Your Devoted Legal Advocate

Frequently Asked Questions That I Get From Clients

Hiring a lawyer can be intimidating, especially if this is your first time. I understand. I’m Anna Sulanowski, the founding attorney at ACS Family Law, PLLC. My goal is for you to feel comfortable and confident with all stages of the representation. When you work with me, you can expect down-to-earth guidance and honest answers to all your questions.

Here are some common questions I get from clients.

What is a retainer?

A retainer is an advanced lump sum paid by a client to secure the services of an attorney. Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15 requires that these funds be deposited into a trust account and then transferred as the legal services are performed.

Will the retainer cover my case in entirety?

An initial retainer may or may not cover a client’s legal fees in entirety. This is because retainers pertain to a certain amount of time, not a specific case. By way of example, an attorney who bills at $200 per hour estimates it will take at least 10 hours to see your case to completion; the attorney will charge an initial retainer of $2,000 to begin work on your case. It is impossible to know exactly how many hours of legal work will be required in your particular case. Unknown variables include complexity of legal issues, cooperation from the opposing party, whether that party is represented and the ability of the parties to negotiate a settlement. Even if you do not intend to litigate, you cannot control the opposing party’s ability to motion the court to litigate certain issues.

Why is a retainer required?

One reason attorneys require a retainer is their continuing legal obligation to respond to pleadings and appear on their client’s behalf when summoned by the court. Once an attorney has entered their appearance on a client’s behalf, Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct 1.16 requires them to obtain court permission prior to withdrawing their representation. This means that legally, the attorney must continue their representation regardless of whether they are being compensated for the legal services they are performing. An advanced retainer assures compensation for legal services provided on a client’s behalf.

What if I already have an attorney?

You have the right to change attorneys at any time; however, the attorneys must file a substitution of counsel with the county prothonotary to change the attorney of record in your case.

Will I have to appear in court?

Your obligation to appear in court varies depending on the proceeding and specific facts of your case.

How is my judge assigned?

In Allegheny County, there are 17 judges currently sitting in Family Division and all are assigned to cases at random. Most outside counties have fewer judges and assign cases in a variety of ways. Beaver County, for example, assigns one judge to hear all custody cases, one judge to hear all divorce cases and so on, whereas Butler County assigns judges depending upon the defendants’ last names.

I don't like my judge - can I switch?

No. As long as they remain on the bench in Family Division, the same judge will oversee all aspects of your case. There is no course of action for changing judges.

Get Answers To Your Questions During A Free Consultation

There’s no substitute for individualized answers from a lawyer about your specific situation. For help with any kind of family law issue or to get guidance on your will, please reach out to my firm in Mt. Lebanon. You can reach me online or by phone at 412-557-7763.