Choosing your lawyer is probably the most important decision you will make in your divorce process. So make sure you find somebody who will smooth the road ahead, not make it more rough than it already is. Interview several lawyers – at least three – before you make a final decision – but at the same time, don’t be afraid to listen to your gut feelings.
If possible, get a divorce lawyer with lots of experience in both litigation and negotiation. He or she will be able to anticipate pitfalls that may come up in your case and avoid them. You also want a lawyer who will be completely honest with you about your case. A lawyer who tries to sell you on how much he can win for you will only set you up for disappointment, but one who lets you know the strengths and weaknesses of your case up-front will be far more trustworthy. You also should make sure that your lawyer is accessible: you should be able to reach him or her in an emergency, and he or she must answer phone calls and e-mails.
Communication is an important factor: your lawyer must be willing and able to provide necessary information and answer all your questions, as well as inform you of your legal rights – and in turn, you should feel comfortable enough with him or her to disclose all important information about your case.
Also make sure to ask prospective lawyers about their fees, their estimation of the total cost and time spent on your case, what percentage of their cases go to trial, and whether they practice family law exclusively. Ask if they’ve handled cases like yours before; if so, it’s an advantage. Most importantly, the lawyer must understand your needs, your best interests, what you hope to get out of your divorce – and what you can realistically expect.
Keep in mind that you’re the one who’s employing the lawyer, not the other way around. You’re the boss: it’s your final decision who will work for you, so choose carefully.
Ken Nathens is a partner in the law firm of Nathens, Siegel LLP, a Toronto law firm restricted to family law matters. Ken has experience in all aspects of divorce and family law and devotes much of his time to assisting clients with custody and access dispute. He can be reached at (416) 222-6980. View his firm’s Divorce Magazine profile.