1. Check with your friends and family. If they have a family law attorney that they liked talk to that person. Many attorneys offer a free consultation either in person or by phone.
2. People want "the best" family law attorney. I don't know what that means. A good attorney for Client A might be a horrible fit for Client B. Family law is usually emotionally driven so you need an attorney (and the attorney's staff) that you trust & feel comfortable working with regarding YOUR unique situation.
You need an attorney that you an talk to & tell everything to honestly. I cannot believe how often people say, I could never talk to my attorney or my attorney does not listen to me. You are the boss and you need to have an advocate on YOUR side. If it's not a good fit, find a new attorney. You need to trust and respect your attorney! Just because your best friend loved this attorney -- the same attorney might not be a good fit for your case.
3. Many board certified attorneys charge $400 or more an hour. If you cannot afford to spend this much then it's not a good "fit" for you. You might not need a Rolls Royce if you have a VW family law case. You don't want to hire an attorney that you cannot afford then have to switch attorneys later -- not an effective use of your time and money.
One lady called me and said that she'd been told that only a handful of attorneys could handle her case in Houston. She was very emotional and scared about the future. But after talking to her, even though she and her husband were extremely wealthy, the facts of their divorce were pretty basic. She had already spent $150,000 in legal fees with 3 attorneys and had nothing to show for it -- not even temporary orders! I suspect that she called her attorney on a daily basis & was using the attorney as a therapist/counselor. I also suspect that she just did not like Texas family laws & she thought that "shopping" around would get her a different result. I think she'd made it to the "do not take this client" attorney list. There is a very wise policy among experienced family law attorneys -- never be the 3rd attorney in a family law case & if you do accept the case charge triple for it!
4. There are many wonderfully qualified non-board certified attorneys that practice family law. So look around.
5. I would stay away from a recent law school graduate - they don't have much court room or "life" experience. I certainly don't want an unmarried 25 year old helping me during one of the most stressful times of my life. I want someone that has some "life experience" and can understand what I am going through. Ending a relationship is the death of your relationship - all of your hopes, dreams, plans just flew out the window!
6. Family law is not an exact science. In most family law cases, the attorney must be able to adjust to the current circumstances. For example, if an uncontested divorce is filed then one spouse tries to kill the other spouse, the attorney needs to be able to quickly make adjustments to their strategy in representing their client.
7. You want an attorney that is available -- Do they answer emails or text messages? Can you talk to them or their paralegal if you have an emergency? Be prepared to pay for this type of immediate access to a busy family law attorney.
A good attorney does not accept every case that walks in their door. Sometimes it's not a good fit and a smart attorney will refer the person to another attorney. Sometimes the attorney has a lot of hearings/trials scheduled and the timing is not right. Most attorneys want to do a good job & will decline a case for a variety of reasons.
8. You want someone that keeps you informed on a monthly basis as to the status of your case. Sometimes nothing is happening. Sometimes things are exploding and emails/faxes are flying -- you want to receive a copy of what is going on and be kept informed on a regular basis -- this does not mean every 5 minutes -- or you will pay a lot of money for this type of immediate service.
9. The only thing an attorney can sell is their knowledge, time and experience. Our paperwork is our product. Don't expect an attorney to work for free. Your dentist, manicurist, a/c repairman does not work for free & your attorney does not work for free. If you call or text an attorney, expect to be charged for their time and expertise.
10. Don't try to go to court without an attorney. I see people in the law library or around the courthouse trying to do it themselves. One guy was a bus driver -- I told him that I would be dangerous if I tried to drive his bus & he was in dangerous waters trying to practice law without the proper foundation (law school) or knowledge of the court system and TX laws.
I really liked the commercial that had a man on the phone with a surgical knife as a surgeon tried to explain how to do his own surgery!
I don't do my own plumbing repairs, dental work or car repairs -- I hire an expert to do it right the first time & not waste my time and money.
11. If you don't trust your attorney then get a new one. You are going through a difficult period and you need someone that you trust and have confidence in to guide you through this process.
12. Most attorneys won't tell you but in Texas 90-95% of all family law cases settle before trial. Either through negotiation or mediation. Most people cannot afford a trial - they are mentally exhausting and expensive. But timing in settling a case is truly an art. A good attorney will know when to push for settlement.
13. Many people just want the pain to go away. They want to finish their case quickly. Sometimes this is a bad idea.
For example, one party just went through drug rehab. It's best to go 6 months and see if they can stay clean and sober.
Also, the pain does not go away just because the case settles and the paperwork is signed by the Judge. Most people don't believe this -- but it's true.
You still have to "deal" with the other party if there are children. You will be co-parenting your children for the rest of your lives. You will be co-grand-parenting your grandchildren -- it never ends!