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.
- 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.