to Find an Attorney
Suggestions for Sexual and Domestic Violence Victims
Secure Experienced Legal Counsel?
- To ensure better representation for yourself
- To reduce your stress associated with your case
- To improve your chances of a better overall case outcome
Once you decide you are able to retain an attorney for your
case, there are a variety of things to consider in selecting
an appropriate one who can represent you well. Because sexual
and domestic violence raise a host of complicated circumstances,
it is best to retain an attorney who understands the dynamics
of sexual and domestic violence and has experience in handling
cases where sexual and domestic violence are involved.
Identify an Attorney with Experience in Sexual & Domestic
- Ask your local victim service provider. Often these organizations
are well connected with your community and are aware of competent
attorneys with experience in handling cases involving sexual
and domestic violence. They may also know of attorneys who
will work on a reduced-fee or no charge (pro bono) basis.
Some sexual and domestic violence programs have attorneys
- Ask other victims or former victims of sexual and domestic
violence. They may have had a good experience with an attorney
and can refer that person.
- Ask the local legal services or pro bono program to see
if you are eligible for their services.
- Check with the State Bar in your state to ask about low-cost
or free legal services.
Questions to Ask an Attorney You Are Considering
- How many years has she/he been in practice?
- How much experience does she/he have in the area of family
law (or type of law related to your case)?
- Would she/he be able to represent your particular view?
- Why would she/he be a good attorney for you?
- What is her/his fee schedule?
- What is her/his caseload like right now?
It is important that you feel comfortable with and trust you
attorney. This consideration may outweigh other factors, such
as experience and cost.
- Ask for a ballpark figure. Usually, an attorney can give
you a ballpark figure or range for the cost of your legal
matter, though it is often impossible to do more than this.
Find out what services this ballpark figure or range would
include. Find out what would not be covered and what the
charge would be for those matters. For example, does the
attorney charge for phone calls? Most do.
- If the charge is hourly, find out at what rate. Most attorneys
ask to be paid a retainer fee (like a deposit) up front that
is applied toward the total fee. Again, find out what services
will be performed for the amount of the retainer and how
you will be charged once the retainer fee has been used.
- A good way to monitor the progress of your case and to
determine what costs are being incurred is to request that
you be billed monthly and that bills be itemized. Many attorneys
routinely use this method to keep you informed. Ask if the
billing and itemization adds to costs. Ask about monthly
payments instead of paying off fees as they are incurred.
For example, can you make $100/month payments until you bill
- Once you arrive at an agreement about how fees will be
computed and billed, get a written retainer agreement that
includes these terms. You have a right to such a written
agreement. If you know what you are being billed for and
how you are being billed, you will have much more control
over the cost of your attorney’s services and a better
understanding of the services being performed for you.
What to Expect From Your Attorney:
- Keep you informed about the progress of you case.
- Answer your questions in an understandable matter.
- Return you phone calls in a reasonable amount of time.
- Keep statements you make to her/him confidential. You may
wish to ask the attorney to explain this confidential aspect
of your relationship.
- Provide advice about the law, legal alternatives, and their
- Represent you with zeal and competence.
- Ask you ultimately to make all the decisions in your case.
For example, it should be your decision what you will agree
to in property settlement.
- She/he will be your employee and will work for you. As
such, she/he can be discharged by a letter from you stating
that you no longer wish to retain her/his services. You will
then be billed for the work done to date. Your new attorney
(if you hire one) will continue your suit and get all past
records on it from your former attorney.
What your Attorney Expects From You:
- Be realistic. You are not your attorney’s
- Avoid phoning repeatedly.
- Keep appointments with your attorney, and
use the time to the utmost. Come prepared with the necessary
information, documents, and questions. It may be useful to
have a list of questions and concerns with you whenever you
speak to your attorney over the phone or in person.
- Make your priorities clear, and listen carefully
to what your attorney tells you about how the law may impact
your wants and needs.