The four things you should look for when you are choosing a divorce litigator are: experience, preparation, insightfulness and organization.
When litigation is necessary in order to resolve your marital issues, you need a lawyer with extensive experience in the law who can operate smoothly in the courtroom. This means that you need an attorney who has been in court many times, knows the law, can examine witnesses both friendly and adverse, and who can handle exhibits and a myriad of objections from the opposing side. You need an attorney who can advocate your position in a clear concise manner as judges get bored quickly when an attorney is unable to get to the point, make it, and then sit down.
A good litigation attorney will learn the facts of your case like the back of his hand – this requires getting to know the client exceptionally well by meeting with him/her on multiple occasions as well as digesting the materials obtained from the client or from the other side in discovery. And this doesn’t mean accepting everything at face value but rather asking follow-up questions and probing for answers. It is important that the inconsistencies (which are part of every case – because we are all human beings) are worked out BEFORE you are sitting on the witness stand in front of a judge and the opposing side is interrogating you. In my 29 years, I have seen many attorneys who do not commit the necessary time to preparation and that is the complete downfall of their case. Once a judge feels and hears contradictions or a lack of candor in the presentation of the case, the judge will begin to see and hear everything you say through a different lens. There is no short cut to thorough mastery of all aspects of the case.
A good litigation attorney must understand what your goals are and what the possible avenues are to best achieve those goals. Even the best prepared and presented case may still not get you what you want. Thus it is imperative that you have an attorney with the judgment and ability to give you the straight reality either because of certain facts (that are not favorable) or the constraints of the law. The worst thing you can do is spend tens of thousands of dollars that will not get you the return on your investment. In addition you also want a litigation attorney who is thoughtful and who has enough empathy to understand what it is like going through a process where you have little control because the judge is the one who makes all the decisions – for better or worse.
Make sure the litigator you choose has the back-up to handle your case with the attention it deserves – developing the case strategy, researching the relevant law (whether DC, Maryland, or Virginia), organizing the data and documents, retaining experts, interviewing and preparing the witnesses — all to deliver a product that will enable you to achieve the best result possible. Ask about the support the litigator has and what you can expect from the attorney’s team. Having a cohesive litigation team to back up the lead litigator is essential to a successful outcome.