When I was going through a divorce a few years ago and looking for a divorce attorney, I had no idea what to look for when it came time to choose one. My main concern was my ability to afford the retainer. I chose my lawyer based on his low retainer and I have spent the rest of my time regretting that decision. I now advocate for people (especially women) to do their research and look for these 6 things in a lawyer before hiring one:
- EXPERIENCE – What kind of experience does the lawyer have? How much time has he spent before a judge in a courtroom? If not much, he may steer you to settle to avoid arguing in front of a judge. If he lacks in negotiation skills or can’t use knowledge of the law to your advantage, you may end up giving up more than you can afford to lose. Education is not the same thing as experience.
- WISDOM – As we progress in life and have experiences, we gain wisdom. We start to pick up on subtleties and that helps us avoid the pitfalls. A wise attorney can use their experience to help steer you away from those pitfalls. Wisdom is a difficult thing to gauge, but look for it nonetheless.
- COMPASSION – It’s not always about the money. There are few things worse than a heartless lawyer who lacks compassion. I know because I hired one based on his cheap retainer. After he forgot about my case until the night before, showed up unprepared and made me call friends from the courthouse to testify for me (causing me to lose all of the important things), he then asked the judge to have my ex pay him an additional sum and never returned a call to finish my case. How do you know if a lawyer has compassion? Find out if he volunteers his time? Does he take indigent cases? Does he have a good online reputation? He may be a member of a legal or social club, but a lawyer with a good heart will be using his legal talents for business as well as for helping those who cannot help themselves.
- TOUGHNESS – This is important. There are some lawyers out there who are “bulldogs” and can be very tough. They have a way of intimidating other lawyers and scaring them into settling an issue that could have a different outcome with a tougher lawyer who can give it right back. Find one who knows how to stand strong for you.
- KNOWLEDGE OF THE LAW – This cannot be overstated enough. A lawyer who knows the law and keeps up with the changes and understands the importance of continuing education can easily outsmart a lawyer who doesn’t put in the same effort.
- KNOWLEDGE OF THE LOCAL COURT / JUDGE – When a lawyer spends time in the courtroom arguing his cases, he gets to know the style and temperament of other lawyers and judges. If you hire a lawyer who doesn’t know your county court or judge, you could be doing yourself a huge disservice.