Getting divorced is an awful process. All the heartbreak, the broken dreams, the new reality, the frightening future…and then you’re supposed to pick a Naples divorce attorney to walk you through this process while you’re going through the worst time in your life.
People choose their attorney for lots of reasons. Often, it’s not much different than choosing an accountant or a plumber. Someone recommends them. They came up on a Google search. They have good reviews. They were nearby and available. By educating yourself about the hows and whys of choosing an attorney in Naples, Florida you can make the best choice for you and your family.
Table of Contents
- Recommendations for a Good Naples Divorce Attorney
- Google “Naples Divorce Attorney Near Me”
- Online Reviews for Naples Divorce Attorneys
- What School The Naples Divorce Lawyer Went To
- Shopping Around For Collier County Family Law Attorneys
- How Much Will My Naples Divorce Cost?
- Can’t decide yet? Do a follow up call?
- Go With Your Gut
- ***Very Important*** You Are Not Stuck With The Naples Divorce Lawyer You Chose
Recommendations for a Good Naples Divorce Attorney
Who doesn’t know at least someone who has been divorced? You call that person up and ask them if they can recommend a Naples divorce attorney.
But, how many Naples divorce lawyers does that person even know? Just the one they hired. Maybe they fired and then hired another lawyer. Either way, there’s not a lot of comparison going on.
Still yet, that person’s experience with a divorce lawyer or divorce lawyers in Naples, Florida may be insightful. Did they get a good result? Did the divorce lawyer communicate with them effectively? Did the Naples divorce lawyer care? Even if they only had one lawyer in their divorce, the recommender would be able to answer these questions effectively.
#1 Divorce Attorney – Russell Knight
3375 Pine Ridge Rd #201
Naples, FL 34109
In the alternative to asking someone who has previously hired a divorce attorney, you can ask another attorney. In a lot of cities, the legal community is pretty small. Naples, Florida, is no exception to that rule. A lawyer will usually participate in local bar association events and socialize with other lawyer who work in other focuses of law. Does that give the lawyer some special insight into whether the Naples divorce attorney at his last golf outing is good? Perhaps.
Other divorce lawyers can say with accuracy whether another divorce lawyer is good or not. But, if you knew a divorce lawyer and trusted their opinion, you’d probably be hiring that divorce lawyer.
Google “Naples Divorce Attorney Near Me”
When you’re not getting a personal recommendation for a Naples divorce attorney you’re going to turn to the internet to do your research.
Some lawyers have a big online presence with lots of references to their previous work and their focus: articles written, online reviews, quotes in the media. Other lawyers have almost none.
The lawyers who are prolific on the internet clearly give a damn about their practice and their reputation. This assures you that they will try to give you service that reflects their concern for their public image.
Lawyers who are barely present on the internet may be that way for a variety of reasons. They may be running a shoe-string operation. They may receive so many personal referrals that they don’t care about a website. I know great lawyers whose age has allowed them to not rely on email and web pages to the extreme that younger lawyers do.
The only warning sign I can infer from a divorce lawyers web presence is the style of their webpage. A webpage is like a car, you can look at it and tell how old and how nice it is. Family law is so much about presentation. Presentation of a case. Presentation of a client. The lawyer’s personal presentation. Lawyers literally call our work “rePRESENTATION”. If a Naples divorce lawyer does not care about his or her presentation on their very own website how much will they care about presenting you.
Online Reviews for Naples Divorce Attorneys
Online reviews are everywhere now. In my experience, people are very reluctant to review their divorce attorneys. Even if the FL divorce lawyer did a great job, the client is very reluctant to discuss their divorce in a public forum. Especially in a smaller community like Naples, Florida and especially where online reviews require you to post your actual identity. Honestly, I don’t blame the clients. My goal is put the divorce behind the client, not leave a permanent reminder of the divorce online.
People are even more reluctant to post bad reviews of lawyers…because lawyers sue people. Honestly, if you are posting a review of any kind, it better be based on the truth because a lawyer is just a filing fee away from a defamation suit.
Despite these limits of online reviews, they can still be a great source of information depending on where the review is.
Yelp is the gold standard of review sites. They have a system that makes sure actual people are leaving the Naples divorce attorney reviews and that the reviewer actually had an experience with the lawyer. If the business owner can vouch that the reviewer never patronized the business, Yelp will delete the review. For questionable reviews, Yelp will hide reviews but not delete them. Yelp requires you to have an account and post a photo to get a review published. These requirements make a lot of people hesitant to leave a review.
Facebook also requires a picture and an account to leave a review. But, we all know that it’s easy to create to a fake persona on Facebook (remember Fake News). There is no function to dispute reviews on Facebook unless the review is somehow offensive to Facebook’s community guidelines. Facebook no longer provides a one-to-five ratings system (much like their like system). Facebook merely allows a recommendation status and a written review. I think this is way better for service providers like Collier County family law attorneys. In Naples, there will only ever be a few Naples divorce attorney reviews so you can read them all. The alternative is comparing a score of 4.2 stars to 4.4 stars without learning anything of substance.
