I frequently hear claims that a certain attorney is the best divorce attorney in town. The terms “best,” “good” and “great” are relative and highly subjective measurements of how an attorney will work for you. When you are shopping for an attorney, the key is in finding an attorney who is a good fit for your case, your personality and your expectations. A good attorney for you may not be a good choice for someone else. Below are five things to consider when hiring a Utah divorce attorney:
What to Look For in a Utah Divorce Attorney
Look for specialized experience.
Before hiring an attorney, research your prospective attorney’s practice areas to ensure he specializes in divorce. Every lawyer will claim to be an experienced lawyer. Never take that claim at face value. Many attorneys specialize in one or several areas of the law. Others know a little bit about every area of law. An attorney with 25 years of experience as a bankruptcy attorney or a general practitioner attorney, who handles one divorce case a year, may not have the specialized knowledge to competently handle a difficult contested divorce case.
But remember, experience isn’t everything.
Experience is not always the most important factor in making a hiring decision. If the issues in your case are fairly straight forward, a young, compassionate divorce attorney may be a great fit. While experienced attorneys may have more resources and practical knowledge, young attorneys are eager to get to court and win cases. Young attorneys are also more likely to keep up with modern technology and recent changes in the law. A great option is hiring a young attorney who works at a firm with more experienced attorneys. You get a reduced rate, while still getting the support of an experienced firm.
Moreover, an experienced Utah divorce attorney is not necessarily a good Utah divorce attorney. It is possible to be a bad lawyer for many years. Before hiring a Utah divorce attorney, talk to other members of the legal community to determine if your prospective lawyer has a good reputation among his peers. Do some quick research online to determine whether the lawyer has been sued, suspended or disbarred.
Personality is important.
Meet your Utah divorce attorney in person before making the final hiring decision. You will spend hours with your attorney going over legal documents and sitting in courtrooms and mediations. You will also be required to reveal all of your secrets – your financial records and personal history – to your attorney. Make sure you feel comfortable with your attorney and trust him to represent you. An unapproachable, yet highly knowledgeable, attorney in a busy law firm may be a great fit if you want to hand complete control of your case over to an attorney. If you want to be more actively involved in your case and need regular reassurance from your attorney, you may want to seek out a smaller law firm with a friendlier and more patient attorney.
Check out the office space.
A person’s workspace is a rich source of information about his work habits and personality. Many attorneys offer a free or low-cost consultation to assist you in the process of hiring a Utah divorce attorney. The consultation is your opportunity to learn about your case and your attorney. A big law office in a downtown setting is a symbol of success. Nice offices close to freeway access or local neighborhoods show practicality. Expensive furnishings and shelves of law books may show that the law firm has resources and experience. Modern furnishings and high tech accessories give the impression that the firm is on the leading edge of new laws and technologies. No matter what personality or style appeals to you, your lawyer’s office should never detract from your confidence in your lawyers abilities. Heed the warning signs. Clutter, stacks of papers, obvious dirt or disarray, offensive language between employees and an unprofessional dress code are signs that your attorney may have too many distractions to focus on your case.
Read the fine print.
When you hire a Utah divorce attorney, you will be required to sign a written retainer agreement. A retainer agreement is a contract between you and the attorney. The attorney agrees to provide certain services to you, and you agree to pay certain fees and costs.
Make sure the scope of services the attorney will provide is clearly defined and understood by both you and your attorney. This is particularly important if you have multiple cases pending at the same time.
Different firms have different billing practices. Some firms provide uncontested divorce services at a flat rate, while others work only on an hourly basis. Some firms require full-service representation, while others offer unbundled services. Your retainer agreement should include a detailed outline of fees and costs. Make sure you understand how your case will be staffed and what each person’s hourly rate is. Also, make sure the retainer agreement explains how travel costs, postage and filing and service fees will be charged.
Ask a lot of questions before hiring a Utah divorce attorney to make sure that you understand the relationship between you and your attorney. If your attorney is unwilling to answer your questions openly and honestly, be cautious about proceeding any farther.
Schmidt Law Firm is a boutique family law firm in downtown Salt Lake City. Our attorneys have different levels of experience and offer different rates and pricing options. Our goal is to provide the experience, service and resources to meet the needs of each and every client we come in contact with. For more information on our divorce services, please visit http://sschmidtlaw.wpengine.com/practice-areas/divorce/