Family law matters can be some of the most stressful and emotional experiences we go through in our lives. This makes the task of choosing the right family lawyer one which demands careful thought and research.
According to the old adage, “you can’t choose your family.” You can however choose the lawyer or solicitors in family matters. In fact, your choice can determine how smoothly such proceedings can go and can be a critical factor in achieving a successful outcome.
Even for those who have experience in dealing with complex legal matters, family law can be a whole new kettle of fish. As someone who has gone through the family law ‘adventure’ I know what can happen. For those who have thus far managed to avoid legal matters in their life may panic, hitting search engines with multiple “family law manchester,” or “solicitors newcastle,” or some such search that sees them often too stressed to even capitalise their searches.
Finding the right family lawyer can be a nightmare due to the emotion of what is being dealt with quite apart from sifting through legal profiles and information about ‘great’ family lawyers. When looking for the right firm, patience is truly a virtue. It may also save the hassle of making a rash decision in a panic.
There is some logic and clarity needed for the task and these tips will help you to choose the right family lawyer for your needs:
Know exactly what you are looking for: Why do you need a family lawyer? Are you getting a divorce or is there a dispute over child access with your former spouse? If you cannot clearly communicate to a professional what you need, the process may be one which is drawn out more than it has to be.
For example, in the UK, there are certain processes which must be followed in cases involving child arrangements. Do you need a family lawyer or would it be best to attend mediation?
It is extremely important to have a very good idea of what you need done and to also write down some of the background factors, financial issues and similar that can save your lawyer time, which means it will save you money. This and other such points were made in a Daily Mail ‘Good Divorce Guide’.
And remember that while you are dealing with an emotional issue, it is not your lawyers’ place to simply act as some sort of counsellor, but to impart the very best legal advice. Keep your relationship professional and focused on the issues you want your lawyer to address for you.
Know your budget: If your income is in the lower brackets, legal costs can be a big hit on your finances. Knowing how much you can expect to pay will help you work out your budget. You may also be entitled to some form of assistance through Legal Aid – if you satisfy particular criteria.
Be aware of budgetary issues and do everything you can to reduce the lawyers’ time (and cost) involvement by (a) thinking through what you need and what your desired outcome is and (b) clearly writing down your key facts to ensure they are effectively communicated. You can also ask your lawyer to then send you key points discussed which he or she will doubtless do for their file in any event.
Do your research: Read as many reviews on a firm as you can. This will help you to understand if the solicitors are right for you. By seeing how the firm has dealt with similar cases, you may be more inclined to opt for their services, should they match your specific needs.
A referral can also be extremely useful. It is not difficult to locate friends and family members who have required the services of a family lawyer. Similarly professionals deal with them on business and commercial matters on a constant basis. Simply ask people for references and you can then carry on your own investigations as to the suitability of a family lawyer best suited to yourself and your particular circumstances.
When undertaking your research keep in mind that the experience of the lawyer is one (but only one) of the key factors you need to know about – and how long they have been handling family law matters. There are other matters to keep in mind obviously, but experience in the area that you require assistance with is fundamental to obtaining a good family lawyer.
Keep it local, if possible: In times of emotional duress and intense stress, such as in family law matters, having your family law practice close by can be comforting. In the event where you need assistance quickly, conducting your business over the phone may not put your mind at ease in the same way as being able to visit your lawyer personally. In an age when legal services can be delivered electronically and apps and other systems are on offer, the need for a personal, local lawyer can be a critical factor in helping you get the outcome you want with reduced stress and anxiety.
Having a law practice close by can help when you need to sign papers or seek advice, at the drop of a hat. And remember that lawyers will charge travelling time also. Having a lawyer who is located close by will help keep the costs under control.
“Shop around” if you have to: A family lawyer is a profession. The lawyer you choose is practicing for a living and ultimately, this is their business. Therefore, you are receiving a service in exchange for payment. Like any other service, there will be some out there who are better than others. Make sure you find the right blend of quality and affordability by asking for referrals, doing your research and checking out the firms you’re thinking of using as thoroughly as you can.
Remember too that you need to feel entirely comfortable with the lawyer you engage and know that you can talk to them easily and with confidence. If you feel you cannot do so, then don’t choose them. Your lawyer should be someone with whom you are as relaxed as possible given the difficulties you are facing.
Peter Harris is a freelance writer who frequently writes on legal affairs.