What is a Consultation?
A consultation is a meeting between you and your prospective attorney. Generally, this meeting is necessary to determine whether the attorney will accept the case. There are exceptions such as: the attorney may have a conflict of interest or does not practice a particular area of law, does not have the time to adequately dedicate to your case given his/her current caseload, or believes another attorney may be better suited to handle your situation and individual case.
Regardless of the outcome of the first meeting, you will receive a letter describing the reasons why or why not the attorney can or cannot accept your case. This letter will describe to you the extent and scope of the attorney-client relationship. If the attorney accepts your case, then your time was well spent and there will likely be subsequent meetings with your attorney to discuss the case further. If the attorney does not accept the case, then our time was not wasted, but rather you will likely have learned more about your particular legal issue and how to seek a solution. You can expect to pay the consultation fee even if the lawyer tells you that you have no case. You are paying for the information and advice you get, and it can be very valuable to hear this early before you spend a lot of time, money, and energy on a case you are not likely to win.
Why is a consultation required?
The vast majority of the wisdom and advice that you will be seeking from an attorney cannot be provided over the telephone. In almost all situations, it will necessary for you to schedule an appointment to meet face to face with the prospective attorney.
Meeting with an attorney does not create any obligation on your part, nor does it mean that you must hire the attorney. In fact, many times it is the attorney who can put you in touch with the individuals that may assist you and/or begin a dialogue that leads to a reconciliation. Nonetheless, it will be necessary for you to make a trip to the prospective attorney’s office.
What to Expect When You Arrive for Your First Meeting:
Provide important identifying information, complete forms, provide your ID, and talk to the attorney. The reality is that attorneys understand that your visit to their office is strictly confidential. Rarely will anyone be kept waiting for more than a few minutes in the lobby, as attorneys try to prevent two clients, especially new clients, from being present in the lobby at the same time, whenever possible.
What to Expect from Your First Meeting:
During your initial consultation with an attorney, expect the attorney to provide you with an overview of what to anticipate. For example, if you’re meeting the attorney about a family law matter, expect the following five issues to be discussed: (1) the divorce process, (2) matters pertaining to any minor children of the marriage, (3) division of your assets and liabilities, (4) support (both child support and spousal support), and (5) the related attorneys’ fees and costs. In order to be able to address these five primary issues for you and provide you with a potential gameplan, it be will necessary for the attorney to make a substantial inquiry into all sorts of matters.
Some of the questions will be name, rank, and serial number types of questions; other questions will pertain to minor children; additional questions will be related to financial matters; and other questions will be of a more personal nature in terms of any precipitating events and “who did what to whom.” Know that when answering these questions the attorney-client privilege is in effect, meaning anything you tell to the attorney will not, and cannot, be repeated to anyone without your permission.
With that understanding, it is imperative that you tell the attorney the truth and provide all of the related details. The quality of the advice you receive will be directly proportional to the candor with which you answer the attorney’s questions.
Types of Questions:
The first series of questions usually pertains to name, address(es), phone numbers, dates of birth, and social security numbers for you and your spouse. The reason this information is needed is so that the attorney can be prepared to file a case, if necessary, on short notice should you call back in two days, two months, or two years. What you do not want to occur is for you to call the attorney back several weeks down the road, if and when you need immediate action, and have the attorney not be in possession of the basic information to proceed with filing papers with a court on your behalf. It is okay to provide address and telephone contact information; no one is going to call you at any telephone number or send you any mail at any address without your express permission.