Finding a Divorce Attorney in California
- What to consider before you start your search
- 5 ways to find a California divorce attorney
- What to consider as you narrow your search
- Your attorney consultation
California allows DIY divorces, enabling many people to end their marriages without hiring a lawyer. But if something goes wrong, you could find yourself searching for a qualified divorce attorney, and it's a little more complicated than it might sound.
Lawyers are expensive, and if they make mistakes in court, you could be stuck with a big bill and negative consequences. Choosing the right person is critical, and that means interviewing plenty of people.
In one study, more than 40% of people said they stopped their lawyer search if they liked the first person they interviewed. This could be a mistake. Interviewing many prospective attorneys ensures you make a smart pick based on intensive research.
In this guide, we’ll outline how to start and finish a successful search for a lawyer to help you with your divorce.
What to consider before you start your search
A lawyer is an investment, and smart shoppers prepare for the search. Before you make the first call or tap even one key on your keyboard, consider the following factors.
Who is involved in the case?
The best lawyers already know the other players they meet in the courtroom. Gather up the names of the following:
- Your partner’s lawyer
- The judge assigned to your case
- Other lawyers you’ve worked with
When you start interviewing professionals, these names will come in handy.
What do you need help with?
You’re not required to hire a lawyer to help you with your divorce from start to finish. You could hire a professional to help you with just the parts of your case you can’t (or don’t want to) deal with. In California, this is called limited-scope representation, and it could save you money.
Outline what you’d like a lawyer to do for you, along with the parts you’ll do yourself.
What is your budget?
Lawyers can be expensive, and without clear boundaries, you could spend more than you want to. Determine exactly how much you can afford to pay for legal help, and prepare to stand firm. Your lawyer may want to charge more, but by being proactive, you can ensure you aren’t on the hook for fees you simply can’t pay.
5 ways to find a California divorce attorney
If you're looking for a divorce attorney in California, use one of the following methods to start your search:
- Use Google or another search engine.
- Try social media sites like LinkedIn or Facebook.
- Tap into a national law directory site like Avvo.com or FindLaw.
- Ask your friends and family members for recommendations.
- Use California's lawyer referral services directory.
Let's dig into each option in detail.
1. Use Google
Type a search term like "lawyer near me" into Google, and you'll get more than 5 billion responses in seconds. Every lawyer with a website can appear in Google, and that’s plenty of data to sift through.
Google's map function tells you how close lawyers are to your location, and those maps come with ratings from real people. Read a few reviews, and you'll get a good feel for what other people think about the professional you're considering.
2. Try social media
In studies of lawyer marketing techniques, 42% of respondents used LinkedIn, and 33% used Facebook. Find a lawyer on a search, and you can read reviews on these sites. You can also read through the content the lawyers have shared.
If you see plenty of angry reviews, unpleasant content, or unprofessional conduct, you're right to steer clear. But you could find an expressive lawyer who conducts (and publishes) research on family law. That could be a person worth talking to.
3. Check out a directory
Sites like Avvo.com, Nolo, and FindLaw accept listings from local lawyers. They are a bit like legal Yellow Pages, filled with information submitted by companies that want your business. If you're hoping to fill out your list with some of the bigger players in your area, these could be good places to start.
4. Ask your network
More than 30% of people find lawyers via word of mouth, making this the most popular way to connect with legal assistance. If a friend, coworker, or relative has recently gone through a divorce, they may have good ideas about attorneys who might be ready to help you.
5. Use California directories
The State Bar of California maintains a Certified Lawyer Referral Services Directory organized by county. Professionals on this list haven't been interviewed or vetted by the bar, but they can prove that they're certified to practice law.
This could be a good place to start a local search. You can also contact the organization by phone at 1-866-442-2529 (toll-free in California).
Need help exploring your options?
What to consider as you narrow your search
Use all of the methods we've listed, and you'll have a long list of California divorce attorneys to choose from. Each one should have a website you can examine, and the data you find there can help you pick finalists.
As you narrow your search, consider the following questions:
- How many years has this person practiced family law?
- How often do they win cases?
- Where did they go to school?
- What do their past clients say about them?
- How long have they worked in California?
You could get answers in your interview, but clever lawyers will put this critical data where anyone can find it.
Your attorney consultation: What to expect
Before you settle on the perfect attorney, prepare for an in-person interview. Give yourself the opportunity to walk into the lawyer's office, meet the staff, and shake hands with this person.
When you arrive for your consultation, you should be in a clean and uncluttered space filled with friendly people who want to help you. If you get a bad feeling at any point, this might not be the right lawyer for you.
Ask your potential lawyer the following questions:
- Have you worked on cases like mine? When was the last time you did?
- How long do you think my case will take, and what steps are involved?
- How much do you typically charge for cases like mine?
- What can we do to reduce the costs?
- Who can I call with questions?
- When can I call?
- What should I do in an emergency?
The right lawyer will answer each question clearly and go over anything you don’t understand. You should emerge from the meeting feeling like you’ve met someone you can trust with the intimate details of your life and your future. That’s how you’ll know you made the right choice.
ReferencesCan Lawyers Pass Consumer Hiring Tests? (July 2021). American Bar Association.
Work With a Lawyer for Part of Your Case. Judicial Branch of California.
2020 Websites and Marketing. (November 2020). American Bar Association.
Methods Used by Consumers in the United States to Find a Lawyer in 2019. (October 2019). Statista.
Certified Lawyer Referral Services Directory. The State Bar of California.
Hire a Lawyer. Judicial Branch of California.