Finding the Right Attorney
The range of attorneys and the legal services they provide are as varied as the people in our community. Finding the right attorney for you and your case are important for a favorable outcome. Below are a few examples:
Abby and Zev have been married for two years, have no children, and rent an apartment. Zev recently learned that Abby has been going out for a drink or two after work with her boss rather than working late as she claimed. Zev is absolutely convinced that Abby is having an affair which is why Abby refuses to start a family with him. Zev decides to find the best known bad-ass attorney he can find to destroy Abby, regardless of the cost.
Sound reasonable? Of course not! Zev hires a big bad attorney who charged him $40,000.00 to “prove” Abby was having an affair. Assume the Judge agrees that Abby is having an affair, what does Zev get for his $40,000.00? Satisfaction? Both parties in this example are better off signing a property settlement agreement and moving on.
Beth and Yohann have been married 22 years and have four children between the ages of 10 and 20. Beth has been a stay at home mom since the birth of their first child. Yohann is 100% shareholder in his business and earns approximately one million dollars per year. They own a nice home, a beach house, three vehicles and approximately five million dollars in investment and retirement accounts. Yohann, who has been handling all the family finances, begins having all bills sent to him at his office and secretly begins transferring money from joint accounts into accounts titled solely in his name. One evening, Yohann comes home and tells Beth he has not been happy for many years and is moving out. Yohann also tells Beth that if she tries to get any money out of him or any part of his business, he will take the children away from her. Beth, who never saw this coming, is in shock and frantic.
Beth gets on the internet and starts calling lawyers. Thinking that she can not afford an experienced attorney, she finally finds, Mr. Shyster, a sole practitioner lawyer who tells Beth he will handle her case on a flat fee basis of only $5,000.00. Beth is so relieved that she has an attorney on her side, that she fails to do any research to see if Mr. Shyster has handled similar cases to hers. Had she done some research, she would have found that Mr. Shyster has had several disciplinary actions against him by the State Bar, has no legal malpractice insurance and has never tried a divorce case. He is proud of his accomplishments settling all his divorce cases. Three months into the case, Beth is unable to get in touch with her attorney and she later learns that the Court has sanctioned her for not answering discovery requests that she did not know anything about.
In Beth’s case, she needs to find a divorce attorney that has experience because there are several complex issues in her case. If you have complex issues that Beth has, and an attorney offers to handle your case on a flat fee, don’t walk away, RUN away. No reputable divorce attorney is going to take a case of this nature on a flat fee basis.
Questions you should consider:
Do I need an experienced attorney or can a younger less experienced attorney handle my case?
Do I need an attorney that is part of a firm, or do I need an attorney who is a sole-practitioner?
Do I need an attorney who can be flexible with fees?
Do I need an attorney who specializes in family law, or do I need a general practitioner who practices in a variety of different areas of law?
The question as to whether or not you should retain an attorney in a firm or a sole practitioner is an individual choice.
If you choose a law firm, find out which attorney is going to be actually working on your case. Many firms offer attorneys with different levels of experience and hence, different billing rates. It may be advantageous to your case to have a lesser experienced attorney working on your case on the day to day issues. On the other hand, if you retain a certain attorney only to get passed off to another attorney in the firm, this could be problematic. Therefore, it is important to find out at your initial consultation as to who is going to be working on your cases.
The internet is a great resource to learn information on prospective attorneys. I recommend that you pick two or three attorneys that you would like to interview. Go to https://www.vsb.org and on the right hand of the screen is a box called, Search Resources. Click on attorney records. This will allow you to find out if the attorney you are considering retaining has malpractice insurance or has a history of multiple disciplinary actions. Meet with the attorneys you have initially selected and pick the one that you feel most comfortable with.