People sometimes ask me for advice on how to pick a divorce attorney in Minnesota. Usually these are people who have never needed an attorney in the past. They have no experience with the legal system, no experience with attorneys, and have no idea where to begin.
Generally speaking, it is best if a person like this talks to a few attorneys, either by telephone, or preferably, in person. Most attorneys give free initial consultations, but some do not. This in itself does not mean that you should or should not hire an attorney who does not give a free initial consultation. But, if you do not want to pay for a consultation, you need to make sure that the attorney you are meeting with will do it for no charge.
At an initial consultation, an attorney should be able to explain the basics of how the divorce process works in terms that you can understand. He or she should be able to explain about the various forms of alternative dispute resolution that are available. He or she should also be able to explain all of the fees and costs involved. Typically, an attorney who gets involved in the case will charge a retainer. A retainer is usually an advance payment for work the attorney does in the future. Usually, the retainer pays for work to be performed, and at the end of the representation any amount left over is refunded. However, this is not always the case, and you need to make sure that you understand this point. Some attorneys and law firms charge a retainer just to be available to do the work. You pay the retainer, then you also pay additionally for the actual work. Make sure you ask.
It helps to ask what law school your attorney attended. All law schools in the United States are ranked. The higher ranked schools are more difficult to get in. There is more competition for these schools and only the smarter students get accepted into the better schools. While all attorneys who are licensed to practice in Minnesota have the minimum qualifications required by the Minnesota Supreme Court, you should at least know what law school the attorney you are going to hire attended.
It is also helpful to hire an attorney who practices primarily in the area of divorce law. Divorce law in Minnesota is always changing. An attorney who practices primarily in the area of divorce law will more likely be up to date on the various changes that the law undergoes.
I have never met a person who was actually happy to pay a divorce attorney. This is understandable. People have a lot of things they want to spend their money on, and a divorce attorney is very low on this list. However, people also have a lot of things they need to spend their money on, and a divorce attorney can be very high on that list. This depends upon the client’s issues and circumstances. If they are facing a tough legal fight brought on by an embittered spouse who wants revenge at all costs, then that person needs competent legal help. It is their embittered spouse who actually determines the length and cost of the proceeding.
Elsewhere on this blog I have written about collaborative law in Minnesota. Look for that blog post because it also pertains to hiring a divorce attorney in Minnesota.
For a free initial consultation, feel free to call Dan Fiskum at (952) 270-7700. While I am happy to answer basic questions about the divorce process, my experience, fees and costs by telephone, I cannot give legal advice over the telephone to someone I have not met. I go into much more detail when a person comes in for a free initial interview that takes place in my office.