What questions should I be asking my divorce attorney?
I was recomended a divorce attorney whom is a bit costy however; I heard she’s worth it. I don’t have extra money to be throwing away like others may therefore; I need to know from people that have been or are in the process of a divorce what questions should I be asking since her consultation fee is $100.00 and $250.00 per hour.
Before interviewing your first prospective attorney, come prepared. Get your LITIGANTS NOTEBOOK organized into the nine (See article “Steps To Take…”) recommended sections and if time permits, type in double spacing, your notebook information.
1. How long have you been in practice?
NOTE: We recommend that no one be cons idered who has n ot been practice at least 3 years, 5 years or more is better.
2. From which Law School did you graduate?
NOTE: Some Law Schools are better then others?
3. Are you Board Certified in Family Law?
NOTE: Board Certified Family Law attorneys have been in practice a minimum of 3 years, but most do not become certified until after 6-12 years. To become certified, one must have had cases, in various categories, plus appellate cases, take a written and oral exam, and be re-certified EVERY YEAR. The US Supreme Court Chief Justice recently said of US attorneys that “…three-fourths are incompetent, dishonest, or both .” The odd s of getting a qualified attorney go up when selection is made from the Board Certified Family Law list. But there are no guarantees.
4. How many cases of my type have you had?
NOTE: If the answer is NONE, don’t be the first.
5. In how any of these have you represented fathers? References?
6. How many father’s cases of this type have you WON? Ask for case numbers!
NOTE: This may just be the MOST important question. References of this type are very important to you and your case . The attorney’s track record is vital!
7. What percentage of your case load is Family Law?
NOTE: Qualified attorneys in the Family Law field have 2 or more of their case lo ad in this area. If less than this, they are probably not sharp enough to represent Fathers.
8. Which Bar Associations are you a member of?
9. What is your hourly rate? Do you have a Paralegal at a lower rate?
10. How many hours do you estimate this case to take?
NOTE: Most custody cases require from 80 to 120 billable attorney hours, NOT counting paralegals or expert witnesses, or Ad Litems.
11. Do you require a retainer? How much? Is it refundable?
NOTE: Avoid high retainers. Retainers in excess of 1/3 of the estimated total fee, denies you the opportunity to change lawyers later. If an attorney charges you a non-refundable retainer fee you will not get any of your money back if you fire him. If the attorney charges you a refundable retainer you will only get the unused portion of the retainer fee back should you fire the attorney.
12. Do you have a written contract, and can it be modified?
NOTE: Most attorneys have written contracts that are designed to protect their FEES and provide a means for them to collect unpaid fees from you. Modification of the con tract is one way for you to set forth, on paper, what is expected of the attorney, and provides a remedy for you to assure compliance on his/her part.
13. Do you carry Malpractice insurance?
NOTE: Good attorneys almost always carry insurance, that is, if they value their practice. If they don’t value their practice, then neither should you.
14. Are there any Bar grievances against you within the last 3 years?
NOTE: The Houston Bar’s attorney referral list will not accept applications from attorneys with active grievances, i.e. those within the last 3 years. Also, this service cost attorneys $500 or more to be listed. However, you should not always disqualify an attorney because he has a bar grievance filed against him. It is a very common ploy in litigation today to file a grievance against the opposing attorney hoping that he or she will withdraw from the case.
15. Do you provide MONTHLY, ITEMIZED STATEMENTS?
NOTE: A common complaint we hear is that retainers are spent, and large sums are required JUST BEFORE the final hearing. The attorney, when asked about the retainer, says, “it got spent”, or send a statement “$5000 for services rendered.” Don’t hire an attorney who does not s end out billing statements at least once a month.
16. Do you have a list of recommended:
A. Private Detectives
C. Mental Health Professionals
NOTE: If the attorney hires the specialist, then any information obtained using them becomes PRIVILEGED and cannot be obtained through discovery. If you, the litigant, hire this professional, then the other side can obtain any information you developed, through the use of Discovery or Deposition. The attorney should have a good working knowledge of how the above professionals work and should have regular contacts within the above fields. If the attorney is not knowledgeable about experts in the above areas, he does not have the necessary contacts to help you win your case.
17. Have you ever been divorced? And if so, did you get custody?
NOTE: If this attorney is SO GREAT, would you trust him/her if they didn’t get custody? And if they didn’t, why not?