may be one of the most important decisions you will ever have to make. This decision can affect your property, money, and even the future of your children. You must be able to develop a comfortable relationship with the attorney handling your divorce as you will be discussing personal and sometimes sensitive issues.
characteristics to consider when hiring a divorce attorney:
The lawyer should be sensitive and objective
Straightforward about billing and costs
Clearly explain what legal terms mean and what the legal procedures are about
Answer questions without making the client feel uncomfortable
The lawyer should not promise any particular results
He or she should avoid unnecessary adversity while working hard to protect your rights and best interests
The lawyer communicates with the client about the progression of the case
Knowledge about the divorce laws of Illinois and how the laws are applied in the county in which your divorce will be handled
He or she should minimize your costs by encouraging mediation, discussion(s) between the spouses, settlement conferences, etc.
CAUTION IN SEEKING A DIVORCE ATTORNEY. Keep in mind that the cost of an attorney is not indicative of the quality of results. Simply hiring the most expensive attorney does not guarantee you will have the upper hand in the divorce.
Be very cautious if the attorney:
promises a quick result for a low fee
gives information that sounds odd or wrong
RECOMMENDATION. Someone who has been through a divorce is an excellent source for recommending an attorney. However, you must also make an independent choice if this is the attorney for you. You must feel comfortable discussing the intimate details of your lief and marriage with the attorney.
ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP A good attorney-client relationship is a team effort where concerns can be openly and freely discussed, options weighed, and a course of action determined together. The attorney should listen to the concerns of the client and give feedback. The client should heed the advice given by the attorney as it is the attorney's responsibility to protect the client's interests.
The attorney should be sympathetic and compassionate as a divorce can cause a tremendous amount of stress for the client. The client should receive guidance and feedback, but not expect an attorney to take the place of a counselor.
BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP One of the most important topics to discuss with a potential divorce attorney is cost. Every law firm has its own policies and procedures pertaining to payment of its fees. Many people seeking legal counsel forget that a law firm is a business and the attorney must receive payment for the services rendered. When an attorney is hired, an attorney-client relationship is formed that is, among other things, a business relationship. This portion of the relationship needs to be clearly defined at the onset to avoid confusion later. Attorneys should have clients sign a written agreement/contract. If any questions arise during the representation, the attorney and/or can review the contract.
WRITTEN AGREEMENT/CONTRACT. Prior to hiring any attorney, thoroughly discuss the fees of the attorney. Attorneys should have the client sign a contract detailing the retainer/flate fee associated with representation; if paying by the hour the hourly rate of the attorney needs to be included; the billing practices of the attorney; the responsibilities of the client during the representation; the costs for which the client is responsible such as filing fee, service fees, copy costs, etc.; and the scope of the attorney's representation. If you have any questions about the fee agreement ask the attorney. The attorney should explain what is expected of the client once the retainer is depleted. Some attorneys will require additional retainers to be posted upon depletion of the initial retainer. Other attorneys allow client to make payments if made on a regular basis. Prior to hiring an attorney, inquire as to what is expected once the retainer is depleted.
INITIAL CONSULTATIONS. This is the first time a person speaks with an attorney about using the services of the attorney. Some attorneys charge a fee for the initial consultation while others do not. Attorney Angela Lund-Logan offers a FREE initial consultation over the phone or through email.
ENDING THE RELATIONSHIP Either the attorney or the client can end the attorney-client relationship.
ATTORNEY. The attorney-client contract states the duties of the client during the relationship. If the client fails to perform these duties, the attorney may terminate the relationship.
CLIENT. If a client is not satisfied with service received from the attorney, the client should discuss such concerns with the attorney in an attempt to resolve the problems. If the client's concerns cannot be worked out or are not addressed by the attorney, the client should not hesitate to seek representation by another attorney. It is not uncommon to have more than one attorney handle your divorce. As the client, you must find effective representation for your family law case.
INFORMAL PROCESS. If the attorney has not appeared in court for your case or filed an "Appearance," the attorney does not need to file paperwork in the case. The attorney and/or the client should put into writing that the relationship has ended.
FORMAL PROCESS. If the attorney has filed an "Appearance" in the case, the attorney must file paperwork in the case asking to be removed as the client's attorney and end the attorney-client relationship. The relationship is formally ended when an order removing the attorney is signed by the judge. The attorney-client contract states whether the client will be charged for the attorney to end the relationship.
FEES OWED. If the attorney is owed fees at the time the attorney withdraws from representing the client, by request of the attorney or the client, the attorney can request a judgment against the client for the outstanding fees.
FUNDS REMAINING IN RETAINER. If the attorney has not earned all of the funds in the retainer, the funds must be returned to the client. The attorney continues to earn fees until the attorney-client relationship is terminated. The attorney-client contract will state whether the attorney is paid for all actions taken to end the attorney- client relationship.