Before your first meeting with an attorney, knowing what to expect will help you determine if the attorney is the right one to help you settle your divorce.
Coming in to see an attorney for an initial consultation can be overwhelming, especially in the context of a divorce or other personal family law matter. Knowing what to expect before that first meeting can help alleviate those fears and make the meeting much more productive.
First, know that anything that you say to the attorney in the consultation is covered by the attorney/client privilege, even if you do not actually retain that attorney. It is extremely important to be completely open and honest with the attorney so that both of you can evaluate whether this is the right fit for an ongoing relationship.
Second, it is important that you feel comfortable with the attorney. Family law matters, particularly divorces, involve the sharing of very private and personal information. As the client, you need to feel comfortable sharing this information with your attorney. Failing to share all information with your attorney can have disastrous results. It is not uncommon for people contemplating a divorce to meet with more than one attorney in order to make sure they pick the one with whom they are the most comfortable.
Third, you should expect to pay a consultation fee for the initial meeting with the attorney. The information you will receive in that initial meeting is valuable information to help you, and the attorney, assess your situation. While some attorneys do have free consultations, most of the more experienced family law attorneys will charge for their time. This initial consultation is also where the attorney will be able to give you a better idea of the retainer that will be required, based upon the complexity of your case and the issues involved.
Fourth, if the attorney provides you with an intake sheet prior to the consultation, fill it out as completely and accurately as possible, and bring financial documents and any other documents you believe may be relevant to your case. If the attorney does not provide an intake sheet prior to the consultation, you should plan to arrive 15 to 30 minutes early to complete any necessary paperwork, and bring the relevant financial documents with you. Also, make sure to bring any documents with which you have been served, as well as any court orders that are in place.
Fifth, most initial consultations will last an hour, but some may go longer. Keep in mind this is just your first meeting with the attorney. If you retain the attorney, there will be more time and more meetings to make sure you have the opportunity to convey all of the relevant information.
Finally, in deciding whom to meet with, getting referrals from friends who have gone through divorce, your pastor or your therapist can help you find someone with whom you will feel comfortable.
About the author: Lisa Marquis is an attorney with Quilling, Selander, Lownds, Winslett and Moser, P.C., with offices in Dallas and Plano.