Steven M. Kirsh, past president of the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys, says: “Niceness is not typically a concern when you are looking for an attorney to litigate a case, but in an adoption, when the attorney is going to have direct contact with the birth parents, you need your legal representative to be a likeable person!”
- Is the attorney licensed to practice in the state where you live?
- Is the attorney a member of your state’s bar association? (Lawyers don’t have to be admitted to the bar to practice, but there’s no good reason for an attorney not to be.)
- Is the attorney a member of a voluntary professional organization (the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys)?
- How long have you worked in adoption?
- How many non-relative adoptions did you complete last year? (The answer should be at least 10.)
- What percentage of your total practice is devoted to adoption? (Fifty to 100 percent suggests adoption expertise.)
- Do you handle open adoptions, confidential adoptions, or both? Do you have strong feelings about openness?
- What services do you provide? Will you actively assist me in finding an adoption situation, as well as handle the necessary legal work?
- If the birth parents do not have their own attorney, can you help them find one, and, if so, how do you make that referral?
- What is the average cost of the adoptions you have handled?
- How do you bill? Is your fee an hourly rate, or do you charge a flat fee? (Experienced attorneys may have a higher hourly rate but charge less overall, because they spend less time than a less-experienced attorney would.)
- Do you require a retainer fee in advance? If so, how much? What happens to my retainer fee if the birth mother changes her mind?
- Do you see counseling for birth parents as helpful? Why or why not?
- Will you accept collect calls from birth parents? Do you have a toll-free number?
- When you are away from the office, is another knowledgeable attorney available?
- In your practice, what percentage of birth mothers change their plans before placement, or before finalization? (An experienced, ethical attorney will tell you that some expectant women choose to keep their babies. An attorney who says he or she has never had a failure has done too few adoptions — or is not candid.)
“If I were to give tips for finding the right adoption agency/professional, I’d say, start by meeting other parents who have gone through the type of adoption you are seeking. They have stories to share, and often give great advice. Decide what is important to you, and write down all of your questions (and the agencies’ answers). You and your spouse should both meet with them in person, if you can, then go home and review together privately before you decide.”—Lara