Choosing a lawyer these days is much different than it used to be. Back in the day, communities were smaller and there were less lawyers from which to choose. Most people in town knew the names of the best lawyers or knew who to ask to find the names of the best ones. Over the past 20 years, law schools have sprung up all over the state of Florida. Consequently, law school admission standards have gone down as has the quality of many newly minted lawyers. This is not to imply that all new lawyers are of a lower caliber. Quite to the contrary, many Florida law schools are still matriculating and graduating first class lawyers. The challenge for the legal consumer is to distinguish the best from the rest.
It would be nearly impossible to arrive at a consensus as to the best divorce lawyer in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, Port Orange, New Smyrna Beach, Deland, Flagler Beach or Palm Coast. You know what they say about opinions….everybody has one. And, most people are of differing opinions. So, who is the best lawyer? A better question would be, "who are the best lawyers in my area." There are some objective, quantifiable standards which a prospective client can apply to all lawyers. The qualities of the best lawyers are:
- Credentials. Does the lawyer hold any leadership positions in legal organizations or is he or she board certified in divorce and family law. Board certification is the hallmark of a qualified, competent attorney. It’s a rigorous process governed by the Florida Bar, and it requires the lawyer to have substantial trial experience, significant continuing education, peer reviews by fellow lawyers and judges and, finally, successful passage of a daylong examination. Only 6% of all attorneys in Florida are board certified. Only board certified lawyers are allowed to refer to themselves as specialists. This is not to say that non-board certified attorneys aren’t capable and qualified; they just don’t belong in the category of being the best lawyer or attorney.
- Experience. Experience counts in the legal field. If a lawyer has a lot of experience, chances are he or she has encountered a situation similar to yours in the past and can effectively and expeditiously analyze your issues and propose good solutions. Lack of experience can lead to the misdiagnosis of a problem and result in unnecessary legal fees and delay.
- Specialization. In this age of specialization, it is very important that your lawyer limit his or her practice to one or two legal areas, but no more. The general practitioner is going the way of the dinosaur and for good reason. The law has become too complicated, and the competition has become too tough. Chances are that your spouse will do his or her research and hire a divorce specialist. You should too.
- Reviews and Word of Mouth. Although reviews on Google, Martindale.com and lawyers.com aren’t the gold standard, it doesn’t hurt to check them out. Also, you should ask around. Go visit the courthouse where your case will be litigated and ask the deputies and bailiffs about the attorneys. You’ll get different opinions, but don’t be afraid to ask, “Who’s the best divorce lawyer in Daytona Beach, Volusia County or Flagler County?” Ask your co-workers and confidants. You need to be informed…knowledge is power.
You may never get the definitive answer to the question about the best lawyer. But, if you ask around, you’ll start hearing the same few names over and over again. Once you’ve narrowed it down to three or four lawyers, then check out their websites and credentials. Make an appointment and meet with the lawyer. Don’t expect a free initial consultation with a good lawyer. If the lawyer is offering his or her time for free, then it must be of little or no value. When you meet with the lawyer, check out his or her office and staff. Are the staff members courteous and helpful or do they seem put out by your questions and concerns? After you’ve met with the prospective lawyer, did you feel a connection with him or her? Did he or she answer your questions in language which you understood. Did you get a good feeling or a bad one? In the final analysis, go with your gut feeling. If you’ve done everything I’ve recommended, chances are you’ve found the best divorce lawyer for you!