Google has its own 5-star rating system that is usually visible on any Google map. The Google reviews merely require a gmail address. Gmail does not allocate one address to a person like Yelp does or Facebook (kind of) does. But, I do believe that Google has some measures to prevent fake reviews so they are relatively reliable. Just don’t believe a Naples divorce attorney who has 100 reviews.
There are dozens of other websites that provide reviews but it is impossible to verify if the reviewers are real. I have seen too many attorneys who suddenly have 50 reviews on a random site when it is clearly impossible for a divorce attorney to do 50 divorces in just a few months much less convince clients to write up reviews.
What School The Naples Divorce Lawyer Went To
Law School is famous/notorious for how competitive it is. People excel in their undergraduate universities for four years in fields totally unrelated to law…just so they can apply to law school.
Law is a purely qualitative not quantitative subject. One argument might be better than another but it is impossible to say that one argument is 42% better than the other argument.
Despite that Law Schools are desperate to quantify everything. Law schools are then ranked by the US News and World Report in terms of quality based on the LSAT scores and GPAs of their admitted students and the opinions of other law professors. Then their graduates are ranked vis-à-vis the other graduates (Example: “I was 5th in my class”)
As a law student, I was no different having received a bachelor of science in Business Computer Systems in the year 2000 only to realize that I despised sitting in a room programming computer code. So, I took my penchant for logical thinking the LSAT and did very well. I went to the highest-ranking law school that would take me, The University of Illinois College of Law (which was ranked # 25 out of over 200 law schools at the time). It was extremely competitive and I did…average. Does this mean I was average in a group of excellent lawyers? Or that my average-ness was superior to the above average student at a lesser ranked school? I have no idea!
Honestly, in my twelve years of practice, I have only rarely met a family law attorney who attended one of the highly ranked schools. At its best, family law draws the type of attorney who loves studying a broad yet not deep subject. Family law lets you learn about social work, private balance sheet, therapy, child development among other subjects. At its worst, family law draws the types of lawyers who think divorce is “good, regular work”
Moreover, most family law lawyers in Naples, Florida went to law school at schools all over the country. How is one to compare between the graduates of dozens of disparate insitutions?
Shopping Around For Collier County Family Law Attorneys
There really aren’t that many good Collier County family law attorneys. You can use all the above techniques and simply schedule appointments with everyone you’re interested in. This is allowed. You are not obligated to hire the first person you talk to. I always tell people, “I know you are shopping around for a divorce lawyer. If I’m the guy for you, let us know and we’ll email you an engagement agreement so you can sign up.”
Naples divorce attorneys typically charge a consultation fee. I do not charge a consultation fee but I believe a consultation fee is a fair way to conduct business and I will discuss the pros and cons of a consultation fee vs. a no consultation fee divorce lawyer.
A divorce lawyer who is charging you a consultation fee is respecting you. The Naples divorce attorney that requires a consultation fee is showing you how the system works: you are buying a divorce lawyer’s time. Having paid the consultation fee, you will be entitled to a period of time (usually an hour) to discuss your case with the lawyer. You may have over an hour of questions for law firms in naples florida and you may need to be dutifully heard so he can tell you, “That’s irrelevant because X” or “Don’t worry about that because of Y”. No divorce lawyer ever made a living just by offering a bunch of paid consultations. Divorce attorneys who offer paid consultations are providing a valuable service.
Divorce lawyers who provide free consultations have a different system. As I mentioned before, I provide free consultations. I do not provide free consultations so I can encourage people to visit me and make a sale. I provide free consultations because 80% of the questions a client has can be answered by the articles on my website. Most people find me after perusing my website and reviews. The initial consultation is usually merely a confirmation of the attributes my website espouses. I am brief in my initial consultations because I have divorced over a thousand people and the divorcing person’s needs come so naturally to me that I may have less questions than other divorce attorneys.
When you go your first consultation with a Naples divorce attorney you should bring any and all prior court documents (if your divorce has already been filed).
If your matter concerns financial issues, you should bring the Florida financial affidavit, two years of tax returns and a recent pay stub. If you don’t have a job, bring a years worth of bank statements to show your income and expenses.
There might be some salient evidence that you believe will affect your divorce like pictures of jewelry that has gone missing, a credit card receipt you don’t recognize or something strange about your spouse. Feel free to bring those kinds of items to your consultation with a Naples divorce attorney.
It’s advisable to bring a set of questions with you to your consultations. If you pose the same questions to different lawyers you are likely to get very different answers which will help you make your decision as to which Naples divorce attorney you should hire.
You may have seen before in movies and television shows that if you interview with a divorce attorney, your spouse cannot hire that lawyer. This is an actual thing. It’s called “conflicting out” an attorney.
In theory, one spouse can tell a Collier County family law attorney lots of confidential information during the consultation. This confidential information makes it impossible for the consulted divorce attorney to represent the other spouse pursuant to the rules of professional responsibility that govern attorney ethics.
