Hopefully the information here will help you avoid mistakes which myself and many of my friends have made in trying to find a good attorney.
Commit the following to print and take it with you when talking to an attorney but please don't let them see the whole thing. They might get upset. It exposes them for what they are.
Referrals: Try to find a local fathers or men's rights group who can offer a list of referral attorney's. Please remember this list is just a recommended place to start and they are not miracle workers. If you have screwed up your case by your own conduct don't expect someone to save you.
Talk to at least 3 lawyers. Most lawyers if you call and ask for an initial consultation will give you at least 30 minutes of their time to discuss your case. Do not hire the first one you talk to.
Do not hire an attorney from the same area as your spouse or ex-spouse. Lawyers who work closely together geographically soon develop friendships and networks and "bonds" with each other. Your attorney will NOT aggressively defend your case and attack your adversary if he believes that to do so may affect his working relationship with the other attorney. Many lawyers in small towns depend on the other lawyers for "overflow" business.
[Editor's Note: We have to respectfully disagree with the author on this last point. We feel that in most cases it's better to hire an attorney from within the area who knows the local court system. It's always a good idea to ask the attorney you're interviewing if he or she knows the attorney your spouse has hired, and if so, to find out how familiar they are with each other. If they've worked on opposing sides of the same case often, be cautious.]
Lawyers are not always looking out for your best interest. Sure they will always tell you they are but their responses to the following will tell you what they are really looking out for.
Child Support: If your case involves child support, look the attorney you are interviewing in the eye and ask if he knows that the Child Support guidelines are a rebuttable presumption and does he know how to challenge them. If you get a glazed over "deer in the headlights" look, take a hike and continue looking.
Division of Property: Division of the "Marital Property" can be an emotionally exhausting issue. You should try to work out a fair settlement on property between yourselves and have the attorney draw up the proper documents. However if you can't, and your state recognizes you have the constitutional right, let a jury decide. NEVER let a judge decide alone.
Jury versus Judge: While interviewing a lawyer ask how he feels about taking cases to a jury. You should never trust your ass or your money to one person's decision. If the attorney says he prefers to let a judge decide, take a hike. Lawyers who want you to trust the most important decision of YOUR life to a Judge are not concerned about your case, they are concerned about their working relationship with the Judge. Many Judges consider a jury trial to be an inconvenience and a waste of the taxpayers time, ... not your constitutional right.
Billing: Clarify by means of the contract exactly how your attorney will bill you and make sure you demand itemized bills showing the dates and times and hours being bill for. Never let your attorney get away with sending you a lumpsum bill that does not itemize the hours and work being charged for.
Retainer Fee: It is reasonable to expect the attorney you have selected to ask for a retainer to start your case. I can only tell you that you must determine what is reasonable in this area. I would consider any amount over $1000 to be excessive at least for someone who earns a middle class income. A reasonable retainer should fall somewhere between $500 and $1000. You do not want to pay to much as a retainer because you might learn your attorney is an incompetent butthead and not really looking out for your best interest. And trying to get that money back could prove difficult. If you find an attorney you think you want to hire, tell him you will pay him what you can and ask if he can work with you on the balance.
Never agree to binding arbitration. This admonition is only applicable to a few states. To agree to binding arbitration is stupid. You are paying the attorney to convince the trier of fact why your view is the only fair and reasonable view.
Reality Check: Men are at a distinct disadvantage in court, you must remember at all times to conduct yourself above reproach and any contact with the ex or future ex should only be done in the presence of a witness that you trust. Since men can now be convicted of battery or assault strictly on the unsupported testimony of a female accuser I must tell you how to protect yourself.
If you have been or find yourself arrested on a domestic violence charge, you must remember the following: