Finding Your Assisted Reproduction Attorney by Diane Michelsen, J.D., M.S.W
Once you have decided to make use of assisted reproductive technology to create your family, we suggest that you contact an assisted reproduction attorney. Assisted reproduction is still a new field and laws concerning assisted reproduction are constantly evolving. Whether utilizing a donor for genetic material or a surrogate (gestational or traditional), yesterday’s information may well be out of date. Please don’t rely on legal information provided by the internet or by friends who are well meaning but not well versed. The ramifications are too significant to not have accurate information. In this field, more than most others, you can preclude very serious problems by utilizing the services of a knowledgeable attorney.
Additionally, like adoption, laws and practices vary drastically state by state. Your attorney will be able to give you a comprehensive overview of what is allowable in your state, as well as what conflicts may need to be resolved. If commercial gestational surrogacy, for example, is not allowed in your state, your attorney may recommend that you use a program in a state where it is recognized.
The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, http://www.AdoptionAttorneys.org , unlike the other paid listings, has qualified its members on the basis of ethics and expertise. At press time, it is in the process of developing an easily accessed listing of assisted reproduction attorneys.
Do feel free to contact more than one attorney to inquire as to services, expertise, philosophy, and costs. You need not feel limited to attorneys in your own immediate area, since the majority of work is done in writing and by telephone. The following questions may be helpful in obtaining useful information:
1. Philosophy: What is the attorney’s philosophy about assisted reproduction? Is the attorney comfortable with the concept of assisted
reproduction? What are the attorney’s feelings about ovum donation and/or surrogacy? Does he or she have strong beliefs about anonymity or disclosure of identities? How will this play out in the future? What about future access for sharing of medical information or for the child? Do the attorney’s attitudes match yours, and/or is the attorney willing to adjust to your desires and needs? If the attorney seems uncomfortable in this area, do seek a different legal counselor.
2. Expertise: What is the attorney’s familiarity with assisted reproduction, both legal and otherwise? Is the attorney experienced, knowledgeable and competent? How many assisted reproduction matters does the attorney work with each year? How long has the attorney been in this field? If he or she handles litigation, ask about their track record. You can also look up the attorney on the internet to get more information. (just type them in as the inquiry in Google.) Do ask for references, if desired.
3. Billing: How does the attorney bill, and what is the average cost for the services you wish. Some attorneys bill on an hourly basis, while others charge flat fees for their services. Remember not to just compare hourly rates as price alone should not guide your decision. An attorney who is an expert in his field can often work far more efficiently than someone who is unfamiliar with the area. The specialist knows the key issues as well as the details to preclude problems later!
4. Accessibility: Does the attorney return phone calls, and if so, when? Does the office keep you up-to-date and involved in your case? Are copies of relevant correspondence or documents regularly sent to you? If contracts are being drafted, find what the anticipated turn around time will be. When your attorney is away from the office, is another knowledgeable attorney on hand to answer your specific questions and concerns?
5. Personalities: Are the attorneys and the support staff pleasant people who help you to feel at ease? Your attorney-client relationship may well extend over several months’ time, both before and during the pregnancy. It should be clear that the attorney is interested in providing you with competent, thoughtful and caring service, and that he or she is committed to working diligently on your behalf.
Diane Michelsen, J.D., M.S.W. is an INCIID professional member and California based Adoption and Surrogacy Attorney who has been in practice since 1980.
Phone: (925) 945-1880