7 Questions to Ask an Attorney Before You Hire Them
Choosing an attorney to represent you in your family law matter may be one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. Without question, you want the most favorable results possible for yourself and your children. The more selective you are in choosing a divorce attorney, the more confident you will be, both in the representation and in the legal proceedings. You do need to know how much you will be charged, but you should not base your hiring decision on fees alone. If you’re wondering how to hire a good divorce lawyer, we encourage you to seek candid answers to these questions:
1. Is your law practice focused on Divorce and Family Law?
The one constant in the law is change. The courts continue to interpret laws differently, and our legislatures continue to pass new laws and change existing ones. Rules of civil procedure, evidence, and local court rules vary from one judge to the next. You want a seasoned attorney focused exclusively on family law. One who has tried many divorce cases, has worked with complex asset divisions, has handled contested custody matters, and has been successful. That attorney will guide you through your divorce fluidly, efficiently, and competently.
At Stewart Law Group, we focus exclusively on family law practice, including divorce, child custody, parenting establishment and paternity. 100% of our practice is devoted to family law. We have earned respect within the legal community for our trial skills, our knowledge of complex asset and property divisions, and our handling of child custody matters. We’ve been at this for many years, and we never lose sight of our clients’ goals and needs.
2. Have you ever been sanctioned for an attorney ethics violation?
Attorneys are held to high ethical standards regarding how they practice law and the customer service they provide to clients. The State Bar of Arizona regulates its members and, when necessary, disciplines attorneys with sanctions to punish for acts of professional misconduct. A grievance filed against an attorney can lead to reprimand, probation, suspension, restitution, and revocation of the attorney’s license to practice law within the state. You need assurance that the character and competency of your attorney justifies your decision to hire.
At Stewart Law Group, practicing law with the highest degree of ethics is at our firm’s core. Not one of our attorneys has ever been found in violation of an attorney ethics rule. We take great pride in our reputation for high professional standards, and successful, experienced family law representation for our clients.
3. Will you be the attorney handling my case or will it be handed off to another attorney at the firm?
At some law firms, the attorney you meet at the initial consultation is not the attorney who will be representing you. Allowing your case to be assigned to whoever happens to have a light schedule at the firm that week is never a good idea. If you’re interviewing one attorney, but will be working with another, then the best course of action is to interview the attorney who will actually handle your case.
At Stewart Law Group, the attorney you meet at your initial interview, and with whom you enter into a signed representation agreement, will be the attorney representing you throughout your family law case. Each of our attorneys develops a core relationship of trust with their clients, a relationship that requires direct, open, and frequent communication between attorney and client.
4. How much will the legal representation cost?
Ask how much you will be charged for legal services and how much of an up-front fee is required. Find out what the attorney’s billing practices are, because you need to know how and when you will be billed. Some attorneys do not send out invoices to their clients for months at a time. Ask the attorney how they will bill their time on your case. Other law firms charge a minimum of 12 minutes for any task, regardless of whether the work required 3 minutes. Furthermore, some firms charge a higher rate for appearing in court than the rate for other tasks.
When you arrive to meet with us at Stewart Law Group, we’ll discuss the cost of legal representation before any representation agreement is signed. We will explain our billing system and when payments are due – there will be no hidden expenses and no surprise legal fees. We want you to make an informed decision and be completely comfortable with our fee structure. We will charge certain fixed fees for specific services.
5. Will I receive copies of all documents in my case and have my calls returned promptly?
Ask how the attorney will assure that you will have access to your documents whenever you need them. There can be nothing more worrisome than not knowing what has transpired in your case, or being asked to respond to a document in the case that you’ve never seen and know nothing about. Unfortunately, some attorneys fail to provide their clients with copies of the documents filed with the court, orders issued by the court, or correspondences between the attorneys. To make a bad situation worse, some attorneys will not return your telephone calls within a reasonable time (the idea that a client’s call should be returned within 24 hours is lost on some lawyers).
At Stewart Law Group, we provide you with a portal to login and view all of your documents. No matter when you need to review your documents, you will have access to them through the 24/7 portal. We also assure that you will be copied on all documents regarding your case that arrive at our office or that leave our office. And when you telephone us, we’ll return your call within 24 hours if we are unable to speak with you at the moment you reach us. Our outstanding customer service is something our clients highly value.
6. What attorney credentials do you bring to the representation?
Any attorney that you consider must be knowledgeable about Arizona’s laws and the federal laws affecting your family law case, including insurance laws, tax laws, domestic violence laws, child support laws, child custody laws, and so on. Before you hire, examine the credentials of the entire legal team at the law firm — from partners, to associates, to paralegals. A favorable outcome in your case may depend upon it.
Our firm’s founder, Scott David Stewart, is AV Rated by Martindale Hubbell. Every attorney at Stewart Law Group is dedicated to carrying out the firm’s mission and upholding the firm’s reputation for excellence in the practice of family law. We invite you to visit our attorney profiles now — we have over 50 years of combined experience and the qualifications you’re looking for in a family law firm.
7. How much experience do you have with complex high asset property divisions, and with finding hidden assets?
With some divorces, the property division may be complex and contentious. Adding to the tension is the unfortunate reality that some people will attempt to conceal assets from their spouses. Before making a decision to hire, you need to know whether the attorney is experienced in dealing with complex and high asset divorce cases and knows how to search out clues to hidden assets. Not all divorce attorneys are knowledgeable about business valuations, stock portfolios, finance matters, tax and debt issues, or how to uncover hidden assets.
When one party deliberately conceals assets, direct and swift action must be taken to bring those assets before the court for division. At Stewart Law Group, we will take aggressive action. When property division and debt settlement is complicated by attempts at concealment, we have the experience and financial tools necessary to ensure that you are not taken advantage of in your divorce. We routinely work with forensic accountants and investigators to uncover secreted assets and undeclared property. We are a vigilant legal team and we will always look out for your best interests.