I recently overheard someone in a bookstore telling a group of people why they should not have their own attorneys, how they could not trust lawyers, how lawyers would cheat them and how they should rely upon the company the speaker belonged to instead. That conversation got me thinking about why people facing separation and divorce need not just any lawyer, but a good divorce lawyer.

If you know a lawyer, ask him/her for a referral to a good divorce lawyer. He or she will probably know someone or several someones who devote a significant portion of the practice of law to separation and divorce and related issues. For example, I have been handling separation and divorce for 30 years and have an excellent reputation among the local legal community. Any divorce attorney worth his/her salt should have established a reputation among other lawyers. Lawyers generally know who is good for a particular type of case; they certainly know who they would see, if they were facing separation and divorce.

The reality is that lawyers are people, and like people, there are some awful ones out there and a few wonderful ones. When you hire an awful lawyer (one who creates conflict rather than resolving it, one who makes your divorce worse, rather than better) everybody involved suffers. You suffer, your spouse suffers and your children suffer. Well, not everybody suffers. The awful lawyer doesn’t suffer, so it’s important to do everything possible to avoid hiring that lawyer, because that’s the only sure way to keep divorce lawyers from ruining your life.

When a client becomes dissatisfied with a divorce lawyer, one of the most common complaints is that they were unable to communicate with the lawyer. It is very important that your divorce lawyer be accessible and prompt in responding to your phone calls, emails, and requests for meetings. While you can ask the divorce lawyer about their office policy, this is another area where you can best evaluate the divorce lawyer by hearing what former clients have to say.

Also, pay close attention to who you deal with in setting the appointment and how you are treated. Most good divorce lawyers rely on an assistant to schedule their appointments, and that person is very often responsible for much of the day to day communications and interactions with you once you hire your attorney. If you are not comfortable with the assistant who sets your appointment, it is a sign that the attorney may not be right for you and your case.