Once in a while people ask me how to pick a good divorce attorney.
Generally, an attorney with more experience charges more than an attorney with less experience. That does not mean that you are necessarily going to get a better deal with a less experienced attorney, nor does it mean you are going to be more successful with an expensive attorney. It all depends upon your needs and your bank balance.
If you and your spouse have already reached an agreement, you should have an attorney (who represents you and not your spouse) review it and put it in proper form for the court to act on it. Generally, the attorney will take your agreement and from it, prepare a Marital Termination Agreement and something called “Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgment and Judgment and Decree.” You do not need to spend a lot of money on that kind of project, its not controversial, and any divorce attorney should be able to do it for you.
If you and your spouse do not have an agreement, and you expect that there will be a fight about child custody, parenting time, or spousal maintenance, you might want to consider looking for an attorney with a significant amount of experience in those areas of practice.
You should meet with two or three attorneys before making a decision. Ask them how they bill out their time. An attorney who bills in quarter hour increments is probably going to cost you more than an attorney who bills in tenth of an hour increments. With the quarter hour attorney–he or she is going to bill you for 15 minutes of time for a 5 minute telephone call. Do the math – if an attorney charges $250 per hour, a 5 minute phone call will cost you about $62.50. That’s a lot of money. Is it worth it? Maybe. Maybe not.
You should ask the attorneys you meet with where they went to law school. That can sometimes you something about their overall intellectual acuity.
You should ask them whether they belong to, or participate in, professional groups like the Minnesota State Bar Association Family Law Section, or the America Bar Association.
You can go online to the Minnesota Lawyer’s Professional Responsibility Board and see whether the attorney you are interviewing has ever been sanctioned by the Board. That’s something that you should know.
It is problematic getting referrals from attorneys. I do not give referrals because I consider each of my client’s cases to be strictly confidential. Though most divorce court files are public and you can look at anybody’s divorce court file just by going to the courthouse an asking for it, I, nonetheless, keep all client information strictly confidential and for that reason I do not give out referrals. Doctors do not give out referrals and attorneys should not do so, either.
You should ask an attorney what he or she thinks of your case, and how he or she would present it to the court if there is a hearing for temporary relief, or if there is a trial. Different attorneys work differently, and he or she should be able to give you an idea of the particular approach he or she would take.
If you have done all of that, then make a decision based on your best judgment.