Most personal and business transactions demand an attorney’s guidance — real estate, business, financial. Or you may find yourself needing legal representation for a criminal matter. No matter what the reason, four area attorneys share their advice on how to choose an attorney.
Barry I. Finkel
“I’m considering divorce, what should I do ahead of time to prepare?”
The decision to get divorced is monumental and requires carefully thought out planning. Barry Finkel offers four important steps you should take before filing for divorce:
• Copy all financial records: It’s essential to have a handle on your finances and what funds go in and out each month. Before your soon to be ex has the chance to discard or remove documents, you must copy everything (three years worth, if available): tax returns, credit card statements, bank, brokerage and retirement account statements, life insurance documents, and evidence of ownership of any other assets: homes, property, life insurance policies and business interests.
• Rainy day fund: Put money away in the event the court is delayed in granting you temporary alimony, child support or attorneys’ fees. It’s not a bad idea to take half of the balance of joint cash accounts, as the courts are backlogged, and it’s important to be able to pay your expenses until your hearing.
• Kids: Speak with a mental health professional about strategies to help your children transition to two separate households.
• Consult with a marital and family law attorney: Speak to an attorney whose practice is devoted to marital and family law. These are the professionals who are aware of the intricacies and trends in alimony laws, equitable distribution, parenting and child support.
The Law Offices of Barry I. Finkel, P.A., have decades of experience in marital and family law, and has assisted hundreds of clients through the divorce process.
Barry I. Finkel
12 S.E. Seventh St., Suite 602; Fort Lauderdale; 954.776.1414; bfinkelpa.com
There are three main reasons to seek an attorney’s help, says Jonathan Kline, who has 20 years experience practicing law in Florida:
• You have an immediate legal issue that requires a response by a court document.
• You are concerned about a legal issue or problem that requires the guidance of an attorney.
• You have any type of personal or business transactional matter that should be reviewed by an attorney.
Kline also recommends that you look for at least three years of experience in the area of legal expertise that you need, he said. Just as important is the percentage of concentration in the lawyer’s practice. A good percentage to look for is 30 percent to 40 percent; in other words, if you need a bankruptcy lawyer, the attorney you choose should devote at least that amount of time in his or her practice to bankruptcy cases.
Another suggestion: look at the number of cases the lawyer has participated in for the area you need help with, as well as the lawyer’s results at trial. Visit two or three lawyers and determine whom you are most comfortable with and like, Kline said.
Kline became a member of the Florida Bar in 1994 and practices law in real estate matters, transactions, consumer rights, bankruptcy (Chapter seven and 13), personal injury, foreclosure defense and general litigation.
“I have sufficient amount of experience in my areas of practice,” he said, explaining why a person who needs a lawyer should consider him for representation. He has associates who can assist and offer support in any legal issue and trial.
2761 Executive Park Drive, Weston; 954.888.4646; jklaw.cc
The most important thing to consider when choosing an attorney isn’t always the one thing on everyone’s mind, but Gary Ostrow feels it is of great significance: compassion.
Your lawyer should be “willing to hold their hand, so to speak. You need someone who is compassionate,” he said. A lawyer needs to provide his or client peace of mind. Following the initial consultation Ostrow advises, “If you don’t feel any better when you walk out of here, you’re wasting your money.”
Ostrow has more than 30 years experience practicing law in Florida and has vast experience in actual jury trials. He also makes sure he is available all the time to his clients. “Every client has my cell phone number and that’s unusual.”
One main reason to seek counsel is if you are a target of a criminal investigation — that’s a good time to hire counsel and try to avoid getting arrested or indicted. “Far too many people have been convicted because they didn’t hire counsel during the investigative stage,” he said.
Also, if you are accused of a crime, or if you have been subjected to a search and seizure but not arrested yet, seek counsel.
When considering a criminal defense lawyer, ask how many cases he or she has tried. A good number to look for is a minimum of 30 to 40 cases; Ostrow says he has tried 400 to 500. Ostrow focuses on DUI defense, homicides, drug trafficking and domestic violence.
Ostrow has also tried cases in Los Angeles, Nebraska, New York state and New York City. He said he wants to be known as the nationally-known DUI defense attorney.
3000 N.E. 30th Place, Suite 302, Fort Lauderdale; 954.566.4033; cell 954.683.6000; fortlauderdalecriminaldefense.us
Lisa M. Schiller
Lisa M. Schiller specializes in bankruptcy, creditor’s rights, reorganizations, and complex commercial litigation for Rice Pugatch Robinson & Schiller P.A. in Fort Lauderdale.
Schiller recommends these traits when choosing an attorney: “Honesty, capability, experience, reputation, tenacity, and expertise in the field of practice. Most importantly, a person should look for someone they feel comfortable with whom they trust.”
When considering whether you need an attorney, “It’s always smart to be proactive before getting into a problem where a lawyer is an absolute necessity,” she said. “Lawyers are trained to find and do the best to fix legal pitfalls and problems and can advise on the legal implications of personal and/or business transactions before the problems occur.”
There are ways a person can help his or her lawyer keep expenses down, Schiller suggested: “By collecting, organizing and providing as much information up front as possible in an organized fashion. Presenting a picture of the problems and goals will help the lawyer assess the case more efficiently. The lawyer is the expert; if a person hires the right lawyer whom they trust, then they need to let the lawyer take charge of the legal process. Trusting the lawyer and therefore allowing her to do to his or her job efficiently can help to keep the expense of the legal process down as well.”
Schiller specializes in business law with a focus on business litigation and has been in practice for 20 years. “I have developed an expertise in handling clients’ legal needs from business transactions to business disputes and litigation. My firm is a business law firm and therefore, we have the depth to handle all of clients’ business legal needs.”
Lisa M. Schiller, Esq.
Rice Pugatch Robinson & Schiller P.A.
101 N.E. Third Ave., Suite 1800; Fort Lauderdale; 954.462.8000; rprslaw.com