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The Consultation Myth Revealed

Most divorce attorneys’ or family law firms’ advertise for a free or low-cost consultation, yet fail to explain what a consultation is, and how a consultation in the legal field works. The ambiguity surrounding a legal consultation is a disservice to you, because it creates confusion and frustration during the consultation, which often translates into a missed opportunity for you to get to know a divorce attorney better. 

consultation with a divorce attorney

Therefore, to ease the whole process of finding a divorce attorney and meeting with a divorce attorney for the first time, we started a blog series known as, “What to Know Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney.” The first post in this series is this article, The Consultation Myth Revealed, and follows with multiple articles, with Scheduling an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney: What To Know and How To Do It as your next stop.  

So to begin, let’s address the biggest barrier when it comes to understanding and utilizing a consultation, and that’s revealing the consultation myth.

The Consultation Myth : Legal Advice & Counsel

At the consultation, the divorce attorney will not provide any legal advice or guidance regarding how to proceed with your divorce, what steps you’ll want to take next, or how to go about getting custody of your child, for example. Needing legal guidance and counsel in your divorce are reasons to hire an attorney.

To illustrate, it may be helpful for you to think about the medical profession. When you go to the doctor, you inform him/her of your symptoms and based on his/her knowledge, expertise, training, etc… s/he determines what’s wrong and provides a remedy. You see a doctor because you lack the knowledge and experience required to diagnosis yourself and therefore, pay the doctor for these services. Similarly, when you obtain a lawyer, you’re paying for his/her legal knowledge, experience and expertise. 

Therefore, if you’re looking for legal advice or counsel, not looking to retain a divorce attorney or can’t afford legal services, a legal consultation will only be irritating and a waste of your time. 

Instead, you’d benefit from searching the Majeski Law, LLC website for articles on specific topics such as, “Can I Leave the State with my Child?” In addition, our sister website, MN Family Law Attorney, has several resources such as, links to: county family courts in the Twin Cities area; Minnesota Court FormsMinnesota Family Court Rules that you’re expected to know and follow; Minnesota State Law Library; and Free Legal Help and clinics in Minnesota. You may also find doing an internet search for pro bono divorce attorneys in your area helpful.

Understanding & Utilizing the Consultation

So to clarify, a legal consultation is like a job interview. At the consultation you’re asking questions of multiple applicants (in this case, several different attorneys and/or law firms) to determine the best person for the position of being your divorce attorney. 

If the firm has a good website and provides you with additional materials to look over at your convenience, the consultation can be done over the phone and in as little as 20 minutes. Either the divorce attorney or a good legal assistant/paralegal can conduct the consultation with you and answer questions you may have before making your decision. Therefore, although you won’t receive any free legal advice or counsel, a consultation still has great value to you and you should seek consultation before retaining a divorce attorney and here’s why…

6 Benefits of a Consultation Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney

Consultation with a Divorce or Family Law Attorney

1. You ensure that the divorce attorney you’re looking at hiring practices in family law and has experience with divorce cases similar to your own.

* Although hopefully the firm’s marketing takes care of this issue by making it clear what types of cases and areas of law the attorney practices on the firm’s website, it’s always good to double check. Especially with large law firms, you’ll want to make sure that the divorce attorney who is representing you in your divorce case not only will be the same attorney throughout your divorce, but also that s/he practices in divorce and family law, and has significant experience with divorce and family law cases. 

2. You ensure that the divorce attorney you’re looking at hiring can dedicate the time and effort your divorce case deserves and that s/he isn’t overloaded with a number of other matters at the moment (like this guy below). 

Consultation

* Tip: It’s very reasonable for you to ask during the consultation about the attorney’s caseload in order to confirm that s/he is equipped and capable of serving you as a client.

Learn more about: Why your attorney’s caseload matters when it comes to your divorce.

3. You ensure that the divorce attorney you’re looking at hiring doesn’t have any conflict of interests or any other ethical reasons for why s/he would not be a good fit for you and your divorce.

* This is why a divorce attorney should be requesting basic information about you and your divorce case, such as, your full name, address and spouse’s full name at the consultation. It’s the divorce attorney’s responsibility to inform you immediately if s/he is not able to talk with and/or represent you due to a conflict of interest.  