In Naples, Florida, it’s an especially dangerous tactic to interview lawyers for the purpose of conflicting them out. Naples, Florida has only two dozen divorce attorneys. Additionally, there are very few multi-lawyer divorce firms. So, the divorce attorney cannot say, “Your husband interviewed my partner Bob and Bob won’t be working on the case. Therefore, there’s no conflict”
Even if you or your spouse interview every divorce lawyer in Naples, Florida. There are dozens more just north of Naples in Lee County. Additionally, there are hundreds more on the east coast of Florida who are happy to bill for the two-hour drive to Naples.
How Much Will My Naples Divorce Cost?
We’ve all had experiences with service professionals where the price has varied greatly. We’ve had plumbers fix horrible problems in a few hours and give us a bill for just $ 200. We’ve dropped off our car at the mechanic only to be told “There was a lot more wrong.” followed by an enormous bill.
How can you accurately gauge what a Naples, Florida divorce attorney fees will be?
Most lawyers will tell you their retainer and their hourly rate.
The retainer is the amount the lawyer needs to start working on your case. It’s like a deposit. The lawyer holds the money in his or her trust account and withdraws the money as the lawyer earns the money or spends the money.
The retainer is a clue to how much a divorce is likely to cost. After all, why would a divorce lawyer ask for a retainer they have no intention of using the entirety of.
My retainer is $ 3000 because my experience is that $ 3000 is how much a successfully agreed divorce will cost. It creates an incentive for me to do work under or around the $ 3000 mark and it incentivizes my client to come an agreement on all terms to keep the legal fees at or below the retainer.
The bigger clue is what the divorce attorney’s hourly rates are. I bill at $ 325 an hour because that is what I’m worth. I’ve found that my hourly rate is reasonable and typical for a Naples divorce attorney. There are other lawyers in the area that charge $ 450 an hour and still others who charge $ 200 an hour. I won’t comment on any lawyers pricing except to repeat the old adage, “you get what you pay for.”
Regarding cost and pricing, the question you should ask that no one asks is “how much of the work do your paralegals do and what is your paralegal’s hourly rate?
A paralegal is usually a bright person who never got the opportunity to go to college much less law school. Paralegals fill out the standard divorce forms, prepare the pleadings and organize discovery. These activities are, typically, 80% of the time that gets applied in a divorce.
Paralegals usually charge around a third per hour what a lawyer does. And for every hour a paralegal works on something, a lawyer spends about 20% of that time reviewing the paralegal’s work.
Family law is, by and large, not rocket science. Your case should have a paralegal working on it if you want costs to be restrained. Otherwise, you will be paying the lawyer’s hourly rate as he fills in forms, tabs evidence and licks envelopes.
For example, a lawyer without a paralegal may efficiently and effectively handle your simple divorce case by working a total of 10 hours at $ 300 an hour for a total legal fee of $ 3000.
A divorce lawyer with a paralegal may have the paralegal work on the bulk of a simple case for $ 100 an hour while the divorce lawyer just reviews it. The paralegal may work those same 10 hours to prepare the case while the Naples divorce attorney reviews the work for 20% of the time. In the same example, the paralegal will have accrued $ 1000 worth of legal fees and the divorce lawyer $ 600 of legal fees for a total of $ 1600.
As a caveat, if your case becomes highly contested or complicated the divorce lawyer will have to do more work proportionally on your case than the paralegal.
Some divorce lawyers charge flat fees. This creates horrible incentives on both parties. The divorce lawyer will try to settle the case as quickly and easily as possible…possibly to the detriment of his own client. The client will be more likely to explore issues of conflict because they know the case is not costing them by the hour. I honestly don’t understand flat fees in divorce cases but there must be a reason why almost no one offers flat fees.
Additionally, if you are the primary earner in your household you may be asked to pay for your spouse’s attorneys’ fees. Judges are very hesitant to award attorneys’ fees to the opposing attorney when those attorneys’ fees are higher than your own. But do expect the judge to award attorneys’ fees equal to your own divorce attorneys’ fees.
Can’t decide yet? Do a follow up call?
If you’ve interviewed several lawyers but cannot decide which Naples divorce attorney you’d like to hire do a follow up call but state that is for “an extremely quick question.” The divorce lawyers that return your call while knowing that you considering hiring them will also return your call when you’ve actually hired them.
Go With Your Gut
Choosing a Naples divorce attorney is an art not a science. In the end, you are asking a complete stranger help you through one of the most difficult chapters of your life. You need to feel comfortable with that person and trust that they will do the right thing for you.
You Are Not Stuck With The Naples Divorce Lawyer You Chose
After you’ve paid your retainer and signed the engagement agreement you will put your case in the divorce lawyer’s hand and you will hope for the best.
If something goes awry causes you to lose confidence in your divorce lawyer (lack of communication, losing a temporary motion, etc.) you can always hire another divorce lawyer to take over your case.
You’ll already have researched and interviewed several other lawyers so you’ll know who else you can hire and who you’d like to hire next.
Substituting counsel is very common and your next lawyer will handle all the details. Usually it’s just forwarding a motion for substitution to the current counsel for signature and then making arrangements to pick up the case file from the substituted counsel.