First of all, what exactly is family law? Family Law is an umbrella term that applies to any type of dispute that affects families, such as divorce, child support, child custody, adoption, termination of parental rights, petitions for protection from abuse, alimony, pre and post-nuptial agreements, and more. It can also include wills, powers of attorney, health care directives, guardianships, and conservatorships.
1. Ask your family and friends
Experts currently put the divorce rate at around 39 percent, so the odds are that someone very close to you has been through a divorce. Ask them what lawyer they used and what their experience was like. Keep in mind that every person and every case is different, so the lawyer that may have been a good fit for them and their situation, may or may not be the best lawyer for you.
2. Research online
There is a wealth of information online about attorneys. If they have a website, you can learn about their background and what kind of work they do. You may also have the opportunity to read some of their writing or watch them speak in a video (like on this blog). If they do not have a website or you cannot find them online at all, that may not be a good sign.
In the Mobile, Alabama area, a lot of solo practitioners and older attorneys do not have websites, but it is not necessarily a reflection on their qualifications. It is easy for clients to post reviews about attorneys, so the process and the person is not quite as mysterious as they once were. This means it is also easy for a person who is disgruntled about their situation to hop online and blame their attorney, so online reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt too.
3. Check with the bar association
Information about attorney discipline, which is whether they have been sanctioned by the bar association for ethical violations, can now be found online at alabar.org.
4. Call their office
If you cannot get anyone on the phone or you leave a message and no one calls you back, that does not bode well for future communication and responsiveness. Some solo attorneys may not have any staff or have a small staff, so do not be alarmed if you have to leave a voicemail when you call. If you do not get a return call within 24 hours, it is probably a good idea to look elsewhere. Once you make contact, you can ask questions about consultation fees and the types of cases they take.
5. Meet with them
There is a wide mix of personalities in the legal world, just like everywhere else, so it might be a good idea to try and meet with a couple of attorneys. You will be working with this person a lot, and they may be an excellent attorney, but it is not going to work for you if you and the attorney do not mesh well.
6. Watch for red flags
An attorney can never “guarantee” a particular outcome in a case, so if the attorney is promising you the sun, moon, and stars, beware. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!