How can you pick a good Family Lawyer from a bad one?
The selection criteria to choose a Lawyer for representation in a relationship breakdown is usually restricted to what can be seen from alluring websites, advertising and the Lawyer’s own boasts about levels of experience and longevity in the industry. The truth of the Lawyer’s actual abilities however, generally only become apparent as the case progresses and sadly, if the Lawyer is incompetent, the revelation often arrives at a point where it is too late to change.
So, behind the boasts about expertise and fancy advertising, what are the real criteria you should be looking for?
- #1 Empathy – does your Lawyer remember what your case is about? A good Lawyer must have a good memory, but a great Lawyer will be dedicated to building a very comprehensive memory base about your case. The ability to do that generally comes from having great empathy. Empathy means your Lawyer really does care about what happens to you.
- #2 Upfront estimates – will your Lawyer give you upfront estimates of the range of results you might expect from litigation/negotiation along with estimates of the time and cost involved AND put all of that in writing? A Lawyer who does not know what they are doing will shy away from those types of commitments.
- #3 Actual legal knowledge- if your Lawyer can explain the rules to you in simple terms, then that is usually a good sign of competence.
- #4 Can your Lawyer adequately strategize? A Lawyer who is not also playing devil’s advocate is likely to be caught out and defeated by cleverness from the other side.
- #5 Will your Lawyer stand up to you? A Lawyer who is too scared to point out the deficiencies in a client’s case will ultimately only get the client into even greater trouble.
- #6 Can the Lawyer put their own ego in check? Whilst a healthy ego is an important ingredient for an effective Lawyer, no one knows everything. A Lawyer who is prepared to lose face won’t allow arrogance to blind a mistake at a point when it can still be corrected.
- #7 What do the former clients say? Check for online reviews. They may not always be 5 star, and no one can keep everyone happy all of the time, but if there is a healthy quantity of great reviews, the Lawyer must be doing something very right.
- #8 Is your Lawyer regularly conducting cost v benefit analyses of all the options and promoting “practical” solutions? Generally, this style of approach keeps the case out of court and achieves good settlements early in the process.
- #9 Does your Lawyer know when power and aggression might be called for and can they deliver on it if required? When you lose your temper in a dispute you generally give over control of the situation to the opponent. A Lawyer who is slow to anger is usually quite adept at selecting and using the right point at the right time for maximum effect.
- #10 Prior to speaking with the Lawyer, how would you rate the initial contact with the office receptionist and/or other junior staff? If the junior staff exhibit a dedication to utility, accuracy, and efficiency, then that usually comes down from the top.
- #11 Is your Lawyer an “Accredited Specialist” in Family Law or works for one? An accreditation as a specialist in Family Law is only given to those Lawyers who have demonstrated their superior skills via a gruelling independent assessment process. Those Lawyers are also required to commit to ongoing additional annual training to maintain that proficiency. From the title alone, an “Accredited Specialist” in Family Law can therefore be taken to already be a cut above a regular Family Lawyer.
- #12 Not all efficiency is good. A Lawyer who rushes tasks without considering what happens next can be as efficient as a bull in a china shop. A Lawyer who begins each task with the end in mind generally produces maximum efficiency for effort with minimum damage along the way.
A great Lawyer can be expected to deliver the best possible result in the shortest time and at the lowest possible price. A bad Lawyer will do the reverse, often producing an incredibly negative and bitter experience that might take years (even decades) to recover from. So, choose your Lawyer carefully.
Michael Zande is a Queensland Law Society Accredited Family Law Specialist with over 30 years’ experience in the field. He is the principal at Zande Law Solicitors, Suite 7, Norwinn Centre, 15 Discovery Drive, North Lakes. To contact Michael for advice, phone 3385 0999.
The information in this article is merely a guide and is not a full explanation of the law. This firm cannot take responsibility for any action readers take based on this information. When making decisions that could affect your legal rights, please contact us for professional advice.