How to Select a Bergen County Divorce Lawyer
Deciding to get a lawyer to represent you in your divorce is one of the smartest things you can do. But how do you decide which lawyer you should hire when filing for divorce in Bergen County? There are a number of things to consider, including the lawyer's credentials and experience. Above all though, you should listen to your instincts when choosing a Bergen County divorce lawyer.First Steps
Sometimes the best lawyers save money on advertising by being able to rely solely on word of mouth. Ask your friends and family if they can refer you to a good Bergen County divorce lawyer. Or visit the state bar website and see if you can get a lawyer referral. While you’re there, check to see if they are actually licensed to practice or if they have any disciplinary history.
Once you have created a list of several prospects, see what kind of presence they have online. Do they have a website? Is it professional and informative? Do they use social media? What is their content like? Another good thing to look for is if the lawyer has published any writings on the topic of family law.What to Look for When Researching a Bergen County Divorce Lawyer
Experience and certifications can be helpful in narrowing down your list of attorneys. A certified matrimonial attorney is one of few professionals in New Jersey that hold this distinction. These lawyers are certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey after they have demonstrated a certain level of experience in combination with their education and skill.
The criteria demanded of a certified matrimonial attorney is:
- To be a member of the New Jersey bar for at least five years and be in good standing
- To have fulfilled all the requirements of their legal education
- Demonstrated a substantial level of experience in matrimonial law
- Received favorable evaluations from their colleagues – including judges – who are familiar with the attorney's work
- Pass a written test on the subject of matrimonial law.
Attorneys who receive this designation will typically include it in their advertising materials, business cards and letterheads. All their materials will read "Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney."
Other things to consider are the attorney’s number of years of experience. As with any other job, someone who has been practicing law longer will usually be a good option. It is, after all, called the ‘practice’ of law. You should also see if the attorney has good ratings online or elsewhere. Google reviews, Yelp, and Avvo often offer reviews and ratings of lawyers. Keep in mind that these ratings are not always accurate, but they should give you a good idea of a lawyer’s reputation at large.First Contacts
Once you have found a few attorneys that you like, give their office a call and ask to set up an initial consultation. Most lawyers will offer free half hour consultations for you. These consultations can offer incredible insight into how a Bergen County divorce lawyer will help you.
Make a note if your phone call was answered quickly and if the receptionist is organized in her questions to you. Most consultations should be free and the attorney should be flexible in when they can meet with you. When you come to the office for your consultation, notice if they were prepared for your visit. Did they have paperwork ready for you to fill out? Does the office look organized and well-kept, or are there piles of paper everywhere?The Consultation
Because consultations are free, lawyers usually keep them fairly short – up to half an hour at most. Therefore, you should come prepared to hit the ground running. Bring copies of paperwork you feel is relevant, including any pleadings or orders on file. Feel free to bring a list of questions and some paper to take notes. Good attorneys appreciate clients who are organized and have specific goals.
In addition to your legal questions, you should take this opportunity to inquire about their work ethic and professionalism. For example, feel free to ask how often they’ll be available to speak to you. Do they have others who can help you if they are unavailable? Have they ever handled a case similar to yours, and what was the result? What percent of their practice is family law? How much will this case cost, and how long will it take? It's a great sign if the lawyer asks you questions as well, or brings up issues that you may not have considered. That demonstrates their commitment to your best interests.
A good Bergen County divorce lawyer should always try to answer your questions, but they should never guarantee an outcome for you. Sometimes, if your questions are particularly complex, a lawyer might not be able to answer it right away. Don’t assume that the lawyer is bad for this reason – a true professional would rather not answer a question than provide you with bad information.Warning Signs
Even if a lawyer has good reviews and credential online, if they do some things during their consultation with you, be aware. If the lawyer is taking calls or checking their email while you are speaking with them, this is a sign that your case is not important to them – and probably won’t be in the future either. If the lawyer always talks over your head and can’t break down complex legal issues for you, chances are you will have difficulty communicating with him or her during your case. Lawyers also owe a duty to the legal profession. So, if they start gossiping about other attorneys or judges in the county, they are unprofessional and probably not very discrete.Making the Decision
Always trust your gut. Think about what you observed during your consultation. Did you feel comfortable with this attorney? Were they easy to talk to? Did they actually listen to your concerns? But make sure that they are competent and knowledgeable. You probably do not want a novice attorney taking on an incredibly complex divorce with child custody matters and vast resources. Of course, the cost of hiring a lawyer is always a consideration, but more expensive attorneys do not necessarily mean they are the best. Ultimately, hiring a Bergen County divorce lawyer is a personal decision that you should take seriously. Do your research and trust your instincts.
Peter Van Aulen is a certified matrimonial law attorney with over twenty years’ experience. If you want to speak to a qualified Bergen County divorce lawyer, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845-7400 for a free consultation.