Today there is a wealth of information online and elsewhere about finding the best divorce lawyer for you. It can make reaching a decision on which law firm to choose overwhelming. Relying on word of mouth recommendations from friends and colleagues is useful. But a lawyer who proves a good fit for one person may not be right for someone else. Above all your decision should be based on your personal circumstances.
Every divorce solicitor brings different skills and attributes to their work and you should bear this in mind when making your choice. Here are nine things we think you should think about before deciding who to instruct:
- You don’t have to go local – Whatever the outcome of your divorce it will have a huge impact on your future and that of your children. Prioritise expertise over convenience. An effective divorce solicitor will deal with most matters by phone and email. This makes frequent face-to-face meetings unnecessary. An experienced solicitor who responds to phone and email concerns promptly is more useful than an unresponsive one – no matter how closely located to you they are.
- What about cost? The price of legal services is uppermost in many people’s minds when deciding on a divorce solicitor. Firms should charge transparently – you should know what you are getting for your money. And remember the cheapest firm might not be the best for you. If you are quoted a fixed price check what it includes. It’s also important to confirm the level of seniority and expertise of the people at the firm who will be carrying out the work. Will your case it be passed to junior or unqualified staff? Remember: “if you think it is expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”
- Decide what’s important to you – What are your priorities? Family law solicitors specialise in different areas. If you don’t have children for example it doesn’t make sense to choose a firm or individual lawyer whose main area of expertise is child arrangements. If there are allegations of domestic abuse ensure you go with a firm that has an in-depth knowledge of this complex area. Many firms focus exclusively on financial arrangements. If this is likely to be the main area of discussion during the divorce process find a lawyer who will negotiate robustly on your behalf and a firm with an established reputation. This is particularly important when there are substantial marital assets.
- Interview your choice of solicitor before making your mind up – Instructing a solicitor to handle your divorce is not like instructing a lawyer to sell your home or recover a debt. Divorce is intensely personal. You’ll need to be able to trust your solicitor with intimate details of your life, relationships, your children and your finances. The only way to know if your preferred choice is the best divorce lawyer for you is to speak to them directly. It’s a good idea to make a list of questions beforehand and ensure you cover all your concerns.
- Do your research – There is a wealth of information on divorce solicitors and law firms available online and offline. Read Google reviews and online legal directories. Look at testimonials of former clients and ask if it is possible to speak to other people who have used the solicitor you are thinking about instructing.
- Advocacy experience – Your divorce solicitor’s job is to protect your position and present your case in the best possible way. And this does not just mean arguing your case in court. All discussions with the lawyers for your spouse demand quick thinking and skilful advocacy. Don’t be afraid to ask if individuals at the firm have undergone any kind of advocacy training and how comfortable they are appearing in court.
- Look at the firm’s website – A law firm website can tell you a great deal about the company. Family law and divorce procedure changes constantly and a good website should have regular updates and blogs that display the firm’s expertise and knowledge of the current law. Read the profiles of individual solicitors to see if they have any specific family law qualifications that display the kind of expertise you need.
- Regulatory matters – Check the firm is affiliated to the Law Society and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. This information is available on letterhead and websites.
- Is the firm a member of Resolution? Resolution is a body that promotes constructive solutions to family law matters, including divorce. Although membership is not obligatory and many excellent solicitors do not subscribe to the group, membership indicates an ethos and approach to resolving conflict that many people embarking on divorce find useful.