Family Law FAQs

Why Should We Have a Family Lawyer?

Almost every family has a family doctor, someone who can be consulted in cases of illness or other medical problems, or even for regular physical check-ups. It is just as important to have a family lawyer. The family lawyer is someone who can be consulted to meet the legal needs of a family, such as those which arise in connection with the purchase and the sale of a home, the preparation of wills, a business transaction, or the administration of a decedent’s estate.

Your family lawyer can also represent you in case you or a member of your family is ever arrested or involved in a law suit.

In short, just as a family needs a doctor who knows the family members and can help them to protect and maintain their physical health, so too a family needs a lawyer who knows the family members and can help protect and advise them concerning their legal rights and interests.

When Should I Consult a Lawyer ?

As with anything else, the best time to consult your lawyer is before you have a legal problem – not afterwards. Thus, for example, you should consult your lawyer if you are about to become involved in any of the following matters:

  • The purchase or sale of real estate
  • A lease
  • Preparation of a will or trust
  • Formation or purchase of a business
  • Administration of an estate
  • Dispute over taxes or assessments
  • Domestic difficulties
  • When you have been in an accident
  • Income tax matters

If you or any member of your family is arrested, you should consult your lawyer immediately. You should not give any statement to the police until you have conferred with your lawyer. If you confess or plead guilty to even a seemingly harmless offense, you seriously prejudice your legal rights. Therefore, legal representation is essential at all times during a criminal proceeding.

It is often wise to consult your lawyer even if you are not sure you have a legal problem. Generally, a lawyer will charge only a nominal fee for an initial conference and it will be well worth the fee if potentially serious entanglements can be avoided.

How Do I Select a Lawyer?

The best way to select a lawyer is to talk with relatives or friends who have used a lawyer, particularly if they have used a lawyer for the same kind of matter for which you wish to consult a lawyer. Your employer might also be able to assist you in the selection of a lawyer. In Connecticut, most county and local bar associations provide a lawyer referral service which can be of assistance selecting a lawyer. The address and telephone number for the lawyer referral service is generally listed under “Attorneys” in the yellow pages of the Telephone Directory.

Your Relationship With Your Lawyer.

Once you have selected a lawyer and determined what your problem is, what do you do next? First, of course, you must make a full disclosure of all the facts to your lawyer. You are only hurting your own case if you withhold pertinent information or if you tell your lawyer only one side of the story. Your lawyer cannot serve you well unless he knows all about the case: pro and con, good and bad.

Communication to your lawyer is privileged; i.e., lawyers are unable to disclose to anyone conversations or dealings had with clients. Once the matter has been put in the hands of your lawyer, you should permit the lawyer to carry the case through to its conclusion and not continually consult with other lawyers as to various aspects of the case.

Once you have a lawyer, stay with that lawyer unless you have a good reason to make a change. It is, of course proper for you to suggest to your lawyer that an associate lawyer be consulted. Your lawyer will welcome a free and frank discussion of your relationship with him if this is a problem. Further, just as your family doctor refers you to a specialist if you have a medical problem which is beyond his knowledge or experience, your family lawyer will do the same with resect to specialized legal problems.

How is the Fee Determined?

The amount of the fee which a lawyer charges is determined by a number of factors, including the amount of time required to be devoted to the matter, the complexity of the matter, the lawyer’s experience or expertise in that particular area of law, relationship with the client, and the result achieved.

In considering a lawyer’s fee, it must be remembered that maintaining a law office can be very expensive, and, therefore, the fee charged by your lawyer will reflect the cost incurred for office rental, secretarial assistance, maintenance of a library, and office machines and equipment. In fact as much as 50% of your lawyers fee may go to pay for office expenses.

When first consult your lawyer, you should discuss how the fee will be determined. In many cases it will be possible for your lawyer to give you a fairly accurate estimate of the fee, but often the amount of the fee is hard to predict because your lawyer cannot be certain just how complex or time-consuming a matter will be or how much work will be involved.

In many instances a down payment or retainer may be requested in advance to cover the preliminary work or cash disbursements which the lawyer may be required to make. In some situations, your lawyer may take a case on a contingent fee basis. This means that if you prevail, your lawyer will take a portion of the amount to recover (generally 25% to 33 1/3%) as a fee; but if you do not prevail, your lawyer will receive no fee. (You will have to reimburse your lawyer for cash disbursements on your behalf, however.)

The contingent fee arrangement enables persons to pursue claims which they may have without their incurring liability for a legal fee if they are not successful.

What if I Have a Complaint Against My Lawyer?

If you feel that your lawyer has been dishonest or has not handled your matter properly, you should contact the Grievance Committee for the county in which your lawyer practices. Lawyers are officers of the court, and as such, are subject to discipline or disbarment by the Superior Court.

The Grievance Committee is a branch of the Superior Court which is designed to investigate complaints against lawyers, and determine whether discipline or disbarment should be recommended to the court. If you have a dispute over the fee charged by your lawyer, you can contact the Connecticut Bar Association’s Committee on the Arbitration of Fee Disputes, 101 Corporate Place, Rocky Hill, CT 06067
(860-721-0025).

MICHELLE STANISH

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