|Posted by Sarah I. Malik on January 11, 2019 at 3:20 PM|
Most attorney client relationships begin with an initial consultation. Sometimes these can be over the phone or, more likely, in person. If you have the ability to meet with your attorney in person, do that. If the attorney is someone that you will be working with for weeks, months or even years, getting to know them and determining whether you are compatible is important.
Some family law attorneys provide free initial consultations, which are usually limited to 30 minutes. These types of consultations are more for the attorney to figure out the issues of the case and less about the prospective client getting real advice. Useful initial consultations should last anywhere between 60 minutes to 2 hours and should provide the client and the attorney to both determine whether they can work together moving forward. The attorney is determining whether this is a case he or she can add to their active cases, has issues that are in their area of expertise, and whether the client is one that he or she can work with. The client is determining whether the attorney is someone they can trust and work with and if the attorney’s cost structure is one he or she can afford.
Each initial consultation is different. Much depends on the facts of the case and the procedural posture of the case (e.g., is the person seeking information pre-litigation; have documents already been served; are the parties trying to negotiate a settlement). If you have a good initial consultation, you should expect to understand the attorney’s billing practice (if you are seeking representation), a game plan for the case moving forward and an outline of goals for the case.
In some situations, clients only need or want a consultation only to get some guidance on the case, review a settlement agreement or just check in with an attorney to make sure they are doing everything right.
So, how does one prepare for an initial consultation:
1) Organize and bring all of the paperwork in the case. This can include draft pleadings or court filings, notices from the court, draft settlement agreements and/or correspondence from the opposing attorney.
2) Have a succinct timeline/story of your case. Most family law cases involve a lot of history about the parties’ marriage, children, property issues or all of the above. If there was no time limit to an appointment, just sharing your story could take well over an hour. So, come with the most important points outlined to share with the attorney. As needed, the attorney will ask questions to get more relevant information.
3) Know your personal goals when it comes to your marriage and/or children and be prepared to share those with the attorney.
4) Bring concrete financial information about yourself, spouse and children. This can include your income, your spouse’s income, major expenses for the children (e.g., health insurance, ongoing medical and childcare or tuition), and a list of significant assets that you or your spouse acquired during the marriage (e.g., homes, cars, bank and investment accounts, retirement accounts, businesses, etc.).
5) Come with questions. If you have a list of questions then you can make sure at the end of the meeting, most have been answered by the attorney, if possible at that point.