How to pick a family lawyer

Separating from your spouse is one of the most stressful life experiences that you can go through. It is extremely important that you choose the best family lawyer to reduce the time, expense and emotional toll on yourself.

So, how do you go about finding the best family lawyer? We have compiled a list of tips to assist you in your search for a family lawyer.

How to pick a family lawyer

  1. Do your homework

You are likely to know a number of people who have previously engaged a family lawyer. It may be a helpful starting point to ask around for reviews or referrals for family lawyers.

However, you must keep in mind that family law is unique, in that every matter is different. Your best friend may consider their family lawyer to be the “best”, but that lawyer may not be the best for you.

  1. Narrow your list of lawyers to Family Law Specialists

Choose a lawyer who is an ‘Accredited Family Law Specialist’ or a law firm that exclusively practices in family law. A lawyer who is an ‘Accredited Family Law Specialist” is recognised as an expert by their state’s legal institute.

There are many firms that offer family law services, but do not specialise in family law. The law can change quickly, which can impact your case and the advice you receive. As each separation is different, family law is not the kind of matter where you receive advice on a “one type fits all” basis.

To resolve a matter as quickly, amicably and cost effectively as possible, you need a lawyer who is a highly experienced practitioner in the family law jurisdiction.

A specialised family lawyer will have the knowledge, insight and experience in all aspects of family law and will be able to provide ongoing advice. This level of speciality is what you will need, particularly if complex issues begin to arise or negotiations start to unravel.

  1. Check your compatibility with your chosen family lawyer

Once you chosen a family lawyer, meet with them. Most firms offer a 15 or 30 minute free consult. This will allow you to get a feel for the firm and the lawyer.

It is important that you trust and feel comfortable with your chosen family lawyer. Things to consider when choosing your family lawyer are:

  • how accessible are they? Do they call you back within a reasonable time frame?
  • Do they explain their advice and the next steps forward to you in a way that you can understand?
  • Do you feel they listen to you?
  • Do you feel comfortable with their advice?
  • Do they inform you every step of the way as your matter progresses?
  1. Consider the costs, but do not let it be your only determining factor

Your costs are of course an important factor when your making your decision, but it should not be the sole determining factor.

Lawyers are required to disclose their fees upfront to prospective clients. You may be surprised when a lawyer advises you of their hourly rates. However, before you appoint a lawyer, you will likely enter into a Costs Agreement. The Costs Agreement will set out the estimated total cost for completing your matter from start to finish. This is the figure that you should focus on rather than the lawyers’ hourly rates.

Choosing a lawyer with a lower hourly rate, or a lower total fee estimate, will not necessarily mean that you costs will reduce overall. A lawyer with a higher hourly rate, or a higher total fee estimate, may be more efficient and could resolve your matter in shorter time frame, saving you more money in the long run.

  1. If you are unsure, you can obtain a second opinion

If you have appointed a family lawyer, and over time your trust in their advice is waning, you can always obtain a second opinion. This may involve contacting the family lawyer that was second or third on your list and scheduling a once off appointment for advice on how your matter is progressing.

It may be that their advice is the same as your current family lawyer, or it may differ. It is important to remember that family law matters can be difficult to control as they can evolve very quickly with new issues arising at any moment. This is particularly true if your separation involves a former partner who is spiteful, vengeful or suffers from a mental illness.

If you need advice in relation to separation, including initiating or ongoing litigation, please contact Rowan Skinner & Associates Lawyers to arrange a complimentary 15-minute consultation.