Choosing a family law attorney for your divorce or family law matter in Pennsylvania is one of the most important hiring decisions you will make because your selection will have a direct impact on what ultimately becomes of your day-to- day life. While no one can control what happens and guarantee the result you will achieve, a competent and knowledgeable family law attorney can mitigate detrimental circumstances and steer your case in the right direction.
Many people finding themselves with a family law problem in Bucks County, PA never dealt with an attorney before and do not know where to begin their search. Dealing with a family law issue is stressful enough, without having the added burden of finding the right person to guide you through the process. In this article, I try to point you in the right direction by giving you some things to look for in your search for the best attorney for your case.
Out of all the criteria to consider, an attorney’s credentials are the most straightforward. In most cases, the best place to start is the attorney’s website, as that is where most attorneys expect their potential clients to go in order to research their qualifications. Look at the attorney’s educational background (the schools attended and degrees received); practice experience (not only the duration of practice but also the quality of practice, since some attorneys have practiced for a considerable amount of time yet not necessarily in family law); additional certifications (such as a CDFA); and involvement in the development of family law (whether through participation in bar associations, publication of relevant articles, or other similar functions).
2. Client Feedback
As anyone who has performed a Google search knows, the Internet has become a forum for feedback regarding service providers, for better or for worse. I say “for better or for worse” because there are both legitimate websites and questionable websites out there, and it can be difficult to distinguish between them. Websites like avvo. com can be a terrific resource, because there is a tremendous amount of oversight at the website management level. Avvo personnel ensure that the attorney’s actual clients provide the feedback, rather than opposing parties, friends of the attorney, etc. As a result, you are getting the insight of someone who used the attorney’s services and decided to take the time and share his or her experience with others. If someone abuses the system, Avvo removes the review once alerted, which serves to keep the website legitimate.
Other websites have no such oversight and allow everyone and anyone to post comments about an attorney, which devalues the whole idea of the feedback system. It goes without saying that a disgruntled opposing party is not going to make the most- legitimate claims or give you the most-helpful analysis of the attorney’s services (How would an opposing party know what the attorney’s fees were, what the attorney’s responsiveness was, what the attorney’s performance was, and what the attorney/client relationship was like?). In order to avoid such websites, look for red flags. Does the website “look” legitimate in terms of overall appearance and design? Does the website have a policy regarding who may leave feedback? Does the website have a reporting process for illegitimate posts? If the answer to these questions is “no,” look elsewhere.
3. Your Gut Feeling
No matter how great an attorney’s credentials and client feedback may be, you have to trust your attorney if the relationship is going to work. There will be challenges in every family law case, and you have to believe that the attorney is looking out for your best interests at all times, even if a particular issue does not go your way (and that can happen regardless of how effective your representation is). When you initially hire an attorney, you want to make sure that you feel comfortable at the end of the consultation. Did the attorney answer all of your questions and explain the fee structure? Will you be comfortable sharing personal details with this individual in order to get the advice and counseling that you need? If you already have an attorney, are you still as comfortable as you were at the beginning? If you are not, it may not be necessary to switch counsel just yet. Speak with your attorney and ask him or her to address your concerns. If you are not satisfied with the responses, start looking for an attorney who is better suited to address your needs. You never want to stay in an attorney/client relationship that is not working, as it does not bode well for either party and can breed unnecessary resentment. Sometimes, it simply is a poor “fit” for no particular reason.
All in all, family law issues are difficult enough without having the additional stress of worrying about whether or not you have the right advocate on your side. Keep the above considerations in mind, and you will have an invaluable source of support to get you through the most trying of times.
This article originally appeared in the April / May 2015 issue of the Bucks County Womens Journal