Finding The Right Family Law Attorney in North County San Diego
The most important step in taking any legal action is finding the right attorney to represent you through the entire process. In divorce and family law, finding the best attorney for each individual is particularly important given the personal nature and overall exposure by the legal processes one is required to work through. The right divorce lawyer is one who can provide for your goals while maintaining your best interest at all costs; one that exercises legal expertise and genuine ethics throughout the entirety of your legal matter.
Before beginning your search, consider what your goals are. What conflicts might you face personally as well as from the opposing party in your matter? What do you want to avoid, and what are you willing to compromise? Also, how complex might your matter be? For example, are there significant financial issues, and/or are there potentially unique custody situations to consider?
Preparing for legal action can be intimidating due to complexity and potential lasting implications decisions can have on a family, and an individual. Attorney John Griffith,CFLS of Griffith, Young, and Lass has a reputation within the community not only as an expert in the family law field, but also as an approachable professional who advises what is ultimately best for the individual, even if that means referring a potential client to a competitor that may better fit their needs. Attorneys like John are rare, but can definitely be a valuable asset in finding the right attorney to represent you.
If you have a list of potential attorneys in mind to hire, be sure to ask the right questions during the initial consultation to insure they are experienced in the areas you need them to be, and that they have your interests in mind.
A little internet research ahead of time can go a long way. Find out where their expertise lies and who they are away from their website. A commonly used search tool for finding out about an attorney’s reputation within the community is www.yelp.com. Pay special attention to reviews that reference and agree with each other. They can be great indicators of attorneys to stay away from at the very least. In addition, contact the State Bar of California to find out if there have been any complaints filed against each attorney and how they were resolved. If there are multiple fee arbitrations in an attorney’s history, then this could be an indicator that the attorney does not manage their client’s money wisely. Finally, ask each attorney about their competitors and more specifically, the other attorneys on your list. If the majority of the attorneys have negative reactions to one attorney in particular, scratch them off of your list. Also, if one attorney has nothing but negativity to say about all attorneys on your list, they likely do not work well within the legal community and you are better off scratching them off the list as well.
Many times attorneys get caught up in court or unforeseen time-sensitive situations due to the nature of family law, and may therefore be unavailable for your initial consultation. As a result, initial consultations are commonly given by associate attorneys and sometimes even legal staff in the office. Given that this is common, don’t be discouraged, but still be cautious. In these situations, ask questions like; “Where do the partners at the firm live?” At some practices, the most experienced attorney at the firm doesn’t even live in California. Firms like these should be avoided at all costs. Also be sure to ask how long each attorney at the firm has worked there. If the majority of the attorneys and employees are relatively new to the office, then it’s a very strong possibility that the turnover rate is high, and that your case will be handed over to new attorneys through its course resulting in weak representation and extra charges to you. This same point in mind, be sure to find out how many clients are assigned to each attorney. If the number is high (>25), then your matter likely will not get the attention it deserves and the firm is more about quantity and profit then it is about quality and helping people.
Ask for a copy of a sample retainer agreement (attorney – client contract) to review before making your decision. It’s important to really know what you are getting into before it begins. Question clauses like, “No refunds will be given to clients after representation for more than 4 months,” and “An additional amount of $$ will be charged for processing of all filed court documents.” Financial clauses like these tend to be included in order to empower a firm to charge more than what is necessary and ultimately provide service on their terms rather than yours. Remember that you should feel comfortable with any contract you sign, especially one that binds you to someone you will depend on.
It’s always a good idea to inquire about the rules and regulations an attorney must follow with regards to client trust accounts (money paid up front to be earned through services). Ask each attorney for a copy of these rules and/or specifically where they can be found. If they are apprehensive or unhelpful with where you can find this information, then be weary. Remember that the more you know, the less likely you will be taken advantage of. Why should researching the rules concern anyone who follows them?
To the same token, don’t be afraid to mention that you would like to get a second opinion if you are at all uneasy or unsure. You should again be cautious of an attorney who pressures you to ‘sign the contract as soon as possible because we need to get started right away!’ This is a sales tactic used to get you locked in and keep you from speaking with anyone else. The right attorney will understand the weight of your decision and want you to choose what is best for you.
When all is said and done, always keep in mind that you are the customer, and that the legal field is largely a customer service industry. Be confident in your decisions, do not be pressured or scared into anything, and follow your instincts. You are the only one who really knows what is right for you. Whatever attorney you hire should work with you at the level that makes you most comfortable, and comfort comes from trusting those who are on your side.