Choosing Counsel

By Lee A. Schwartz, Attorney at Law

Published: July 17, 2004

You are now in a dispute and you need a lawyer. How do you go about finding a lawyer who meets your needs? Do you need lawyer who specializes in Family Law? How about that lawyer you used to handle the car accident you were in last year? Should I use the phone book?

Choosing an attorney to handle your domestic dispute is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. Why? Because you only have one chance to resolve your property issues, support, custody, alimony and other issues. Can’t these be modified later if you make a mistake? Sure, but you will incur more legal fees, time from work, aggravation and other problems. Make the right choice now and you can have peace of mind.

What are your options in choosing an attorney?

  1. Phone book: This can be a valuable asset in providing you with names of people who advertise that they practice in certain areas. However, what is this persons experience handling the specific matter that you have? While the phone book can be a good option, it doesn’t provide you with much background information on the specific attorney.
  2. Lawyer Referral Service: Most of the county bar associations in Pennsylvania have a Lawyer’s Referral and Information Service. Call the county bar association and they will have a list of family law practitioners who can help you.
  3. Personal References: This can also be an excellent source of names. Speak to your friends, acquaintances, business associates and others who have had matters like yours and see if they were satisfied with their attorney. If they were and you trust the individual making the referral, that could be a good place to start.
  4. Internet: The Internet is a fast growing information base. Attorneys who advertise on divorce services on the net are paying for the privilege of being on that divorce service. Read the information provided by the attorney. Does he or she seem knowledgeable? Does the person have the time to answer your questions? Does the person give you specific answers to your questions or is the person giving you general answers? The Internet can be a good source to find an attorney.

Whatever the source, take the time to interview the attorney. Write your questions down and ask every one of them. Are you getting answers or just general statements in response to your questions? Is this person a family law attorney or not? An attorney who does “a little bit of this and a little bit of that” may not be the right person for you. As with any other business, a person who concentrates in Family Law is more likely be able to give you the service you need.

Would you go to a foot doctor for brain surgery? Of course not. The same is true in the law. Choose an attorney with the experience you are looking for. In the long run, it will be cheaper than using someone whose depth of experience is less than you need.

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