When a decision is made to divorce, you are forced to become familiar with the legal world and what may seem like, a legal minefield. This is not an easy task given the legal jargon and technicalities involved in filing for divorce and navigating it until the end. Whilst some couples attempt to navigate the legal process on their own, others choose to hire legal representatives (solicitors and barristers) to assist them and take charge of the legal process. Finding legal representation should not be taken lightly because your relationship with your solicitor will last for a significant period of time and may even extend beyond the actual divorce if there are post-divorce issues to be ironed out.
Here are tips on what to look for when searching for the right divorce solicitor:
1. Do Your Research: Before you decide on a solicitor to assist with your divorce, conduct your own research on who you might want to hire. Conduct an online search and see if any articles or reviews have been posted about the solicitor or his/her law firm. Take your research outside of the Web and ask friends or extended family for a referral. Word of mouth is a great resource. By chatting with others in your community, you will get a better sense of the solicitor’s reputation in the community and whether he/she will be a good fit for you and what you are hoping to achieve in your divorce. Some solicitors have a more aggressive approach to divorce, whilst others are more mediation/settlement minded. You should consider how you want to approach your divorce and your goals and whether it aligns with your solicitor. You should also consider the financial impact a divorce will have on the matrimonial pot and approach your solicitor with that in mind as legal fees will skyrocket the more you litigate.
2. Ask Questions: Before you sign an engagement letter to hire your solicitor, do not be afraid to ask a lot of questions. How does the solicitor bill for his or her work? What is the solicitor’s hourly billing rate? Does the solicitor have assistants and paralegals? If so, will they be doing a significant portion of the work on your case? What are the hourly billing rates for assistants and paralegals working on your case? These questions are important because it will help you determine if you can afford the solicitor’s services going forward. Divorce is a long and expensive process. The initial retainer fee/costs on account will only get you so far and often, you can expect to pay additional fees and costs going forward. An initial meeting with the solicitor is also important because you can see if you and the solicitor are on the same page and whether your personalities gel together. This will be a long working relationship so it’s important that you and your solicitor work well together.
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Make Decisions: If you’ve hired a solicitor and come to find you are not happy with the relationship, do not be afraid to first discuss the issues you have with your solicitor in a transparent and frank conversation with your solicitor. If that is insufficient, then do not be afraid to change your solicitor and find a solicitor that is right for you. While you do not want to get into the habit of switching solicitors on a frequent basis, it is not unreasonable to change your representation when there is a true breakdown in the relationship between you and your solicitor. You may be hesitant to switch your solicitor after investing so much time and money, but remember you are likely to save more money in the long run with the right solicitor and get the results you desire with the right partnership.
Finding the right solicitor to handle your divorce is crucial. The right working relationship will determine the trajectory of your divorce, so make an informed decision before you navigate the legal landscape.