Family planning necessitates a lot of time and consideration. Michele Perreault suggests beginning with learning about who you’ll hire to help.
More than most groups, LGBT individuals benefit greatly from seeking out and receiving competent legal services. Unfortunately, until we achieve full legal equality, in many circumstances we have to develop legal protections and benefits that others are accorded automatically. Additionally, in some circumstances, such as family law and estate planning, the protections we need are often different from those needed by heterosexuals. For that reason, it is crucial that LGBT individuals and families seek legal assistance from attorneys with familiarity and expertise in helping our families. However, just as one size does not fit all, it is also true that one legal approach does not help all people. You should try on different attorneys before making what could be the most important “purchase” of your life.
Be wary of any attorneys who tell you that they are the only attorneys who offer a particular service, or are unwilling to give you the names of other attorneys who practice in a given field. Good attorneys have no problem providing you with the names and contact information of at least a couple others who might be able to help. There really is no legal protection that can only be offered by one person or by one firm. Interview a few attorneys to determine who provides the best options, at the best price, and with the best personal fit for you. Most attorneys will give you at least a 10-15 minutes free consultation to learn more about their experience and range of costs. Longer personal consultations may come with a charge, but often provide the best opportunity to get a feel for the options that are available.
Come to a consultation with a prepared list of questions. That helps keep the time focused, and makes it easier for you to compare attorneys before deciding which to hire.
Do not make the mistake of equating cost with benefit. One reason some attorneys may be reluctant to give names of other attorneys is that their prices are not in line with the market. Even within the same city, and between attorneys with the same experience, cost of legal services can vary wildly. Again, by interviewing several, you will get a feel for the cost, benefits and experience.
Make sure your attorney offers you several legal options and can speak intelligently about the pros and cons of each. For example, in the area of family law, in some cases, a legal guardianship is absolutely the right approach to take. In other circumstances, an adoption or determination of parentage is the best approach to take. Similarly, some clients need only a simple will and powers of attorney for health care and finances. Others benefit from a full estate plan designed to protect against estate taxes, including creation of complex trust documents. Your legal needs may well change throughout your life, such that at one point a simple, very inexpensive will is all that is needed, and later in life you may develop a need for more legal protection. Again, the larger point is that no single approach is best for all people.
Give yourself time to make a reasoned decision. In most circumstances, there is no need to rush to decide which lawyer or law firm to hire. If you are feeling pressured to sign a contract with an attorney, trust your instincts. The lawyer or law firm is not going to disappear overnight. Unless you need work immediately, always give yourself a little time to reflect on your options.
The bottom line is that there is no such thing as one attorney or one approach that fits all people at all points in their lives. Taking the time to meet with a few attorneys can give you more options for both services and costs that you feel confident you have made the best choice for you.