Choosing a divorce or paternity lawyer can be difficult. Each lawyer is different and you and a particular lawyer may or may not work well together. Consider these recommendations when you need to chosoe a divorce lawyer.
Where should I receive recommendations for a divorce lawyer or paternity lawyer? I’m looking for one of the best divorce lawyers in the area but don’t know where to turn.
The best resource is usually a lawyer local to the area who knows the other lawyers who concentrate their practice in the area of family law. Those lawyers will generally have a handle on the lawyers who are well respected by judges and who provide quality services for their clients. This is usually your best resource to find a good divorce lawyer or custody [read parental allocation] lawyer.
What does it take to be a good lawyer?
Hype. Don’t buy into hype. Looking through websites, you will see descriptions where divorce firms promise “aggressive” representation, “exceptional” services, premiums representation, etc. These terms in fact don’t promise anything.
Also don’t be overly impressed by a lawyer being on only one “best” list. Some “lists” are more reliable than others. The oldest listing of lawyers is the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory. It lists virtually all the lawyers in the United States. The listings also appear on the web at www.martindale.com. Martindale-Hubbell, on the basis of grading by other local lawyers and local judges, grades lawyers A, B and C. A are about the top 5 percent, B about the next 20 to 25 percent and C and not graded are the rest. When I make a referral for a lawyer outside Illinois we often rely on Martindale-Hubbell, Best Lawyers in America, as well as the Fellows in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
The first thing you should look for in a professional person is that they are smart. The fact that a person has a professional education, title and license does not mean the person is smart. The old medical school joke is, “What do they call a person who graduates last in his class from medical school?” They call him doctor. A person can be educated, without being smart.
Look for experience in a lawyer. A good lawyer is not only smart in terms of native intelligence, but should also be both “street smart” and be emotionally intelligent. You should get a sense of this early on.
This is probably the best way to determine who is a good lawyer. The best place to seek recommendations about a lawyer is from professional people with whom you have dealt, the clergy, medical professionals, real estate sales people, accountants, insurance sales people, etc. Most of these professionals have dealt with lawyers on a professional-to-professional basis. Lawyers are an excellent source of referral to other lawyers. If, for example, you dealt with a lawyer on a real estate transaction or for a will and now need a divorce lawyer, ask this lawyer for a referral.
Friends who have employed a lawyer for the same purpose as you are seeking a lawyer may also be a good resource. Determine, however, if your friend who hired a lawyer in connection with a divorce had the same type of divorce problem that you did.
An Illinois family lawyer cannot claim to specialize in the area of his or her choosing. While Illinois law recognizes specialties in medicine, Illinois does not recognize specialties in lawyers, except patent and admiralty law. Lawyers may, however, publish that they “limit” their practice to a certain field of law. They may also claim that their practice is “concentrated” in certain areas of law. Because Illinois law does not recognize specialization by lawyers, the fact that a lawyer’s practice is “limited” to a certain area, or “concentrated” in certain areas, does not mean, as a matter of law, that the lawyer has specialized knowledge in an area of law. However, Illinois family law is complex. It requires a knowledge of many different facets of the law that applies to divorce or parentage cases. So, look to a matrimonial lawyer who limits his or her practice to family law.
A lawyer must have a reputation for integrity, that is, for telling the truth. A lawyer’s word must be the lawyer’s bond. Judges and other lawyers must be able to rely on the representations of the lawyer, whether it is what the law is on a particular subject, or what the facts are. A lawyer’s reputation for integrity will be known in the community, and will certainly be known by other lawyers.
What about going to court? Should the lawyer that I interview with be the lawyer who would handle contested court proceedings?
Some divorce lawyers will not handle contested evidentiary hearings or trials. One concern is whether the lawyer with whom you interview will be the same lawyer who would try your case. It is true that if you interview with one lawyer, another lawyer may be quite capable of trying your case or representing you at contested hearings. However, it is not efficient for one lawyer to exclusively handle court proceedings while another lawyer would handle non-court matters. The concern is that often something can get “lost in the translation” and attorney’s fees may be higher in the long run if you hire such a law firm.
I have heard about men’s rights or father’s rights firms? Since I am a father who is seeking custody, should I hire a “men’s rights” lawyer?
Not based on advertising. I’ve found that good “father’s rights” lawyers use this title as a marketing tool to get business. I believe that there should not be such things as “men’s rights” lawyers or “women’s rights” lawyers. Instead, a good family lawyer will be equally capable of handling a worthy custody case – whether he or she represents the man or woman.