Purchasing legal services is a very expensive purchase and if it is done wrong, the consequences can be far-reaching. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize whether they have hired a good lawyer or a bad one until their case is over and it’s too late. Doing a little work in the beginning may save a great deal of anguish in the end. After all, if you wouldn’t buy the first car you look at; why would you hire the first lawyer you talk to?
The best way to hire a lawyer is by knowing his or her work and reputation in the relevant legal field. Few military service members or spouses know a domestic relations attorney in their area who also has experience in military issues. In fact, many people going through a marital separation don’t know which state’s laws apply to them.
The internet is a good place to start looking for a divorce attorney who knows about the various military issues involved in a marital separation or divorce. Start your search with the specific practice area that you are seeking followed by the city or county where you or your family currently resides.
For example; “Military Child Custody Lawyer in Norfolk, Virginia” will give a sailor stationed at Naval Base Norfolk several potential attorneys with experience in military divorce law and child custody practices near the base.
Also, the legal assistance offices on base (or post) frequently can refer you to (or give you a list of) local attorneys who represent service members and dependents in the local courts. These are not free attorneys but domestic relations lawyers who market their services to the military community are usually familiar with military divorce issues.
Review each attorney’s website and description of himself or herself, but don’t be overly impressed by awards like: “Voted SuperLawyer in 2010, 2011, 2012!” Ask yourself, who is voting? The selection is not based on a survey of judges, attorneys, or even clients, but by the advertising department at SuperLawyer magazine. In exchange for purchasing advertising in the magazine the attorneys are named “SuperLawyers” of the year. Often there are many “SuperLawyers of the Year” in the same year.
Similarly, awards by the American Bar Association, The Trial Lawyers Association as well as state bar associations do not necessarily mean that this lawyer excels in the areas of law you need. Usually, these awards are given for work done (or friends made) within these organizations (ie; schmoozing). If you are doing enough schmoozing to be voted President of the State Bar Association, it does not necessarily mean that you are also taking care of your client’s needs.
Instead, read the on-line reviews from past clients and see what they say. One bad review does not make a bad attorney, but if you see several clients all complaining about a lawyer’s lack of responsiveness perhaps you should heed their warnings. After weeding out the lawyers who don’t practice family law in your area and those that have no experience with military issues (the first criteria is more important than the latter) as well as those that got bad reviews, then you should set up appointments with the best three divorce lawyer candidates.
These appointments or initial consultations may or may not be free. Don’t avoid an appointment with an attorney because he or she charges a fee for this initial consultation. Don’t let this scare you off. Just like a restaurant sells its meals, a lawyer sells her time. Most good attorneys are busy and do not give away their time. You would not rule out a restaurant because it doesn’t give free samples; do not rule out attorneys for the same reason. Getting the right attorney for your case is well worth the initial consultation fee.