When hiring a San Diego divorce lawyer, you should consider how much experience that attorney has in family law practice, especially in the courts in the county where your case is being adjudicated. A solid record of experience in both the process of working cases and in bringing them to the courts is key to your potential success in the court system.
Family law, unlike other areas of civil law, draws from many areas of law in its application. For instance, a divorce case in Family Court is covered by the Family Code, the Civil Code, and the Evidence Code. It may also include issues that are covered by the Penal Code, Business & Professions Code, Juvenile Dependency laws, Government Code, Real Estate laws, Tax laws, Bankruptcy laws in federal court, and International laws involving assets and custody of children, among others.
Your San Diego divorce lawyer should have sufficient knowledge and experience with all of these aspects of state, federal, and international law that she can advise you and guide you with competence and confidence.
The importance of making sure your attorney has local court experience is emphasized by the fact that each California Superior Court, in each county, has its own set of local court rules and procedures. Having a family law attorney who is very familiar with such rules and procedures is a great asset to you as the client. It will ensure that things will get done correctly, on time, the right way and more expeditiously than someone who does not follow the rules in everyday practice.
Another thing to consider is whether your attorney is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS). To become a CFLS an attorney must have at least five years of experience in family law covering a range of practice topics: trials, hearings, drafting settlement agreements, mediation, child custody, and many other areas. If your San Diego divorce lawyer is a CFLS, they must also have submitted a detailed application showing their experience and knowledge, plus they must take an additional State Bar examination proving they know their area of practice well.
Client and Peer Testimonials
While your communications with your attorney are confidential, thus your attorney can’t give you the names of former or current clients to talk to, you can often find referrals and testimonials on sites such as Yelp or Avvo. Occasionally, reviews of attorneys are given by other attorneys, and if client and peer reviews are good, this should give you some assurance that your attorney has succeeded in the past and can do the same for you.
Your ability to clearly communicate with your San Diego divorce lawyer is very important in maintaining a good attorney-client relationship. It can also help to protect your interests in the case.
Your attorney must be responsive. If you make a call to your attorney, you should receive a prompt response. Likewise, if your attorney uses email, there should be little time before you hear back.
You should also be prompt in responding to your attorney, as they may need important information from you to move forward with your case. When you sit down with your attorney in person, observe if they give you their full attention and don’t allow interruptions during your meeting. You are paying your attorney to represent you and their ability to have a focused conversation or email exchange, shows that your attorney is prepared and knows your case well.
All San Diego family lawyers charge some form of hourly fee for the work they do. This may include correspondence, emails, drafting paperwork, going to court, meeting with you or opposing attorneys, legal research, writing, travel, and much more. The details of these fees should be set forth in your Attorney-Client Fee Agreement.
Each county in California has different local common fees depending on the attorney or legal staff experience level. These are not set in any state mandate or local government rules; they just are what the local market will bear for fees. A San Diego divorce lawyer will generally charge $225 to $600 per hour and will normally require an advance payment of fees called a retainer to be deposited in their Client Trust Account.
This advance payment is usually about 10 hours of attorney time up-front and will need to be replenished if it drops to a certain level. Your attorney should explain to you how this works so you understand the fee agreement and fully understand all fees.
Your “Gut Feeling”
Finally, how you feel about the divorce lawyer you are interviewing is important. You should not feel uncomfortable with or intimidated by your lawyer. You want to feel connected with your attorney and like they are genuinely interested in helping you. If you get the impression you are being ignored or treated with disrespect, move on to find a San Diego divorce lawyer that is professional and feels right for your situation. When there is mutual respect and trust between you and your attorney, you both will benefit from the relationship and your case will run more smoothly.
If you’re in the process of choosing a San Diego divorce lawyer, give JWB Family Law a call to learn more about how we can serve you: 619.234.6123. We look forward to helping you.
The Importance of the CFLS Designation
A Certified Family Law Specialist, or CFLS, is an attorney who has obtained certification in the standards of California family law and demonstrated optimal legal competence. Attorneys who obtain this certification have specific expertise in all aspects of family law, which includes divorce or the dissolution of marriage, child and spousal support, child custody, and temporary restraining orders, among other areas of emphasis.
Not every attorney practicing family law has obtained this certification. In fact, the designation remains relatively rare—there are fewer than 2,000 CFLS attorneys in California and fewer than 200 in San Diego.