New York Divorce Tip: Choosing a Divorce Lawyer or Mediator

by Ani Mason
Founder | Mason Law & Mediation

Your relationship with your divorce lawyer impacts more than just your divorce settlement. It impacts your entire experience of the divorce process, from start to finish. Getting the most out of that relationship can have a significant payoff throughout your divorce. The following tips will help you do just that.

Someone who leaves you feeling relatively calm and reassured in a consultation is likely to do so throughout the course of your case.

The first part of maximizing your relationship with your lawyer comes in choosing the right person to work with. Every person—lawyer and client alike—has unique strengths, needs and perspectives. You want to find someone who fits well with you.

The first step is to size up your own preferences and values. Apart from finding someone who’s smart and knows their stuff, what do you want in a lawyer?

In terms of the focus of the attorney’s practice, would you like someone who focuses on resolving cases out of court, someone who primarily litigates higher-conflict cases, someone who specializes in a particular type of case (e.g., same-sex couples), or something else altogether?

In terms of interpersonal style, what will help you feel and be your best in the divorce process? Are you more drawn to/reassured by warmth and approachability, or by someone who takes on the role of expert in a more authoritative and formal way?

Is it important to you that your lawyer be organized? That they respond to your inquiries promptly? That they respond personally? Pay attention to your early experiences with your lawyer and their firm, which will tell you a lot about their style of working with clients.

Is your lawyer’s way of thinking about the divorce process compatible with your own? Do you want someone who takes a “win at all costs strategy,” or someone who is more mindful of the toll of the adversarial process on you and your family? How does your lawyer see the role of emotion in the divorce process—a distraction to be ignored, or a valuable and informative element of your experience—and does that square with your perspective?

When you have a good sense of what’s important to you, go out and look for what you want. That often means talking to more than one person. Treat this like any other interview of someone you’re considering hiring. Read up on the lawyers you’re interviewing. A website bio is a natural place to start learning about him or her, but most website bios tend to be stiff and formulaic. Does your attorney candidate also have a blog, or has he or she been quoted in the press? Videos can be even more informative. How does what you read of her or his tone strike you? Any friends or loved ones whom you trust and relate to who’ve been through a divorce in New York? They can be a good source of suggestions for candidates to interview. Ultimately, you’ll get a much deeper sense of the person speaking to them—even over the phone, and certainly in person—than you will reading about them, or reading pieces written by them.

When you do meet for a consultation, pay close attention to how you feel afterward. Are you calmer and reassured? Do you feel more agitated and frightened? Not all news in a divorce consultation is good news, and gearing up for the divorce process is intimidating. Still, information can be delivered in a way that reassures you or in a way that makes you panic. Someone who leaves you feeling relatively calm and reassured in a consultation is likely to do so throughout the course of your case.

Further Reading:

Resolving Cases Out Of Court

Founded in 2014, Mason Law & Mediation provides highly-skilled and holistic mediation, Collaborative Law, settlement negotiation, and legal coaching services to individuals, couples and families in New York.