Taking Charge of the Lawyer Selection Process

Who do you want for your attorney? Attila the Hun? Winston Churchill? The Godfather? Your Mother or Father? A Knight on a White Charger? God? Sorry, none of these individuals or figures is available. Actually, you may have wanted some combination of all of them, rolled into one.

My client Arthur wanted the legal equivalent of a SWAT team to quickly secure the level of justice to which he felt entitled. If you can afford that kind of representation and choose to spend your money that way, more power to you. What I will do is show you how to pick a lawyer suited for you and for your case, as quickly as possible.

First, we’ll develop a realistic description of your attorney. A sample Attorney Checklist is at the end of this chapter. You’ll make your own Attorney Checklist, generating a list of the traits you are looking for and the questions you need to ask. Use your Attorney Checklist when you contact sources to get the names of prospective attorneys, and again when you interview the attorneys. If you prepare the checklist and then make copies of it to use for each attorney, you’ll be sure to ask the same questions each time.

Second, you’ll see how to find names of competent attorneys to choose from in your community. You have only to pick from among the most qualified attorneys; usually, you don’t have to extend the process needlessly to find the very best.

Third, you’ll get basic questions to use in interviewing your prospective attorney, to add to the specific questions you develop in this chapter. Of course, you’ll be using your Case Evaluation that you prepared in Chapter Four.

Is this really necessary? I think so. Most of my clients found me through a referral from a friend. They hadn’t prepared an Attorney Checklist, but they generally had notes. Most of them had a written list of concerns. A basic Case Evaluation was one of the first things we usually did. The great majority of my clients remarked how difficult it was to find the right lawyer.

It can be simple. The more recommendations that you follow, the higher are the odds that you will get an attorney just right for you. You may not need to use the all the suggestions for sources of names of qualified attorneys. Use the recommendations that you trust, then to get to the heart of the matter quickly when you meet with your attorney—and save some money by doing so.

Is yours a "friendly divorce?" Why can’t you both use the same lawyer to save money? It won’t work. Nearly all attorneys will tell you that he or she can represent only one side even if you believe that there is no conflict because you have it all worked out. Although you may not see any conflicts now, at least one will surely come up. The attorney will spot it. Which one of you does he tell? Once there is a conflict between the two of you, the lawyer can’t represent either of you. You need independent legal advice. You need your own lawyer.

If you haven’t evaluated your own case, please read Chapter Four before looking for an attorney. When you have a better understanding of your needs, you’ll be in a better position to know appropriate representation when you see it. You and your attorney must be a team: you must know whether you’re looking for a member of a SWAT team or someone to steer you through a relatively simple divorce.