If your experience with domestic violence creates a need to obtain a lawyer, it's important to take the time to find the right one. This means doing your research and coming prepared with a list of questions specific to your case, be it relating to child custody, an order of protection or something else entirely.
To find a lawyer, start by asking an advocate at a local domestic shelter for his or her advice. He or she will not be permitted to make an official recommendation, but they can likely put you on the right path toward finding good representation.
Official agencies and professional organizations will not (or at least should not) endorse individual attorneys, so an online search may be a fruitful option as one can list many different criteria. However, be mindful of practitioner databases found online. They are not actual recommendations as they are directories analogous to opening the phone book.
Once you find a credible attorney, schedule a consultation to get a feel for his or her style. Here are some questions to ask from WomensLaw.org to develop a better sense of an attorney’s background and philosophies.
- How long have you been practicing in this city/county?
- What types of cases do you most frequently handle?
- How many cases have you handled in which you represented a domestic violence survivor?
- Do you feel as though domestic violence is relevant to my case? Would you introduce the topic in court?
- Do you feel as though my goals for my case are realistic? How would you go about accomplishing them?
- Please explain to me what laws are relevant to my situation.
- Tell me about your communication style and frequency. Do you prefer phone or email? How long do you typically take to respond to inquiries?
- Tell me about your fee schedule. What are all the fees I should expect to pay?
- Do you offer a payment plan? If so, what are the terms?
- What can I do to assist in my case to help keep fees down?
- Are you willing to put our agreement on fees in writing?
Once you’ve asked your questions, the best advice is to trust your instinct. If the attorney has answered your questions openly, and you’re comfortable with the answers, you may decide to hire him or her. If the answers given make you uncomfortable, schedule consultations with other attorneys until you find someone you can trust.
Still unsure if you need an attorney or not? Read “Do I Need a Lawyer?”
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If you would like to speak with a local advocate by phone, please visit www.domesticshelters.org/help and enter your zip code for a list of nearby hotline numbers. You can also start an online chat at www.thehotline.org. Choose your preferred option by clicking one of the green icons.SPEAK WITH SOMEONE CHAT WITH SOMEONE