Choosing a Family Law Attorney
For those who are unfamiliar with the legal system, choosing a family law attorney can be a daunting task. Even if you’ve worked with attorneys in different areas previously, choosing an attorney who will represent you personally is a different matter entirely. This attorney isn’t just representing a company or other legal entity – the family law attorney represents you, personally.
So, where do you begin to evaluate divorce attorneys and whether he or she is the right fit for you and your circumstances? Three factors to consider are education, experience and ethics.
Looking at the education of a divorce attorney goes beyond merely considering where he or she attended law school. Does the attorney have education specifically in the area of family law? Attorneys are required to obtain a certain number of hours of CLE or “continuing legal education” each year. Family law and the sub-topics, such as child custody, child support, spousal support and marital property issues, that fall within its realm are often fact-specific. Thus, it pays to have an attorney who is keeping up-to-date on these issues by attending CLE’s geared toward family issues.
All an attorney needs in order to practice law – any kind of law – is a license. However, the field of law is so broad that it is virtually impossible for any one attorney to be effective in every type of law. Look for a family law attorney who focuses the majority of his or her time on family and divorce matters. More and more judicial districts have carved out separate sections of the court for family law matters. These court sections are highly specialized and often have a separate set of rules and procedures that apply to family cases. While it might be tempting to bring your uncle, the real estate attorney, to family court, you might be better-served by an attorney who makes family court a regular part of their practice.
While all attorneys should hold themselves to the highest degree of ethics, it can’t be any more important than when the attorney represents you personally. Every action that your attorney takes – good, bad or otherwise – will reflect back on you. Choosing an attorney who has a strong ethical reputation among judges and other attorneys can be one of the wisest choices you make. Before your spouse’s attorney has a chance to meet you, he or she will likely have an opinion about the attorney you’ve hired based upon his or her reputation or possibly from direct dealings in the past. If your attorney is known to keep his or her word, to follow rules and procedures and to be professional, then it could set a positive tone for the way your family law matter will proceed.
These are just a few things to consider when hiring a divorce attorney. It is common these days for attorneys to have websites. You can learn a lot about an attorney’s education and experience there. The Louisiana State Bar Association provides information regarding whether an attorney is in good standing. Once you are satisfied that an attorney has the education and experience to handle your case and he or she is in good standing with the bar – ask around. It’s the best way to learn about an attorney’s reputation.