1.) www.martindale.com. This is a peer and client rating service for attorneys. You can search by practice area, geographic area, etc. Some things to look for: membership activity in the local and state Bar Association (particularly if they have had any leadership roles in the Family Law division), practice areas (get someone who does only Family Law), length of time in the profession (find someone who has been doing this a while) and firm experience and expertise. It is not unusual to have a "boutique" family law section within a large firm, but a smaller firm that specializes only in family law might be just as good or better.
2.) www.superlawyers.com. This site is a little more commercial, but if you have looked on Martindale and have a few names, you might start seeing the same names and the same firms coming up again and again. This is a good sign. Again, search by practice area and geographic area. Don't ignore the "rising star" section, especially if you have one or two superlawyers in a firm with a rising star. This shows they mentor--a rising star may be a good bet and somewhat less money.
3.) Your local city magazine most likely runs a "best of" edition once a year. Again, you should start seeing some firm and individual names again and again in all three resources. These are the people you should research.
Once you start seeing the same names and firms come up again and again, look at their websites and study their activity. Google search their cases. Since you're a man, I would highly recommend you find someone very, very experienced in dad's rights.
Lawyers are expensive, and those at the top of their game charge quite a bit. You can save money by being prepared to not waste their time. You can ask what you can do to keep your bills down. Little things like doing all your own copying at the Kinko's or Staples and organizing all of your discovery information so that they can easily find things (you should also make another copy for the opposing attorney--saves even more money).
Finally, you can ask friends and family who they might recommend and cross-reference their recommendations with your own research.
Keep your chin up!
DDay - June 7, 2014
Me - 43
WW - 41
DD - 6 and 3
Pulling the Plug
Found my first L through a recommendation from a family member. Fired him after several months of getting nowhere and hired the guy I found on superlawyers/avoo strictly based on credentials/awards/customer reviews. Best move I've made so far. (Other than filing, of course!)
[This message edited by nekorb at 9:17 AM, July 22nd (Tuesday)]
My only other suggestion is to search the licensure status of any candidates on the ARDC's website; it's unusual for attorneys to be sanctioned, so if you see actions/sanctions against a license, it is a red flag, and I'd likely avoid that attorney. (Complaints, I view with more skepticism; people complain. But if a sanction follows, then it raises my eyebrows.)
SI is not a referral service. Please contact your local bar association.