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How to retain a Family Lawyer in China

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Getting Started With a Family Lawyer

The first time that you call, a family law attorney might speak with you briefly over the phone to introduce himself and to get a sense of what services you might need. He may offer to schedule an initial paid meeting in his office. It is a good idea to ask the lawyer whether he charges a fixed fee for the consultation, so that you know beforehand what you are getting into.

Do not hesitate to contact other lawyers before you set up a meeting with any of them. This is your chance to get an idea about how different law offices will handle your calls in days to come. Any law office worth your time and money will handle your call professionally and courteously.


The first meeting with a divorce attorney is an opportunity to get important information about your case, and to decide whether this lawyer is the one who can get the job done for you. Lawyers are just like everybody else; some are more skilled and experienced than others, have better “people” skills, or are just easier to get along with. Just as with any new relationship, pay close attention to your “gut feeling.” As you discuss your circumstances and listen to the lawyer’s reaction to your concerns, give some thought to the person on the other side of the desk. Did he try to put you at ease? Is he really listening to what you are telling him? Does he seem to understand your situation? Does the advice he gives you make sense? If he has difficulty answering a question, does he explain the reason? Is this person someone you will be able to trust with your well-being during this painful and challenging period of your life?

Although a single meeting is not likely to give you every answer to each question, by the time the meeting ends you should emerge with a good understanding of where you stand, what your choices are, what could be coming next, and what you can do to protect yourself.

Six Things You Should Expect from a Family Lawyer

1. Diligence

Your lawyer will meet all deadlines, keep up with developments in your case, and will be thoroughly prepared whenever he appears in court. He will get you ready for your role in the case, and will give you his best effort to make the most of every opportunity.

2. Information

Your divorce lawyer will tell you what you need to know to be able to understand your options and their possible consequences. A skilled practitioner can give you the benefit of the experiences of others, showing you the strengths and pitfalls of each possible course, and will offer you suggestions to help you try to achieve your goals without having to fight. He will be attentive to your concerns, and will offer meaningful perspectives.

3. Candor

Any family lawyer who doesn’t "call it as he sees it" isn't serving you the way you deserve. If you lack a true picture of your situation as it appears to your attorney, your decisions will not be informed ones. A good lawyer may not always be able to deliver glad tidings, but you should always know what he thinks about your case.

4. Communication

He will return your telephone calls with reasonable speed, and also will keep you informed of important developments in your case. He will answer your questions clearly, and in plain English.

5. Respect and Courtesy

Your divorce attorney will treat you as a valued client, and will behave professionally toward everyone who is connected to your case. Before you start looking around for a "bulldog" or a "spitfire," consider that the lawyer who sacrifices decency in favor of zealous representation can actually make things worse for their clients by creating unnecessary rancor and pointless fighting. While that might be great news for lawyers who charge by the hour for their professional services, it can be hard on the client who has to pay the bill.

6. Confidentiality

You can feel comfortable speaking freely to your lawyer, provided that you do not tell him that you are about to commit a crime. Be aware that your lawyer will not help you hide assets, or otherwise permit you to misrepresent the truth.

Things You Should NOT Expect from Your Family Lawyer

All lawyers who are licensed in Pennsylvania (and presumably, those licensed elsewhere) are required to conform to a professional code of ethics that (in Pennsylvania) is enforced by the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. To a good lawyer a solid reputation for ethical conduct among his colleagues and in the courtroom is tremendously valuable, and that reputation is one of the benefits he can offer to his clients. A family law attorney’s reputation is only ever as good as the faith he keeps today. When you retain your lawyer, never expect a mere “mouthpiece,” soap-opera courtroom drama, or an underhanded attitude that says, “the ends justify the means.” Your lawyer’s effectiveness lies in the good advice he gives you, and in his skillful handling of your case. Undirected aggression and expensive bluster help nobody except the attorney. Other things not to expect your lawyer to do:

  • Manufacture or escalate a battle where it is not necessary.
  • Tolerate disrespectful behavior, or turn a blind eye toward it.
  • Engage in name-calling contests with his opponent at your expense.
  • Hide your income and assets.
  • Make important decisions on your case without discussing them with you beforehand.
  • Create or escalate a battle for its own sake.
  • Speak falsely to his opponent or to the court, or permit you to do so.
  • Offer you credit as an alternative to prompt payment.

Perhaps most important of all, it is a mistake to expect that your lawyer will take sole responsibility for your case as might the mechanic who keeps your car on the road. Your active involvement is essential to the success of your case. Because you are facing some of the most critical life choices you may ever have to make, that will affect both you and your children, you must never surrender them to someone else no matter how qualified that person may seem. At the end of the day, this is your case, and the consequences of your choices will likewise be your

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I am a licensed China lawyer. Most clients are foreign nationals and companies. China Lawyer Blog have associates in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Fuzhou, Hainan, Hefei, Wuhan, Xian, Changsha, Xiamen and Hangzhou. Learn More

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China Lawyer BLog AuthorPeter Zhu, an experienced China attorney licensed to practice law for more than ten years, the author of this China Lawyer blog, welcomes any enquiry or consultation related to Chinese law.