It takes a little effort to find the right lawyer to represent you and obtain a fair outcome for you.
Firstly, it is important to use a lawyer with the right expertise. Experience and competence in this area are so important. Someone who understands the intricacies in family law will be invaluable to you in the long run; they will save you chasing issues that may not be advantageous to you, or even missing things that should be raised.
It is advisable not to commit to a lawyer at the first meeting
The best way to ascertain that your lawyer has the requisite experience is to check whether they have any accreditations from the Law Society or other organisations. In family lawthere are specialist panels such as the Children Panel and the Family Law Panel. Resolution (formerly the Solicitors Family Law Association) also has specialist accreditation marks. You can check these by visiting the Law Society’s website here or Resolution’s website here.
The next step is to establish your lawyer’s reputation. Ask friends or family who have used them in the past. It might also help to ask a trusted adviser such as an accountant or financial advisor who may be able to point you in the right direction.
Undertake some online research yourself; identify a short list of lawyers with the right level of experience and reputation. Many will have testimonials and case studies attached to their online profile, so have a look at these.
There are a variety of questions you should ask during your first meeting:
- Do you have any specialist accreditations?
- How many years have you been practising as a familylawyer?
- What is your approachto cases such asmine?
- Have you handled a caselike mine, and what was the outcome?
- What is your ethos towards familylaw?
- How will wecommunicate?
- How much is this likelyto cost?
- Do you operate on a fixed fee basis or on an hourly rate basis – and what is your hourly rate?
- What other expenses, costs and payments should I anticipate?
- How will you billme?
- What is your timescale for responding to calls, emailsandletters?
- Will I be able to approve any letters and documents before they are sentout?
- What strategies do you recommend I follow for issues in respect of my children and my financialmatters?
- Do you delegate some of the work to more junior members of staff or do you do everythingyourself?
- If you do delegate to more junior members of staff, how are theysupervised?
- Do you have a recommended reading list or any handoutsor factsheets that I can lookat?
It is advisable not to commit to a lawyer at the first meeting. Take notes and give yourself time to digest what you’ve been told. You could take a friend or relative with you as a second pair of ears (this mustn’t be your opponent in the case or anyone who could be a witness). Your prospective lawyer may ask for information about your financial position and other personal questions, so you must feel comfortable with your friend or relative hearing your answers.
Pay particular attention to the philosophy and approach of the prospective lawyer and ensure that they are upfront in discussing likely costs with you.
What information should I take to the first meeting?
You will need to take information with you to that first meeting, such as:
- A photo identitydocument such as a driving licenceor
- Evidence of your address on a bank statement or utility bill dated within the last three months.
- A case summary noting the names of the people involved in your case, their addresses and dates of birth. You will need to give the lawyer the full names of any children, which schools they attendand whether they have any medical or educational issues
- A chronology of events during your relationship which are relevant.
- A schedule of assets showing properties, your thoughts on their values, the likely amount outstanding on any mortgages, bank accounts with balances or at least an estimate of their balances, plus notes of any pension provision that you or your spouse may
- Any letters that you have had from your former partner’s/ spouse’s solicitors, in chronological order. Take two copies with you, one for you to refer to and one for your lawyer to refer
Don’t worry if you don’t have time to put together all these documents. The main thing is to take your identification, evidenceof your address and a list of what you are worried about. Ensure all the issues on your list have been addressed, before you leave the lawyer’s office.
Other things to think about include what you want to achieve in relation to your children and/or your financial issues, and to consider whattype of divorce you want. Be clear about what you can negotiateon and what is non-negotiable. And clearly tell the lawyer what your budget is for fees.
You may be tempted to talk about everything tiny detail in that first meeting, but it is advisable not to. This first meeting isn’t the place to do all the talking but an opportunity to get the most out of the lawyer, make the best use of their time and ensure they’re the right lawyer for you.
Posted on April 18, 2019