May 19, 2014

How to Find a Family Law Attorney

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Many years ago when I had recently moved and was looking for a new dentist, I simply looked through the phone book and found a dentist that was located nearby and set up an appointment. Later, when I arrived at the dentist’s office for my appointment, the receptionist asked how I had heard of them and I responded, “I just found you in the phone book”. She said “Oh, that’s too bad. That’s a risky way to find a good dentist.”

I often remember that memory when potential clients come to my office in Northfield, Minnesota to have a free initial consultation. I think, “Did they just find me in the phone book?”

I ask potential clients how they have heard of me and they often respond that they were referred by their therapist or their attorney (who may not practice Family Law or Mediation). Sometimes they say that they found me in the phone book or through my website or they simply say they found me “online”.

I think to myself, “That’s too bad. That’s a risky way to find a good attorney or mediator.” I don’t actually say that to them, but that’s what I’m thinking.

If I were in their shoes and was looking for an attorney, I would ask a therapist or other local attorneys for their recommendations. Often these professionals have personal relationships with various attorneys in the community and even if they don’t have a specific recommendation they would know who would be able to point you in the right direction.

When looking for an attorney, be aware that legal “ranking” of attorneys is a dark art. When I get emails or letters asking me to “rank” other attorneys, I simply delete the email or recycle the letter. I don’t trust these ranking systems and neither should you.

I would look for professionals who focus their practice in Family Law. Like any other profession, people get really good at what they do often. So, I figure it’s more likely that an attorney who does a lot of Family Law will be more likely to be effective and efficient in that area of law.

I would look for someone who has training, and who keeps up their continuing education requirements, in mediation. I say this because mediation training helps people see all sides of a disagreement and helps give professionals the tools to effectively diffuse conflict and work towards constructive solutions. You want effective conflict resolution to be a focus of every professional in your case.

Beware of attorneys that tell you that you “deserve” a certain outcome or that assures you that a court would view your case a certain way. I’ve been to court many times where the spouses attorney has promised their client that the judge would rule a certain way, only to have the judge decide the case in a totally different way. Then I wonder what those attorneys tell their clients afterward about why their guarantees were wrong in the end. I specifically tell clients that there are no guarantees when it comes to court. I do this because I’m in court for over 200 court hearings a year and, because of that extensive court experience, I know that I can’t fully predict what the judge will do. So, never trust an attorney who tells you that a certain judge always rules a certain way or assures you that a court will view your case a certain way.

A good place to start looking for a Collaborative Professional is on the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota website. There you can search by geographic area and by profession. If your primary concern is about mental health or how to approach your partner about using the Collaborative process, you may want to search for and speak with a “Coach”. A Coach is a mental health professional who has training in the divorce process and mediation and can help you understand your options. If your primary concern is financial, you may want to search for an speak with a “Financial Professional”. They can help you understand how financial issues can be understood and resolved. If your primary concern is your children, you may want to search for a “Child Specialist”. They are trained mental health professionals who have special experience working with kids and families and they can help you understand how to speak with your children about what is happening and how you and your partner can be there for your children during this difficult time. If you are concerned about any or all of these issues you can always speak with an attorney about the legal issues involved and they can help you understand how these other professionals can help you.

Carl ArnoldABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carl Arnold
Collaborative Attorney and Mediator, Arnold Law and Mediation, PLLC

Minnesota collaborative family law attorney and family mediator Carl Arnold enjoys helping people related to legal issues including divorce, unmarried parents, custody, parenting time and child support. From his office in Northfield, Minnesota, Mr. Arnold provides clients with great alternatives to the traditional court process such as Collaborative Practice Divorce, Mediation, Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE), Parenting Time Expediting (PTE) and Parenting Consulting. He offers a free initial consultation to help you understand your options. Learn more at www.ArnoldLawandMediation.com

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