Choosing an Attorney

Why should I hire an attorney?

A common question is: “Why should someone hire an attorney if Arizona is a community property state, where for the most part property is divided equally?” This is an extremely relevant and important question, as it will get into whether or not your attorney can actually provide a useful service. Even if you end up not retaining counsel for your entire matter, a consultation itself may provide significant insight into the process, dispel common myths, and provide insight as to what the result should look like once it is over.

Second, the dissolution process (or paternity) is not something to be taken lightly as it can significantly impact your financial future. And although your spouse may be telling you that they are not seeking counsel and only want what’s “fair”, this is not something that can be trusted. After all, you are getting divorced for a reason and implicitly trusting your spouse may not be in your best interest. Our attorneys can point you to countless cases where one spouse was completely duped out of their property, or other rights, by the other due to them not having counsel. We have seen time and time again Divorce Decrees where the result was completely inequitable or worse, unenforceable

The most important cases to consult with an attorney are those that involve children, where there are any business assets, long-term marriages, those with acts or allegations of domestic violence, cases involving spousal maintenance, cases involving retirement assets, separate property claims, real estate, and unquestionably any case with significant assets.

Choosing and Attorney

The process of hiring an attorney is not something to be taken lightly. In essence you are trusting someone, that you most likely don’t know personally, with your financial future, or more importantly, your children’s future.  To begin, Mr. Berkshire is one of only around 70 Certified Specialists in Family Law in the state of Arizona and one of approximately 35 Fellows in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, which is the most selective and prestigious organization for family law lawyers in the country.  Mr. Berkshire also teaches Family Law topics to other attorneys and judges, writes for legal publications and deals in the complicated area of appellate practice where knowledge of the complexities of law is required.  He was also honored in the Super Lawyers publication since 2012, including being named one of the Top 50 Attorneys in Arizona across all practice areas in 2019 and 2018.  This honor was voted on by other practicing attorneys.  Mr. Berkshire has been listed in the Arizona Business Journal’s Top 100 Lawyers in Arizona in 2019 and 2020, and Best Lawyers in America for 2018-2020.

Mr. Berkshire also has one of the most accomplished appellate practices in Arizona, with 25 published appellate decision from the Court of Appeals, the Arizona Supreme Court, and two victories at the Supreme Court of the United States.

Mr. Berkshire receives the vast majority of his cases as personal referrals, which is something that should be looked for in interviewing attorneys because anyone who has to rely solely on advertising probably doesn’t receive referrals for a reason. Consulting with multiple attorneys is never an issue and is encouraged, as it allows you to find someone that you personally fit with and, to get differing perspectives on your case.

Family Law is a unique area of practice, and any potential client should be wary of attorneys that practice in too many areas, or have too many “specialties,” as they cannot focus on the intricacies of Family Law.

Hourly Rates

Many people call around to an excessive number of attorneys simply looking for the lowest hourly rate, or the lowest retainer (advance deposit). In essence, neither a retainer nor an hourly rate should be the primary concern, as retainer amounts only signify how much work can be done prior to requiring a replenishment of the retainer. Just because another attorney requires a smaller retainer does not mean that the case will be done any cheaper, it simply means that you will be called sooner to replenish. A lower hourly rate also does not mean that a total cost will be less, as the billing practices of attorneys vary widely and it is not uncommon for counsel with lower rates to have higher total bills.

If a client is on a limited budget there are various ways to limit expenditures on cases, like attending mediation or utilizing limited scope representation, that can be discussed with Mr. Berkshire at a consultation.

What to bring to a consultation

In preparation for any consultation, you should always bring a list of questions that you have, to make efficient use of your time and obtain the most relevant information for your case. It is always helpful to come with a list of assets, values of property, and amounts of debt, so that the attorney will have a better idea of what the marital estate contains, as it is relevant to other issues beyond property distribution. For example, spousal maintenance (Alimony) depends on what other assets exist.

Here is a simple list of questions that can be asked at a consultation:

Questions of the attorney:

  • What percentage of your practice is family law?
  • Do you practice in my county?
  • Have you appeared in front of my judge (if already assigned)?
  • Can you offer names of other attorneys or clients who would recommend you?
  • How often do you attend mediation?
  • How often do you utilize experts?
  • How many trials have you completed?
  • How often do you appear in Court?
  • Where do most of your cases come from?
  • Are you involved in any legal committees?
  • Do you teach any legal seminars?
  • How often do you attend legal seminars?

Questions regarding your case:

  • Are you familiar with my case’s issues?
  • How often do you deal with these issues?
  • What statutes affect my case’s issues?
  • Do you suggest mediation?
  • Have you done any appeals on these issues?
  • What precedent affects my case’s issues?
  • What processes would you suggest for my case?
  • Trial
  • Mediation
  • Utilization of experts
  • Counselors
  • How is alimony calculated?
  • How is child support calculated?
  • For legal decision-making (custody) and parenting time:
  • Can you give examples of parenting plans?
  • Can you give research or books to justify your positions?