How to Prepare For Your First Meeting With An Attorney
There are several things to consider when choosing a family law attorney to handle your divorce including the process options, geographic location of an attorney, online referrals and personal recommendations. If you have not yet read Choosing a Family Law Attorney, you may want to start there for ideas on where to begin.
Once you have selected and scheduled a meeting with the family law attorney(s) you wish to consult with, there are a few things you can do in advance. Investing time in preparing for your first meeting with the attorney will keep you focused during the meeting and ensure the time is productive.
Always come to the consult with questions that you feel can help you select your attorney. Don’t be afraid to write your questions down and take them with you to the meeting so you don’t forget.
Here are some of the things you may want to learn:
What experience does the attorney possess?
Is family law the focus of their practice or do they handle a variety of legal matters, some of which happen to be a few family cases each year?
What additional experience or training does the attorney possess?
Beyond their law degree, do they have any special training or knowledge that would be beneficial to your situation, such as training in Mediation or Collaborative Law.
What is the attorney’s style?
Ask questions about the approach they will take with your case. Some are skilled in the courtroom; some are skilled settlement advocates; some are skilled mediators; and some have a blended style. Depending on the nature of your case, and your needs and ultimate goals, an attorney’s natural style of lawyering could impact how your case is handled.
Is this someone I can trust?
Family cases tend to be very personal in nature. You should choose a family law attorney with whom you will feel comfortable talking about sensitive issues. You should feel entirely confident they are representing your best interest. You could have consulted with the best attorney in the world, but if you feel you can’t trust one another and work together, it will be a constant struggle. When a wrong choice is made, it is not uncommon for the client to change counsel, which causes delays in the case and increased attorney fees.
What can I expect from the attorney’s representation of my case?
Regardless of the process you choose, individual results can never be guaranteed. Please understand that attorneys do not control outcomes and cannot simply make your problems go away. However, a qualified family law attorney should be able to educate you, provide you with options for resolution, and advise you of reasonable expectations and/or potential outcomes of your case. Be cautious of professionals who make empty promises or tell you what you want to hear, simply because that is what they think you want to hear.
How will the attorney communicate with me?
It is important to establish how you and your attorney will communicate with one another. Ask in the consult: How will the attorney advise you of matters concerning your case? Does this attorney prefer to communicate with you via phone or email or perhaps through their assistant? Within what time frame should you expect communication to occur? If you need to reach your attorney, how do you best do so? What do you do in the event of an emergency? Setting these basic ground rules in the beginning should prevent frustrations in the future.
How will I be billed for services?
In Pennsylvania, ethical rules strongly encourage all attorneys to put in writing how a client will be billed for services. You should expect the attorney to provide a document that fully explains the fees you will incur, how you will be billed and what the payment expectations are.
The ultimate goal is to select a family law attorney who you feel will best help you through the divorce and/or custody process. Your attorney is your partner on what can be a difficult and emotional journey. Investing the time and energy in identifying the factors that are most important to you and thoroughly evaluating your options, will help you make the best decision you can.
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