1. Are you an attorney licensed to practice in California?
Often the law office will have you interview with a paralegal and not an attorney. If the attorney is going to represent you in court you want to be sure your consultation is with an attorney.
2. If I hire you as my attorney will you personally represent me in court?
You don’t want to get switched. Often you only find out after you pay the retainer that the consultation attorney may not be representing you in court. “We’ll see you in court. Either Sam or I will be there to represent you.” You can be sure it will be Stranger Sam to see you in court. Before you pay, get it added in to the retainer in writing that that consultation attorney will be there to represent you and not a stranger.
3. Do you do family law or other fields?
How many other fields? What percent of your practice is in family law? The more other fields they do they less likely they will be skilled in family law. Just look in any advertising or phone book. What other fields are listed?
4. How long have you been in practice?
How many of those years have been in family law?
5. How do you bill your time?
Almost all family attorneys bill by the hour. How that hour is figured can be very convoluted. Do they track time by the minute, tenth of an hour, quarter hour or what? Do they round up or down? As an example, if they charge by tenths of hours and the time incurred is 4 minutes, do they round up to ten or down to zero? If they tell you they round down to zero it would be very questionable.
6. Does your office charge minimum time?
Certain pleadings the office may have templates for and just fill in the blanks with information on your case. Do they charge as if they were drawing up the pleadings up for the first time? Something you will hear is: “We charge minimum time of 10 minutes for any telephone call to an attorney. We have done intensive research on this and we usually use about 10 minutes in a client phone call. We are actually saving you money in charging a minimum of 10 minutes because for us to keep the actual minutes would take more time.” They will tell you this with eye contact and total sincerity. The bottom line is if they can keep track of time for up to ten minutes they should be able to keep track of the minutes themselves. Be sure to ask: “If the call goes for over ten minutes. Like for 12 or 15 minutes do you charge another ten minutes on top of the original ten minutes?” Also ask about minimum time for court appearances. If the case just lasts five minutes or is continued they may charge a minimum fee of several hundred dollars.
7. Do you do a joinder on retirement plans or QDRO orders?
Many attorneys do a joinder of the retirement plans but few do the QDRO orders. When you ask about the attorney doing QDRO orders they will come on strong that “There is no way I do those! We have another attorney do those. I know what I am good at and what I shouldn’t do. We are saving you money by not doing QDRO orders because the cost of doing the research would be too great.”
Bottom line, when all is said and done is that they don’t know how to do them, have not taken the time to study them and simply will not do it. You should keep this in mind. So often when people first go to a divorce attorney the retirement plan is the last thing on their minds. This is true even though it is often the major asset in a long term marriage.
8. Do you care about me and my case?
Obviously, the attorney is going to say he/she does care about your case. This question is not to be directly asked. The answer will be in the personality and style of the attorney. The reader has enough life experience to be able to tell if a person really cares about them or is just out for the money. The answer to this question is determined by your interpretation of the attorneys style, mannerisms and personality.
You or someone you know probably has family law questions or problems you want to get information on. The fact that you are reading this web site shows that. If you need help then I am here to help. I want to help at 608-477-1829. No charge for first consultation. “The other side is Goliath. You are David. This office is your slingshot.”