Adoption is an important decision and a life-changing action. You need an adoption lawyer to stand by you throughout the process — but there are lots of adoption lawyers in Arkansas. How can you choose among them?

It’s easy to feel like you’re making a random pick if you just look through a list of adoption lawyers and call the first one you see. Take the steps we suggest here and you can choose with greater confidence.

Experience and specialization

Look for an attorney whose practice focuses primarily on adoption law. Experience in different types of adoption, such as private and agency adoptions, is also a plus. Family law attorneys may do some adoption work, but often their practice spends more time on divorce or other family law issues and they only occasionally work with adoption. A specialized adoption attorney like Justin Heimer, with experience covering hundreds of adoptions, is a better choice.

If your adoption case involves unique circumstances, look for an attorney with experience in handling similar cases. For example, step-parent adoptions have their own special nuances.

It’s also essential to choose a lawyer in the state where you want to adopt. Laws vary from one state to another, and it’s important to choose an attorney whose experience is in your jurisdiction.

Inquire about the attorney’s success rate in handling adoption cases. While past performance isn’t a guarantee of future results, it can offer some insight into their experience.

Qualifications and reputation

In addition to the level of experience and expertise your chosen lawyer brings to the table, you can also check on some other qualifications:

  • Education: Find out where the adoption lawyers you are considering went to school and what they studied. Justin Heimer earned his Juris Doctor at
  • Indiana University-Bloomington, and he also has a Master of Arts in Counseling, and trained as a Marriage and Family Therapist and Professional Counselor. This training makes a difference in his approach with adoptive families and birth parents.
  • Bar Association membership: Make sure the attorney is licensed to practice law in your state and is in good standing with the Bar Association.
  • Professional affiliations: Membership in relevant professional organizations like the American Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (AAARA) can indicate expertise. (Justin Heimer is a fellow of the AAARA.)
  • Client testimonials and reviews: Read online reviews and ask the attorney for references from satisfied clients. One online resource is AVVO, a well-known database of attorneys from across the nation. You can search for adoption lawyers near you and see a lot of information on each one, as you can see in the screenshot below.

Communication style and availability

You might choose to have initial consultations with one or more adoption lawyers in the process of choosing the best fit for you. Pay close attention to how the attorney interacts with you during your consultation. Do they speak in a clear and concise manner? Do they use jargon you don’t understand?

Ask how they typically keep clients updated on their cases. Do they prefer email, phone calls, or video conferencing? How often can you expect to hear from them? Everyone has different preferences for communication. You can probably find an adoption attorney whose style meshes well with yours,

Cost and fees

Understand the attorney’s fee structure (hourly rate, flat fee, retainer agreement) and get a written estimate of total expected costs upfront. Choose an attorney who is transparent about all potential costs associated with the adoption process, including court fees, filing fees, and home study expenses.

It may not always be possible to determine all the costs ahead of time. For example, in Arkansas would-be adoptive parents are allowed to assist with an expectant mother’s expenses, and it can be difficult to be precise about these costs before meeting the mom. However, your attorney should be able to answer all your questions about costs clearly and openly.

Comfort and trust

Adoption is an emotional journey. Choose an attorney you feel comfortable with, someone you trust and can openly communicate with. This is a personal decision, but it is an important aspect of choosing your adoption attorney.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions and ensure you feel confident and well-informed before choosing an attorney to represent you in your adoption journey.