In the last post I talked about choosing your approach and choosing your process to resolve the issues that will arise during your divorce.
Now let’s get down to how to pick the best divorce lawyer for you.
In the Pittsburgh area, there are many excellent divorce attorneys. Some work in a family law department within a large law firm. Some work in medium or small boutique law firms that only handle family law matters. Many are sole practitioners. While there are advantages and disadvantages to each of these practice configurations, an experienced attorney working in any of these settings can do an excellent job for you.
I think it is best to interview at least three divorce attorneys before deciding on who to hire. Some attorneys charge a fee for their initial interview and some do not. During the interviews, you should consider the following:
- Compatible personality. You will be spending a fair amount of time and discussing very personal issues with your divorce attorney. Hire someone you feel comfortable talking to. If it seems that the attorney is more interested in talking than listening, you might want to look elsewhere.
- Approach to problem-solving. Ask the lawyers you interview about their approach to problem-solving. Most law schools teach lawyers to think about statutory rights and obligations and using all means necessary to get the best outcome for their client. While this approach may be appropriate in commercial litigation, many people believe that in family law matters it is more important to find an outcome that meets the needs of everyone involved. This includes you, your soon-to-be Ex, your children, if you have them, and your extended family. Keep looking until you find an attorney who expresses an approach to problem-solving with which you are comfortable.
- Who will be in control. Lawyers have different styles in dealing with their clients. Some take the approach that they are the experts and the clients need to take their advice and do what the lawyer expects them to do in order to get the best result. Other lawyers take the team approach, and consider their client in equal in decision-making. Still others consider themselves hired guns, who are obligated to do whatever their clients ask short of violating their code of ethics. Ask the lawyers you are interviewing specific questions about how and when they will take action on your behalf and whether they will seek your input in decision-making before taking action on your behalf.
- The information offered in the initial interview. I believe that potential clients should be informed of all of their choices regarding the process that will be used to resolve divorce issues.
In the last post, there was detailed information about the following choices:
- Direct Negotiations – sometimes called “Kitchen Table”
- Collaborative Process
Lawyers who are trained in the Collaborative Process have learned to use interest-based negotiations rather than traditional positional bargaining. Interest-based negotiations focus on the goals and interests of the people involved with an eye toward increasing the size of the pie rather than simply dividing it. The interest-based process is based on the concept that by considering and meeting as many of the needs of both parties as possible it is easier to reach a resolution, and the resolution reached will be superior to simply using competing interests and having one party “win” and the other party “lose.”
When it is important to continue to have a working relationship with your Ex, the most sustainable agreements are fashioned so that both parties are “okay.”
Decide how you want your divorce to look and feel. Then look for an attorney who can help make that happen.