Divorce Lawyer: 5 Tips for Finding the Best Lawyer

I’m a divorce lawyer in Illinois. Specifically, areas such as Chicago, Skokie, Evanston, and Wilmette, and the Counties of Lake and DuPage. If you want to start a contested or uncontested divorce, then you should consider these 5 tips for choosing the best divorce lawyer.  

Tip 1: Consider referral source

It is very common for people to get referrals from their friends or relatives. For example, a friend might say to you “My lawyer was the best in Chicago, I’ve got the kids most the time, and my ex didn’t get all my money!”

You might think to yourself, “Wow. I want the best lawyer in Chicago too. I’ll call that person.”

However, the source of the referral makes a big difference.

Here are a couple reasons that a referral to a lawyer might not be worth what you think it is:

  1. The case was easy: Maybe the referral sources things the lawyer was great simply because the case was easy. For example, the referral sources has most of the facts on his or her side. If you are not in that same position, then you might have a very different experience with the same lawyer.
  2. The lawyer got lucky: Sometimes as case will go really well because a lawyer gets luck. For example, the judge assigned can have a big impact on a case. Judges hold different views, and your case can be impacted by the judge assigned. Who knows – you might not receive the judge that would be the most likely to rule in your favor. Judges have a great deal of discretion in how they rule in an Illinois divorce.
  3. The other party gave up: Sometimes the other party in a case simply gives up. Maybe it’s because they are sick of fighting, or trying to move on with life, or something else. But you might not get so lucky. So if the referral source’s spouse gave up, that case may have seemed easy. Therefore, the referral source may have though the lawyer did a great job, and referred you as a result.

Tip 2: Consider the likely billing practices

In many big divorce law firms in downtown Chicago, partners will bill at rates in excess of $500 an hour. Then there’s also associates, and paralegals. Large firms tend to bill for a lot of stuff relating to sending letters and what you might find to be administrative work. Let’s just say that those offices in the Loop have very expensive rent.

Don’t get me wrong, it might be worth it to pay a high hourly rate to get great results. But one thing is for certain, if you agree to pay a very high rate for your lawyer, you will do just that. But you are not guaranteed to get great results.

Many people choose to hire a smaller law firm with lower overhead in an attempt to avoid exorbitant fees associated with a big downtown law firm.

Tip 3: Get a lawyer who keeps it real

Even on an initial free phone call, I sometimes tell clients exactly what I think of their case. I don’t see any point in pipe dreams and building up false expectations. I know that some lawyers like to huff and puff about everything their going to do – but that’s just for show. I’d run the other way if I was looking for a lawyer and one told me how he was some type of legal Rambo – that’s silliness.

Tip 4: Discuss how to keep your fees low

A divorce in Illinois can get very expenses. While it’s true that lawyers are expensive, that’s not really what surprises people. I find that generally people are surprised about things like how much evidence they have to gather, and how many trips to court are required for what they think is a simple matter.

Therefor, what I do is discuss with my clients how to keep their fees low. For example, I wrote this article about financial discovery (evidence gathering). Financial discovery – including financial affidavits, interrogatories, and requests for production – can be a very significant expense. I found when clients are education about the process they are better able to help themselves.

Another thing I do is help clients understand how to effectively communicate about their case without wasting too much time discussing irrelevant or untimely matters.

Tip 5: Match philosophies

It is important to buy in to your attorney’s philosophy of handling cases. My philosophy can be summarized as the following:

  1. Advise clients in a strategic manner. For example, how to surreptitiously gather evidence.
  2. Education clients to understand the risk and rewards in regards to accepting settlements, and aspects of litigation such as depositions.

Getting started with your divorce

If you want to start a divorce in Illinois, I can speak with you about your case for less than 15 minutes; just call 312-554-5433 to get started. My goal would be to give you a quick overview of what I think. But please note, many matters are beyond the scope of a free divorce consultation – sometimes you just have to get started.

By they way, if you want to fire your divorce lawyer, check out this article.

About the author: Contact Illinois family law attorney David Wolkowitz at 312-554-5433 or online. He is a family law and divorce attorney serving Chicago and the Counties of Cook, Champaign, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. Areas of practice include divorce, uncontested divorce, child custody, visitation, spousal maintenance, child support, and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act (the “UCCJEA”).