HomeBlogDivorce7 Tips and Tricks for Finding a Chicago Divorce Attorney

7 Tips and Tricks for Finding a Chicago Divorce Attorney

Aside from deciding to actually get divorced, deciding who is going to represent you in your divorce is arguably the second biggest decision you will need to make. So, how do you decide who will be the right fit? Below are 7 tips and tricks to keep in mind when hiring and interviewing Chicago divorce attorneys to represent you:

1. Get Recommendations

Divorce, or any matter in the domestic relations division, is a messy and unhappy time in a person’s life. Rarely is there a clear “winner” or  “loser” and rarely do people walk away with 100% of everything they want. With that said,  when a person can walk away from a divorce or other similar matter and recommend their attorney, you should listen! Also, keep in mind that you likely surround yourself, and therefore receive recommendations from people who are similar to you or share similar values, therefore, if they recommend an attorney whom they enjoyed working with, chances are you will as well. When it comes to selecting an attorney, word of mouth can give you a little extra confidence that you will enjoy who you are working with and relying on.

2. Make Sure You Are Comfortable with Their Experience Level

Whether your case is complex, contentious, amicable, or anywhere in between, this is the most challenging and life altering moment you have likely experience. Therefore, it is important that you attorney be able to handle any curveball that may be thrown at them with confidence and experience. There is nothing worse than your soon to be ex throwing a curve ball at you and finding out too late that your attorney doesn’t know how to handle it. Even if you believe your divorce will be amicable, and you can maybe save a few bucks on a less experienced attorney, it is always best to make sure your attorney has experience because even the most amicable of situations can have a curve ball here and there. Below, are a few questions you should ask during an initial consult  to gauge whether you are dealing with a novice or experienced attorney:

  • How many divorce cases have you handled/ do you handle on average?
  • How many of those cases resulted in trial? It is important to note that while it may seem beneficial to have an attorney who has handled many trials, this may be a sign that they either 1) like to unnecessarily drive up litigation costs; or 2) are not good negotiators.
  • How many of the cases involved “XYZ”? If you have children, are dealing with an case were a business is at issue, have significant assets, etc.,  it is important that you find an attorney who is well versed in dealing with the issues unique to your situation. Likewise, if you are looking for a quick and amicable divorce it is important to know that your attorney has experience in moving quickly toward settlement and knows those specific nuances.

3. Honesty is the Best Policy.

When discussing the details of your case, the attorney you are interviewing may give you some feedback as to what trajectory they would take your case or what they foresee happening in your case, based on their experience. If you like what they are telling you, and it aligns with your initial hopes for the case (i.e., that they foresee a speedy amicable settlement; or they see no reason that you would not be allocated joint decision making/parenting time, etc.) you are likely going to hire that attorney. However, if you are not being completely transparent and honest with the attorney during the initial interview, the feedback they are giving you is only based on what they know. For example, if you tell the potential attorney that you are actively involved in your children’s lives and have a close relationship, they may tell you that joint decision making/parenting time is reasonable; which may be exactly what you want to hear. But, if the reality of the situation is different, for example if you only see/speak to your kids on weekends, or a DCFS case was previously initiated (even if you believe it to be nonsense), then what is “reasonable” is different. It is of the utmost importance that you share any and all details of your case when interviewing attorneys as this could impact the entire trajectory of your case. No detail is too small and no detail is irrelevant. It is important to note that any detail revealed during a consultation is confidential so do not be afraid to open up, even if you haven’t retained the attorney.

4. No, An Attorney Cannot Promise You the World.

As mentioned above, rarely in a divorce is there a clear “winner” and clear “loser”; and rarely does one person walk away from a divorce with everything they wanted. Any attorney worth their salt knows that there is give and take in any domestic relation matter; and any good attorney will always make sure you are prepared for best and worst case scenario and everything in between. If you are interviewing an attorney and they are promising you everything on a silver platter; take heed. An attorney should never promise you 100% in a divorce or boast a 100% success rate. This is not realistic and is likely a sales tactic to get you to retain them. It is important to have an attorney who will be honest with you from start to finish.

In that same vein, be cautious of attorneys’ who promise you that your divorce can be resolved in X amount of time for X amount of money. Even the most experienced of attorneys are not physics, they do not have a crystal ball. In any matter before the domestic relations division there are too many variable which are out of attorney’s hands such as how a Judge will rule; the court’s availability; and the other side. Therefore, while you attorney may be able to give some rough ballparks based on the facts presented during your consult; there is no way for them to know cost and duration with any certainty; and like above, any attorney worth hiring will tell you the same thing.

5. Fees.

Money is hard to part with; and it is even harder to part with when you are doing so in the midst of a divorce and are looking down the barrel at splitting your assets with your soon to be former spouse. That’s why it is crucial that you make sure you know where your money is going when it comes to your attorney. During any initial consult it is important that you and the attorney have an in-depth discussion as to their fees and you walk away confident about how your money is being spent and what/how often you are being billed. Below, are a few questions you should ask during an initial consult  as it relates to attorneys’ fees and costs:

  • What is your initial retainer?
  • What is your hourly billing rate and the hourly billing rate of any associates/office staff?
  • If you and an associate are working are my case, how will I be billed for that work?
  • Do you have a separate trial retainer amount? Many firms, prior to going to trial will request an additional trial retainer.
  • In what increments do you bill?
  • How often will I receive an invoice? And when is payment due?
  • What happens once you have used the retainer? And, will I be informed once the retainer has been used?
  • What happens if I am unable to pay my invoice on time?
  • Can I ask my spouse to help with fees?
  • What extra fees can I expect; and are they expected to be  paid in advance?
  • Are there any costs I will be expected to pay out of pocket prior to them being incurred?
  • Am I billed for telephone calls/ emails?

6. Be Comfortable with the Day-to-Day.

A lot of people, when initiating a divorce, are concerned about the end result,  the duration, and the costs; and may not consider what the day-to-day operations of their case will look like. When hiring an attorney, you are signing on to regularly speak to and deal with another person and trusting them to handle the outcome of your life. So, it is important to know what that will look like and to ensure you feel comfortable with how that office operates. If you are not comfortable with how that office handles the day-to-day operations of your case, keep looking. Below, are some questions to ask in this regard:

  • Who will handle the day-to-day operations on my case? Will you be using an associate?
  • What is the experience level of your associate(s)?
  • If I am working with an associate, are you (meaning the managing attorney) still  overseeing my case?
  • Who will be responsible for negotiating my case?
  • Who will be representing me at trial/hearings/ pre-trial?
  • How often are you available for phone calls? How often is your associate?
  • What are you typical hours? Can you accommodate after-hours/weekend calls?
  • How often will my e-mails/questions get answered?
  • How often will I receive updates?
  • Will I get copies of all documents in my case?
  • Will I have input on the decisions regarding strategy?

7. Shop Around.

The attorney-client relationship is an important one; and should not be entered into lightly. If you have interviewed an attorney and you are not confident in the potential future relationship, keep looking. You likely didn’t marry the first person you dated; so don’t hire the first person you interview. Jumping into an attorney-client relationship, will likely lead you to seeking other counsel down the road and incurring unnecessary costs. There are a right pair of shoes for every foot and there is a “right” attorney for you.

If you are actively searching for an attorney; the attorneys at Ward Family Law, LLC would love to schedule a free consultation with you to see if we can assist you. Contact our founder, Jennifer R. Ward, Esq. at jward@wardfamilylawchicago.com. Ms. Ward  has over 20 years of experience dealing with the most complex of matters. 



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