Important Questions to Ask at a Divorce Consultation

Posted on in Divorce

b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_1195555699-min.jpgSelecting an attorney to represent you in your divorce proceedings is undoubtedly one of the most important decisions you have to make when beginning the process of dissolving your marriage. 

In many ways, choosing the right attorney to represent you in divorce proceedings can have a lasting impact on your future and set the foundation for whether or not you will be successful in your matter. At McSwain Nagle Giese & Rapp, P.C., all initial consultations with each of our attorneys are free of charge for the first thirty (30) minutes. To best prepare for your consultation, we have compiled a list of essential questions to ask during your initial consultation in order to choose the best attorney for you.

How long have you been practicing law and what percentage of your practice is family law?

It is important to ask your potential attorney how long he or she has been licensed as an attorney and whether they practice mostly in domestic relations.  This will give you an idea of their level of experience and if she or he can handle the issues your case presents.  Obviously, the more complex the case, the more experienced of an attorney you will be seeking. Although you can probably imagine that with experience comes higher hourly rates. Further, attorneys that have been practicing for a substantial period of time, as well as those who are actively involved in the legal community, are more likely to have worked with the judges and opposing attorneys in your case. 

In what counties do you practice?

One of the first questions you should ask your potential attorney is what counties he or she practices in. There is no use in consulting with an attorney if they do not practice in the county you will be filing your divorce action in. An attorney who is familiar with the judges, county rules, and other lawyers in the geographical location and has contacts within the county will be your best bet if you want to be successful!

Who will represent me if I hire your law firm?

Many times clients will hire the attorney they consulted with and then are confused when they are no longer dealing with that attorney. For example, if you meet with a partner at the firm, it is important to ask whether or not your case will be handled by the partner or an associate of the firm or whether a team approach is utilized.

Conversely, when consulting with an associate at a law firm, it is important to understand that at times more than one attorney can be working on your matter, particularly if the attorney has been practicing for a few years. Associates often times have their work reviewed or otherwise supervised by partners, or they may team up with other associates depending on the facts and circumstances of the matter. 

Additionally, oftentimes partners will utilize a team approach and involve associates to assist with less substantive matters and help keep fees down.  Therefore, it is important to understand if you are going to be represented by the attorney you met with or spoke to during your initial consultation or if you will be working with other attorneys at the firm. Additionally, you will want to confirm each attorney’s hourly rate, which should be in your retainer agreement, so that there are no surprises later on. 

How do you handle billing, and how can I keep my fees down?

It is imperative to understand your attorney’s billing practices prior to hiring. Asking about billing practices will give you an understanding of how the attorney tracks their time, what they bill for, how much, and when and how you will receive your bills. For example, does the firm have a minimum billing increment they use?  What is the hourly rate for staff?  Do you bill for travel time? By asking questions regarding billing practices you can get an understanding of what to expect and how to keep fees down.  For example, if you know that your attorney bills for emails, you may find it more cost-effective to consolidate your questions into a single call or email, rather than sending multiple emails.  If you can get the same answer from a paralegal who bills at a lower hourly rate than a partner, you may choose to communicate more frequently with the staff.  

How do you keep in touch with your client?

Each attorney has their preferred method of communication which can include email, formal letters, phone calls, and sometimes even text messages. During your consultation, you should inquire as to what method of communication your attorney uses and with what frequency they recommend communicating. An attorney who communicates with you effectively can move mountains when litigating or negotiating your case because they are familiar with the facts of the case and your goals.  It’s also a good idea to ask about what time frame you can expect a return call or email within.  

What is your litigation style and case strategy?

It is a good idea to ask your attorney their style of practice and strategy for achieving a successful outcome.  Your attorney should understand whether you are seeking a more amicable approach or an aggressive approach.  Asking these questions will give you a better understanding as to whether or not the attorney you are speaking with during your initial consultation can effectively achieve your goals. 

If you are looking for more information about divorce proceedings, or any other family law-related issues, please contact one of our experienced attorneys at McSwain Nagle Giese & Rapp, P.C. for a free consultation. 

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