The goal is to have five attorneys on your short list before you start interview for that special one to represent you. You may have already gathered attorneys from Fathers’ groups and attorneys from others friends and family. But what do you do if you still don’t have five? In other tips I encouraged you to take a day off and watch your judges in action. During that time you should have observed some attorneys working. Much like trying to hire the right person, you are going to do some pre-observation preparation. For this tip, I want you to dress in a suit, bring a book and a notepad, and sit at the court house. Your goal is to get the names of two to five good attorneys.
While you are doing your observations, you are going to be asking yourself: “Could I get along with this attorney? Does this attorney communicate effectively with his client? Does this attorney appear to handle cases similar to mine? Do I like the demeanor and attitudes of this attorney? Would I be willing to listen to this attorney?”
Spend the first hour in the court room hallway, second and third hours in the actual court room, and finally an hour by the attorney/client conference meeting area.
1) Start in the morning with the hallway outside the court room. You will witness clients and attorneys looking for each other. Watch carefully the interactions attorneys have with their clients, other attorneys and maybe even judges. Do they seem cordial to their clients? Are they talking and meeting with other attorneys? Do they seem well known and comfortable in this courthouse? Are they discussing and directing clients and witnesses? Do other people seem to know the attorney?
2) In the court room, you are watching potential attorneys conducting their case. Do they seem to know what they are doing? Are they respectful to the judge and other attorneys? Are most of their objections “sustained” (ruled in their favor) or “overruled” (not ruled in their favor). Are they organized? Do they have several clients or just one? Do they work alone or do they have an assistant?
3) Somewhere in the building, attorneys meet with their clients to discuss settlement offerings, debriefing on rulings, and general somewhat private conversation. Find this meeting place and sit and observe. How well does the attorney appear to be communicating information to their clients? Does council appear to be taking appropriate time to have client meetings? Is the attorney explaining things clearly? Does the lawyer appear to be listening as well? Does the attorney offer several options to the client? Is the representative making recommendations on what to do next?
During this process you are going to find lawyers you like and those you do not. Once you have found a potential candidate, go introduce yourself and ask for a business card. Most attorneys will be very flattered that you have taken the time to seek representation this way. Keep in mind you may be interrupting them while they attend to another client, so tell them you will call to setup a follow-up appointment.
Overall this may seem like a lot of unnecessary work. Nevertheless you will probably spend a great deal of time and money with this person. Ultimately, you are looking for an attorney that is local, well known in your court, and can do the work you desire. In future tips, we’ll talk about the specific questions you need to ask before hiring, but today you’re just adding to your list of potentials.
What are other suggestions for finding good attorneys? What would you add?
Fred Campos is father to three and primary custodian to his daughter Caitlyn from a previous relationship. Like this post? Make sure you subscribe to his blog, book him to teach or speak. Stay tune for his upcoming workbook “Daddy Got Custody” due out December 2012.