Finding the best Seattle, Bellevue, or other local area divorce lawyer for your family law case in Washington State can be difficult and confusing, especially since it requires making a judgement during a time of emotional distress. It is, however, crucial to ensuring you obtain the best possible divorce case outcome.
Take Your Time to Research the Divorce Attorney’s Qualifications
When you decide to obtain a divorce, it can be tempting to want to just ‘get it over with’ and hire the first available family law attorney. However, choosing the first divorce attorney you find without reviewing available information about them is risky. The wrong divorce attorney can result in unnecessary and unproductive litigation, an extended divorce process, unnecessary and unreasonable fees, emotional upset, a poor legal outcome, and future conflict with the other spouse that could easily have been avoided.
Consider Personal Recommendations from a Trusted Friend, Relative, or Other Professional
A relative, trusted friend or other professional’s personal referral of a Washington State divorce attorney based on their own experience as a former client or contact is a good starting point. If possible, it is also advisable to review legal documents from a former client’s case, and, in particular, pleadings prepared by their former attorney and submitted to the court and resulting court orders, to assess the quality of the attorney’s work product.
Keep in mind, however, that a negative court ruling does not necessarily mean an attorney did a poor job, and the reverse is true as well. King County commissioners and Judges, as well as those in Snohomish and Pierce County have substantial discretion in deciding how to interpret facts, access each party’s and witness’s credibility, and apply the law to those facts.
Make Sure the Lawyer is Experienced and a Member of Family Law Professional Organizations
Make sure the lawyer is experienced in the area of family law, has handled divorce and family law cases will similar facts as yours, and is a member of family law related professional organizations such as the Washington State Bar Association’s Family Law Section. With experience comes not only knowledge and expertise, but the ability to accurately forecast court outcomes and choose the best, most reliable, least risky and most affordable manner of obtaining a successful outcome. An experienced divorce attorney will also be familiar with successful strategies, and possess a wide network of experts on which to rely for appraisals, evaluations, and other key expert witnesses that can make or break a case.
Check the Divorce Lawyer’s Reviews, Ratings and Community Reputation
Information on the internet can be a valuable source of information. Reviews from prior clients are an important indicator of client satisfaction. Reviewing the profiles and reviews of top AVVO rated attorneys, for example, can help you narrow down your search.
Referrals from other attorneys, and/or recommendations from other divorce lawyers in the same field and within the same locale, is also an important factor to take into consideration.
Interview and Ask Tough Questions of Potential Attorneys
Do not rely merely on word of mouth and ratings to make your decision. You also need to form your own opinion based on an initial consult. After narrowing down your candidates, contact them to schedule one. You can immediately remove lawyers you do not feel comfortable with, trust on a personal level, or appear uncaring or unsympathetic from consideration. A solid level of ease and comfort in the presence of your divorce attorney, and trust in his or her abilities and communications is very important.
Ask them tough questions. While they may be”tough” to you, an experienced attorney will have been asked and answered the same questions repeatedly. A qualified divorce attorney will be willing and able to answer all of your legal questions, and address all of your concerns, with patience and clarity.
They should also be able to discuss the pros and cons of alternative legal strategies such as attempting settlement before filing for divorce so the case is filed as an uncontested divorce, versus filing a contested divorce and using litigation and trial or resolving disputes by more amicable means of settlement through mediation, arbitration and/or collaborative divorce. At the end of the consult, the divorce attorney should be able to give you a concise, structured, clear recommendation for the best strategy in your case.
Ask About the Divorce Attorney’s Billing Practices and Fees
Ask the prospective lawyer about their billing practices and request an estimate of fees based on which legal strategy is utilized. A lawyer who becomes defensive, evasive, or angry should not be chosen.
Distinguish Good Lawyering from Good Marketing
Be cautious of divorce lawyers who give an overly optimistic description of the outcome. You may assess this by comparing it to both information obtained in your own divorce research and descriptions provided by other lawyers you’ve consulted.
A firm’s awards, accolades and special recognitions may have been earned by only one attorney in the firm and not be the attorney assigned to you. Moreover, if you are assigned the attorney with the awards and recognitions, make sure they will be the one actively working on your case and not delegating all their work to a young associate.
Descriptions suggesting special expertise or focus in men’s or women’s divorce issues is not important – at least from a legal sense. Though there may exist certain perceived biases in the law, choosing a Seattle or Bellevue divorce lawyer based on labels like “Divorce law for men” or “Divorce law for women” makes little sense. The law is gender neutral, and lawyers are trained to make persuasive legal arguments regardless of their client’s gender. Since Judges are ethically required to rule without gender bias, Seattle divorce lawyers who make legal arguments based on a personal biased view of either gender may actually jeopardize your case outcome.
Red Flags To Look out For in a Potential Divorce Lawyer
The following is a list of “reg flags” that should cause concern:
1) A public record of legal malpractice;
2) An ongoing pattern of poor reviews based on similar complaints;
3) A relative, friend, or acquaintance’s poor opinion of the attorney candidate for clearly articulated reasons;
4) An inability or unwillingness to estimate anticipated fees;
5) Poor communication and lack of empathy or concern for your case during the consult; –
We hope this article has been informative. At Weintraub Law Office, we welcome the opportunity to serve as your divorce attorney. Please call Weintraub Law Office at +1 425 374 4045 or contact us online to learn the scope of legal services we provide and schedule a low fee consult.