“Where do I start?”
That ‘s the question most individuals ask once they’ve made a decision to seek a divorce. In this three-part series, I’ll answer the most frequently asked questions that arise before people have selected a divorce attorney. Part One focuses on the hiring process and fees.
Q: What is the most important thing a client should look for when hiring an attorney?
A: The client and attorney must have chemistry. Divorce lawyers represent people, not businesses. The relationship is highly personal and it often lasts for years. A good divorce lawyer acts both as attorney and counselor. The client and lawyer must feel comfortable with each other, and the client must have confidence in the lawyer. Q: How does a divorce lawyer charge for his services? A: Almost all divorce attorneys charge an hourly fee for their time. In some cases, an attorney may charge a flat fee; however this is generally limited to simple, uncontested cases. Hourly rates vary greatly by locale and the attorneys’ experience and reputation. The minimum time increment a client is charged also varies from attorney-to-attorney; but most minimum increments range from 1/10th of an hour (6 minutes) to 1/4th of an hour (15 minutes). Q: Do attorneys charge for their time talking on the telephone or communicating with clients via email? A: Since talking on the telephone or responding to emails takes up the attorneys’ time, most attorneys do charge. Of course, some attorneys only charge for these acts when they are providing a substantive service. For example, if you call your attorney to find out when and where your next court date is and you spend two minutes on the telephone, most attorneys would not charge the time. Q: Can married couples retain one lawyer for their divorce in order to save money? A: No, doing so would be a conflict of interest. In Illinois any lawyer who represents both parties is guilty of an ethical violation. However, if one spouse elects to represent himself or herself there can be only one lawyer; so long as the unrepresented party is fully aware that the attorney does not represent him or her. Q: Is it better for a client to hire a law firm or a solo attorney? A: It depends, as there are pros and cons to both. However, firms that have attorneys with a broad spectrum of experiences allow clients to benefit from a deep well of knowledge, strength and diversity. Lawyers that practice a team approach can help solve clients’ problems and provide real value and results. Q: Why do some divorces cost so much money? A: One of the biggest factors in determining if a case will be expensive is the level of conflict encountered. If people are reasonable and willing to amicably resolve their case, it often can be completed at a reasonable cost. This is true even in cases with complicated issues.
Michael C. Craven is a well-known divorce attorney and a partner of the Beermann Swerdlove, LLP law firm in the Chicago area. He is highly respected among other divorce lawyers, judges and his clients. He is also a CPA and a LLM (Masters in Tax Law). Click here to email Michael for additional information about his services.