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5 important questions to ask a family lawyer before you instruct them

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Questions for your family lawyer.

Instructing a family lawyer is something you might only do once in your life, so knowing what questions to ask when you first talk to them is very important. I’ve suggested five key questions which are worth asking, to make sure you are getting the best possible, most appropriate service for your family law needs.

  1. Will they be managing your case in person or will they delegate it to another more junior member of staff?
    It is important to understand from the outset whether it is the family lawyer you are engaging that will be undertaking your work, this will ensure you are getting the best possible service for the price that you have agreed. Often larger law firms will have tiers of staff that will deal with different aspects of the work, depending on the complexity. If you are engaging your lawyer by paying an hourly rate, you want to make sure you are not paying for a junior lawyer’s time as well as the senior lawyers time in checking their work.
     
  2. Can they offer you a fixed price service for the work you require and if so what is the scope of the work they can do for you under that fixed fee?
    To ensure that you understand what work will be carried out under the fee you have paid, it is important there is full transparency so there are no misunderstandings later. Your lawyer should provide you with a summary of the work they will be doing for you and to what stage of the proceedings that will take you to. It is likely there will be several stages, so you need to be clear about where one stage ends, and where the next begins.
     
  3. What are their turnaround times for taking action on your matter?
    It is vital to understand what your lawyers’ policy is with regards to the time they take to act on your instructions every time you engage with them. For example, how long they will take to update you when there is news in about your case or a letter in from the opponent or their solicitor? It is not unusual for a law firm to take up to 10 working days to respond to correspondence and this can create significant delays. If you know this from the outset you can either factor this in to the case if you decide to instruct them or you can consider instructing a family law firm that is more efficient.
     
  4. What do they consider to be the overall time estimate for your case from start to finish?
    It may be that they are unable to give you a specific answer to this question as it will depend on external factors, but what they should be able to do is tell you is whether the local court are suffering any significant delays at present, which at times can add a great deal of frustration to a case. If they are aware of delays at the Court, it might be sensible to issue at a different court. The time it takes for one court over another to process a divorce from start to finish can be the difference between 4 – 8 months, so it will be helpful to you if this can be identified from the outset, so your expectations are properly managed.
     
  5. Can they direct you to testimonials from their current or past clients?
    This can usually give you a good feel for how other client’s have found their experience. Look out for comments on whether the clients were kept up to date, the efficiency of the lawyer and things like whether they kept to the estimates for time and costs. Consistently bad reviews for example may be an indication of a problem you may wish to avoid.
     

There will no doubt be other questions you will need to ask about your specific case but if you don’t get satisfactory to the questions above you might want to move on and talk to another family lawyer.

Sue Harwood
Divorce and Family Law Solicitor, Cornwall

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Hi do you do a free initial appt to discuss pending marriage breakdown?

By Bronwen Morgan on Saturday January 13, 2018

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