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Illinois Divorce Lawyer: Good Questions to Ask a Lawyer in an Initial Consultation

One of the pleasures of my practice in managing only Family Law cases (primarily divorce and child custody cases, and post decree problems with financial and child related issues such a modifications to custody or support orders) is the opportunity to meet with some really fine, caring, and interesting people, and help them navigate through their family issues, develop strategies that work, and to offer some effective approaches to their complex issues, based on years of my experience in this work managing complex divorce and post-decree cases successfully.

What are some good questions to ask during an initial consultation?  My approach is to take time in these first meetings, to listen carefully, and to provide solid recommendations that are both effective and potentially game-changing, along with cost effective approaches so that my clients are not affected by high legal costs. Being highly effective, and cost-effective, is a longstanding hallmark of my approach.

What are good questions for a client to ask during an initial consultation with a lawyer? : 

1. “How long have you practiced divorce and child custody law, and do you only practice in this field?”

This is a critical question. There are lawyers that do not have the experience in this field, and do not have the experience practicing in front of the many judges that hear cases in all of the counties in northern Illinois. In my practice, I have manages cases in all of the counties in northern Illinois, and have been hired as well in complex cases downstate for cases involving child custody, parental alienation, and cases with psychological issues that may attorneys are not equipped to handle. This has allowed me to practice in front on many judges, and to have experience with a multitude of courts and judges. Understanding how various counties practice and knowing the approaches that many judges take can be a very effective advantage.

2. “How many cases like mine have you handled?”

Many of my clients have sought out my practice due to my experience, and due to the unique approaches that I have employed in the management of the case in order to optimise the potential for positive results. Over 20 years of managing complex cases has allowed me the opportunity to see many issues presented, and to have strategies in mind that are effective in almost every case. This can involve unique strategies to deal with child custody issues such a parental alienation, or financial issues involving businesses and valuations, and determining assets and liabilities that should be included in a marital allocation at divorce.

3. “Will an associate lawyer be delegated on my case, or will you handle all aspects of my case?

With my practice, when you hire my firm, you hire me to handle the case, and there will not be a junior associate involved in your case. Because my cases are often complex, be they financially complex or complex due to intricate issues involving parenting and child custody issues, I will be handling all aspects of your case and bringing to bear my years of experience.  Your case won’t be delegated to a junior lawyer (sometimes, a lawyer at some firms who is learning family law on the job) . I do have clerical support staff at my office, but my approach to the practice is to do the legal work myself, at reasonable rates and with decades of Family Law experience.

 

4. Can you provide me with an estimate of costs for my case?”

During our initial consultation, I can explain in some level of detail what activities might be expected, such as the need for a guardian ad litem, or the involvement of an accountant to perform a business or income valuation.  These costs can be material and often, the cost of such an expert in a case can yield a positive result when taken from a cost/benefit analysis.  In all cases, my goal is to minimize the total costs to a client, and to set out a framework in the initial meeting as to what kinds of legal costs might be expected, balanced with the need for an expert such as a GAL in a child custody case or accountant in a case with valuation issues. Because I do focus on what I have described as”value billing,” I have kept my hourly rate very reasonable relative to other firms in the area, and always strive to deliver the maximum benefit at the lowest possible cost to my clients.  I can estimate these costs in our meeting, and can also advise to strategies, in some cases, where the opposing party may be expected to contribute to my client’s legal fees under Illinois’ “leveling the playing field” statutes.