions in advance to which you want answers. Bring these questions with you along with some note paper so you can write down the attorney's answers and your impressions. Remember, you are looking for someone with the expertise you need, with a personality and attitude you can deal with, and a willingness to communicate effectively with you.
Here are some suggested questions that you should consider:
- What type of fee agreement does the lawyer require? Can you get an overall estimate from him or her for your specific case? Will you be required to pay some or all of the fee up front, or are payment plans available?
- Has the lawyer handled similar cases? What percentage of his or her cases are similar to yours? When was the last time the lawyer handled a case like yours?
- Does the lawyer bill for quick phone calls? What are the chances of receiving a same day call back when you leave a message?
- How long has the lawyer been practicing law? Has the lawyer ever been investigated or disciplined by state licensing agencies?
- Will the lawyer handle your case personally, or will others be involved?
- What is the lawyer's current caseload, and does it allow him to devote adequate attention to your needs?
- What kind of trial experience does the lawyer have in family law cases?
- Will you be copied on all correspondence about your case?
Then you also need to evaluate your own experience with the attorney in the initial consultation. Did he or she listen to you? Did you feel rushed? Did he or she answer your questions? Was there chemistry between you and the attorney? Did you like his or her personality? Do you have confidence in his or her ability to represent your interests and protect your rights?
Choosing a family law practitioner can be a difficult process for fathers who need such legal help. But going through a careful and reasoned process will minimize the risk of making a big mistake and trusting your case to the wrong attorney.