Questions To Ask Before You Hire A Divorce Attorney
At Song Family Law, APLC, my practice exclusively concentrates on family law matters such as divorce issues, support matters and child custody. Here are questions I frequently suggest considering before hiring your divorce attorney.
What is the attorney’s state bar disciplinary record?
It is imperative to hire an attorney who has a clean disciplinary record. It is surprising that so many people do not check the California state website when hiring an attorney. Even if it is for simple matters, it is important to know the record of who you are hiring.
How long have they been in practice?
Experience makes a difference. You want to make sure that your divorce attorney has the experience to handle your case. It starts with strategy, and having the right strategy from the beginning can save you money – more importantly get you results.
Is there practice exclusively family law?
You don’t want a jack of all trades and a master of none. You want an attorney dedicated to family law, because family courts are significantly different than other areas of law. You also want to have a family law attorney familiar with the court rules and judicial officers.
How is the firm organized and will you get prompt attention?
Ask yourself, are you going to be able to speak to the decision-maker or will you be handed off to someone else. You will want to be able to speak and consult with the attorney handling your case, making decisions on strategy, and attending your hearing. If not, consider why you are paying $300 to $500 an hour.
How many attorneys will work on your case?
The solo practitioner and the solo practitioner with one associate is the traditional model for family law firms. There are many reasons why this structure works best in family law. You want to make sure that the person handling your case or touching your case is intimately familiar with it. Otherwise, you may be paying for someone else to get caught up to speed.
What is the reputation of the attorney?
This is a tough question to answer. Many labels you’ll find on firm websites are paid for. Many reviews online can be helpful, but may be misleading. I’m sure that you’ve gone to a restaurant that was highly reviewed, only to find it was clearly not a four or five-star experience. Review all the information you can find on the attorney you intend to hire. You may even want to ask around. Ultimately, comfort level with an experienced, qualified, and affordable attorney with a good reference will be a good choice.
How much do I get charged for travel time, waiting time at court and continuances?
Often hearings get continued, sometimes you won’t find out until you arrive at court. If you are filing an ex parte, there is even a greater chance of wait time. There are also times that the court will have a busy calendar so you will have to wait around until the judge can hear your case, especially if there is a domestic violence case since those get priority. If you pay your attorney for every hour they spend at court waiting for your case to be heard, a simple hearing can cost thousands. You will want to know if your attorney gives you any breaks for these types of situations.
What is the hourly rate of associates and how much of the work is done by them?
Hourly rates can vary depending on the firm, but you want to make sure that you are paying for an experienced attorney, even if it’s just an associate. Do you think charging $250 to $350 an hour for an associate with only a few years of experience makes sense? If a solo practitioner with 10 years of experience or more is charging $250 or $350 an hour, ask yourself what is the benefit of paying for an associate $300 an hour.
What is the experience level of associates?
Along with the price, you will want to have someone experienced working on your case. You do not want to pay an associate for doing work that a paralegal can do. Drafting simple letters, putting together exhibits, making copies, preparing memos to keep the attorney in charge informed, etc. are tasks that you don’t want to pay an associate for at associate rates.
What is the hourly rate of paralegals and how much of the work is done by them?
It is important to review your bill and make sure that you are not being charged for paralegal work done by an attorney. Attorneys typically bill twice as much, if not more, as paralegals, so you will want to make sure that it’s the paralegal that calls the clerk, sends out the FedEx, schedules appointments.
Is every email billed to me, even if it’s not a response to an email I’ve sent?
Communication via email can be a cost-effective way to talk to your lawyer. But, make sure that you are not being billed for every email. Sometimes, the emails are not truly necessary or are so short that it should not be billed a “.1”. If you email your attorney and want to ask questions, keep in mind that you will most likely be billed for it. So, you don’t want to ask open-ended questions. Short phone calls may be best if you have simple questions or have a concern. But, if it is a short informative email or phone call, hopefully, you are not billed for each one.
What costs do I have to pay directly?
There are times that your case will need a subpoena, deposition, an expert, or private investigator. You should know what costs you will have to pay separately from attorney’s fees. For example, ask how court fees will be handled. Court fees are often not paid from the retainer.
Can You Help Me?
I am Hogan W. Song, and my practice of law focuses on divorce and child-related matters. Contact my firm, Song Family Law, APLC, online or call me at 888-999-0259 to schedule a consultation. I serve clients throughout Orange County from my offices in Mission Viejo and Orange.