When clients call or email me about a family law issue (or really any legal issue) they are having, I usually like to speak with them on the phone for a little while about their case, then I encourage them to schedule an appointment for a consultation at my office. There are many reasons for this, but primarily, I find that a face to face meeting means that people are serious about pursuing their case. Secondarily, in a world where coming to see an attorney often means missing work or school, a face to face meeting is almost always more productive than phone or email correspondence because communication is usually better (no hearing problems or dropped calls), and you have the added element of seeing those nonverbal communication cues.
Thus, in the initial phone call or email where I set up an in person consultation, I like to prepare the potential client for what our first in person meeting will be like. I find that informing the potential client about what will happen first alleviates some nerves, as well as creates a more productive meeting (because the fear of the unknown is hopefully minimalized).
So, what can you expect upon heading into my office for an initial consultation meeting? First, you’ll be welcomed by either myself or another member of my firm’s staff and asked if you’d like coffee, tea, or water. Then, we’ll likely meet in the conference room at the firm where we’ll get quickly acquainted and get an overview of the issue for which you came in to see me. Next, we’ll start filling a questionnaire out full of different information such as your name, contact information, and depending on the type of potential case, the contact information of your spouse. Next, we’ll move on to talking about your children if you have any as well as your employment and income. After that, we’ll talk more about any property you own, and other financial matters. (Note that depending on the type of case you are talking about will help me determine what types and how much information I’ll need to best give advice).
Once we get the questionnaire portion of the consultation over, I like to dive more into the facts of their issue, and then give options for what I can do to help out. Once I lay out the options, I often encourage clients to give their initial reaction to which option (s) they are interested in, not interested in, and ones they have questions about. After answering questions, I like to ask why they’re interested in certain options and why they’re not interested in other options. The answers to these two questions typically helps me find out more about the potential client, how to proceed with their case, and also gives me insight on how to handle their emotional state in the case. Some clients are emotionally ready to proceed full speed ahead while others require a gentler pace. In my opinion, good attorneys recognize this difference in each client, and adapts to each particular client’s needs.
So, that is what to expect in an initial consultation meeting with me (and likely pretty much any family law attorney). Knowing what you’re getting yourself into for an initial meeting will likely lead to a more productive meeting, and helps lay the groundwork for a better attorney-client relationship and representation!