Finding the right attorney to help with your custody or divorce case is one of the most critical decisions you can make. Divorces and custody cases last for only a few months in Oregon and Washington, but the fallout from the decisions that are reached last a lifetime. There are literally hundreds of choices on who to hire in the Portland Metro area alone, so it can be difficult to know where to start your search.
1. Find a good communicator to be your divorce or custody attorney.
Divorces or custody disputes are one of the single most stressful events that you and your family can experience. It is not only emotionally overwhelming to have to go through such a traumatic time, but it is technically complex as well. When clients come to me for help in their divorce, I believe my job extends beyond the technicalities of their divorce, but extends to an obligation to help them understand what is happening in their case and why. Let’s face it, you are paying a ton of money to your lawyer to do their job, you should be not only buying great legal representation, but also buying piece of mind to help you feel comfortable with what is happening.
You can’t get that unless your lawyer is an effective communicator of information. In your initial telephone consultation with your lawyer, look for someone who not only seems knowledgeable and competent to handle your case, but one who communicates in a way that makes the process easy for you to understand so you can be an active participant in your own divorce.
2. Look for an attorney who can be constructive not just aggressive.
You don’t really want a “bulldog”. If you look around for a Portland divorce or custody attorney, everyone has a friend who will tell you they know a lawyer who’s a real “bulldog” or “shark” or other fierce animal. While I’ve never understood the comparison people like to make between lawyers and vicious, biting animals, some seem to equate this comparison to being effective. Be careful not to fall into the trap of seeking out someone who fits that mold. Usually people with the reputation of being an aggressive lawyer tend to get their reputation because they choose the expensive litigation process over the more passive, but effective process of negotiation.
There is certainly a time and place for aggressive litigation, but anyone who seeks out litigation before negotiation is going to double or triple your total bill with very little to show for it. A great family law attorney is one who knows when to be aggressive, and when to take a step back and help pacify a tense situation rather than just inflaming it. In your initial consultation, look for someone who has a good balanced approach between being aggressive and being constructive.
3.You don’t always get what you pay for.
Often times people seek out the high priced firm thinking that they are going to be better represented than by hiring a solo divorce and custody attorney or going with a smaller Portland family law firm. I don’t believe there is any correlation between paying more and getting more with respect to your family law attorney. Often times, the high price firms charge more simply because they have more people on their payroll, which means more assistants and more attorneys will each bill for their time in managing your case. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good attorneys who charge hefty fees for their services, but there are an equal number of very bad attorneys who charge the same fees. The only point to be made here is that the higher price firm doesn’t equal a better divorce attorney.
You want to make sure you talk to several Portland family lawyers and find the attorney or family law firm in Portland which both fit your price range, and you feel comfortable communicating with. Your divorce is a once in unique and it is a life changing event so be sure you find the right fit for your specific situation and personality.