You and your wife just told your kids that you are getting divorced. They ran to their rooms crying. You knew this day would come but it is much worse than you even feared. Your heart has been torn out. You never thought it would come to this. You are worried about your kids, your money, and your future. Finding a good lawyer is tough, especially amid all the noise of the marketing channels available today. How can you choose a good divorce lawyer?
You can check credentials. Unfortunately, the State of Illinois does not require certification for areas of practice for lawyers and certifications are not required for the practice of law in Illinois. In our opinion, there are some good ways to vet a divorce attorney’s quality.
First, personal referrals. There may be nothing more powerful and useful than a referral from a friend or trusted adviser. Even with a referral, checking the attorney’s reviews, background and credentials is important.
Online reviews from Google, Avvo, and others can be another very useful way to see whether the attorney is a good fit. Look for a large number of reviews so you are sure you are getting a good overall feel for the attorney, and read the descriptions.
Next, membership in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (“AAML”). The AAML requires an extensive application and peer vetting process, a lengthy written exam, a separate essay exam on Illinois divorce, and an interview by several top lawyers. Here are the AAML’s membership criteria: https://aaml.org/page/membership_criteria
Then, SuperLawers by Law Bulletin Publishing. SuperLawyers uses a peer-rated system – a SuperLawyers ranking cannot be bought. See https://bit.ly/2vcoRdd for details on the process.
Finally, Leading Lawyers by Leading Lawyers Network. Attorneys rated by Leading Lawyers are peer-selected, and the designation cannot be purchased. For more info, click here http://www.leadinglawyers.com/meth.cfm.
Be wary of organizations giving awards to lawyers. If an attorney states they have an award, check the source. Look up the vetting process. Most of them make vague statements about how they choose attorneys for their ratings. We receive letters constantly from these organizations telling us we have been chosen as a “top divorce attorney in Illinois” and for a few hundred dollars they will send a plaque stating so and allow us to use a badge on our website. These plaque factories require no application process and no peer ratings.
Choose your divorce lawyer carefully. We frequently have clients come to us unhappy with their current attorney. People get fed up with being in the dark about their case, slow or no billing, and poor follow up. You deserve better treatment. There are excellent lawyers out there without these designations. But why take chances?