Monday, March 31, 2014

How to choose a family law attorney, Part One

In Part One, we will help you work through the process of deciding who to call to start your divorce or custody case (or to represent you if your spouse has already filed for divorce).

Frequently asked questions:
1. Can't I represent myself in this? 
A: Yes, you can. But that doesn't mean you should. Going into court and representing yourself is like do-it-yourself surgery performed by an amateur. When it comes to family law, you have a lot of things at stake: ownership of your home, custody of your child(ren), how your personal property might be divided, when and how often you can spend time with your child(ren), are only a few issues that a family law judge will decide for you. It's best to have an attorney, who can present the best side of your case to the judge, and help you get the best result possible.

Read this article for more information on issues that will be part of your family law case, or go to my website

2. Aren't attorneys expensive? 
A: It depends on what you think of as "expensive." Again, this is the most important area of your life, where the most intimate personal decisions in your life have been made. It makes sense to protect these interests, and not doing so may cost you more in the long run. Many attorneys will let you arrange a payment plan, as well.

3. How do I decide who to call?
A: There are many ways to go about this. The internet is the most popular search tool currently. But that doesn't mean you should just pick one of the first-listed attorneys when you type in your search terms.
Fact: Advertisers pay to be listed on Google. This is true for all areas that can be searched on Google, including legal services. The higher-cost advertisers will land on the first page, at the more popular times of the day. It's like having a billboard in rush hour traffic on a busy highway. The lower-cost ads show up less often, and at less popular times of the day. This is like having a billboard in a urban neighborhood.

I recommend good old word of mouth advertising over internet advertising. It's better to get a recommendation from someone who's used that service before you, whether it's a mechanic, or an attorney.

4. Ok, I talked to three or four people and got a short list of who to call. What now? 
A: Once you've talked to people you know, you've gotten their feedback about what they liked (or didn't) about their attorney. Use the internet (or do a white pages search) to get that attorney's phone number. Then call the office to set up a consultation.

5. I'm too uncomfortable to talk to my friends and family about this now. How can I get a good recommendation?
A: There are other online services that "rank" attorneys. These are sites like Avvo, and Martindale Hubble, Lexis-Nexis, etc.

Fact: These sites are biased in favor of attorneys who play the game. For example, a lawyer who participates on Avvo (claims their profile, advertises, answers questions) will have a higher Avvo ranking than a lawyer who doesn't. For example, look at the ranking of a prominent national attorney (like Eric Holder, the current US Attorney General). Their ranking might be lower than some attorney who participates a lot on that site.

So go ahead and try those sites (Avvo,, etc.) but be warned that the information there isn't always an accurate reflection of what the attorney is actually like, so take it with a grain of salt. (For more information, read this article from

Or: if you think the sites might mislead you, or you feel you can't talk about this to people you know because it's too personal, use your local bar association for a referral. Lawyers pay to belong to this referral service, and give part of the fee you pay them back to the referral service. I participate in my local bar association's referral service, and think it's a great service to the public. (State Bar of Michigan referral, Grand Rapids Bar Association Referral).
Coming Next: Part Two: What to Expect in the Initial Phone Call.

1 comment:

  1. Great article ...Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting. I will be waiting for your next post.

    Looking for the best Phoenix family law attorney