First of all, remember that this is YOUR time with the attorney. Therefore, you need to step up, call the shots and determine the course of your consultation. While it would be nice if the attorney specifically asked you what you wanted to talk about, don't assume that this will happen. The more detailed you are with describing your needs, the more satisfied you will be with the outcome of your appointment. If you have no idea about divorce and what it entails, let the attorney know. If this is the third attorney you've consulted with, speak up so that you don't have to hear the same information again.
It's a little like school--while you want to remember what is said, you don't want to be so focused on writing everything down that you miss the big picture. Remember that the consultation is also partially an interview (if you're looking to retain an attorney). You need to see if you're comfortable with the attorney, and you can't do that if your nose is buried in your notebook.
Come prepared with a list of questions that you want answered about your case AND the firm itself. Be sure that you understand the answers and that they were answered to your satisfaction (not to be confused with liking the answers!). This is another way of learning about the attorney and his or her communication style. The attorney should be able to communicate with you in non-legal terms or be able to explain "legalese" in a straightforward, easy-to-understand manner. You don't need to be extremely specific, but you do need a general idea of what it is you're looking for.
Don't be Late.
This may sound obvious, but it's a common problem. If your attorney requires an intake form to be filled out prior to the appointment, arriving on time means that part of your appointment time is used for filling out paperwork and you've just lost 10 minutes of your consultation. When scheduling the appointment, be sure to find out when you're supposed to arrive and if there is an intake form, how long it usually takes to complete.
Think Before Bringing Someone Along.
It's typically a bad idea to bring your children along with you to a family law consultation, as they're often a topic of discussion. Many attorneys will refuse to conduct an appointment with minor children in the room, and for good reason. It is routine for Courts to forbid parties to discuss their legal case in front of their children.
Likewise, bringing your best friend, parents, significant other, or another third party may not be the best idea, either. I can't tell you how many times I've seen these people try to take over the consultation and tell the potential client what he or she should or shouldn't do. While third parties can be useful, remember that at the end of the day, this is your case and your choice.
Don't be Afraid to Bring Paperwork.
The more information you can supply the attorney, the more case-specific advice you will gain from your consultation. Bringing your paystubs, tax returns, credit card statements, and other such financial documents allows the attorney to be more specific when talking about property division and child/spousal support. Knowing the other party's income, finances, property, and debt is invaluable.
Often times, consulting with an attorney is a person's first step in beginning a family law case. It's okay to be nervous and unsure and to not know exactly what you want to do. That's what the attorney is there for.
Additional resources provided by the author
For more information about family law issues, please refer to my website and blog.
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