The beginning of your relationship with your lawyer is your consultation, and you may need to have a few before you find the right fit.
Just like finding clothes or a car, you’re going to have to give some thought to what you need and what you want from your lawyer.
Free versus Paid Family Law Consultations
Some lawyers offer free consultations, while others charge a fee. This should not be the deciding factor for you. While a free consultation is great, many lawyers will credit your account for a paid consultation if you hire them, and other attorneys may offer discounted or free consults for certain cases. One thing to remember is that when you pay for a consultation, you are generally guaranteed a certain amount of time, and you are likely to walk away with a good understanding of your situation and the attorney’s style. That is certainly often the case for a free consult, but spending some money on a paid consult is a good investment for finding a lawyer who is a good fit for you.
The first thing that’s likely to happen is that the lawyer’s office will need you and your opposing party’s names. This is to ensure that the law firm won’t have any conflicts of interest by speaking to you. Generally, if you do not provide this information, the firm will not set up a consultation.
At the start of the consultation, the lawyer will need to know some basic facts about your situation. That may be in the form of a questionnaire, specific questions about aspects of your case, or just an opportunity for you to tell your story.
One criticism of lawyers is that they may not want to listen to your story, and will just get the gist of the situation from a few questions. However, this isn’t necessarily bad. Being familiar with legal issues, the lawyer wants to ensure that your facts fall into their area of expertise, and that they meet the criteria for the legal system being able to solve the problem.
Family Law Consultation Costs: What to Expect?
Similarly, most attorneys will not be able to tell you up front what the total cost of your matter will be. Unless you are working with a flat-fee attorney, and often even then, the attorney will need to know the scope of your case and how complex it is. Then they can give you an estimate. So don’t be concerned if you and the lawyer need to go into some detail about your story before you know what the representation will cost.
All of these consultation issues come down to getting a good fit with a prospective lawyer. Did you feel heard by the lawyer? Did the lawyer recognize your top priority? Did you have an opportunity to ask questions?
The other important component to a consultation is financial. You should leave the consultation knowing the basis of the fees that you will be charged (hourly, flat-fee, contingency) and a range for your total investment.