4. You ensure that any questions you have about the divorce attorney and/or the firm are answered ahead of time, free of charge (or for some firms, at a reduced rate) before committing to a divorce attorney.

Consultation

5. You ensure that you understand the divorce attorney’s and/or the firm’s legal practices, such as, the engagement and fee agreements.

6. By consulting with a divorce attorney beforehand, you increase your chances of finding a divorce attorney that fits best for you. As a result, you’re more likely to be satisfied with his/her services in the end. 

Consultation

Lastly, 2 key things to remember about a consultation with a divorce attorney:

1. A consultation allows you to shop around so that you can find the best divorce attorney for you and your divorce. In no way are you bound to one divorce attorney simply because you participated in a consultation with him/her. Instead, a client-attorney relationship only forms after the both of you have signed some sort of engagement letter and fee agreement. 

2. With the above in mind, visa versa is also true. Therefore, we caution against making the unfortunate mistake of believing that an attorney is working on your divorce case when you haven’t established a working relationship with him/her by signing a formal contract and providing the retainer.

Learn more about: What you should know about a retainer before meeting with an attorney

What’s been your experience with consultations when it comes to divorce attorneys, or attorneys in general? Chime in through the comment field below!

Thanks for reading and check out the rest of our posts in the series, What to Know Before Meeting with Your Divorce Attorney, so you’re better prepared!

Why Caseload Matters In Your Divorce

August 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Divorce

Got a Good Lawyer

This is the 4th post, Why Caseload Matters In Your Divorce, in the series called, “Got Milk a Good Lawyer?

The series is dedicated to helping you find the best attorney for you and your divorce. It’ll help you in the decision making process by pointing out some things to consider when you’re deciding who to hire as your divorce lawyer. In particular, I’ve identified 10 criteria to use when you’re evaluating which divorce lawyer is right for you.

So far in the series, I’ve discussed 4 criteria to consider: Communication, Personality, Support help, and Background experience and education. This week’s post is about criteria 5: The Divorce Attorney’s Current Clients and Caseload.

caseload

ReCap of the “Got a Good Lawyer?” Series So Far:

For those of you just joining us, here’s a glimpse of what’s been covered so far in the series. For your convenience, I have linked all 4 criteria mentioned below to their previous posts. Simply click the criteria and you’ll be taken directly to the related post to read.

 What to Consider Before Hiring Your Divorce Attorney:

    1: Communication:

  • Before you hire your divorce attorney, what are his/her procedures for communicating with you? Do you know what to expect regarding methods of communication and receiving updates on your case?

     2. Personality:

  • Have you met with your divorce lawyer in person? Do you feel comfortable around your divorce lawyer? Do you feel like you can work with him/her?

     3. Support Help:

  •  Does your divorce lawyer have additional staff on his/her team, such as a legal assistant or paralegal to help him/her with your case, and save you money?

     4. Background Experience and Education:

  • Does your divorce lawyer practice in the area of family law and have experience with divorce cases similar to your own? What majority of your attorney’s cases are divorce cases?

Now to this week’s topic: Criteria 5,

The Divorce Attorney’s Current Clients and Caseload

The divorce attorney’s current clients and caseload will impact his/her ability to competently serve you.

For example, let’s say that you find a divorce attorney that has a reputation for caring about his/her clients, or you find a divorce attorney that is known for his/her dedication and hard work on cases…

Great! That’s what you want!

However, even with these great qualities, no divorce attorney is immune to the limitations of time. After all, there’s only so much that can get done in a day. 

Therefore, the simple fact remains…

If your divorce attorney takes more clients and cases than s/he can handle, it impacts you, as the client, because your attorney won’t be able to deliver the best service possible.

Therefore, to ensure that you and your divorce case get the quality representation and attention that you deserve, don’t overlook the fact that the divorce attorney that you’re considering may already have a full plate. Like this guy…

Why Caseload Matters

“How Do I Know If An Attorney Has Time for Me and My Divorce?”

 I recommend that you ask the divorce attorney that you’re considering on hiring,

“Do you currently have the time and resources available to competently handle my case?”

I realize that this may seem silly, because some attorneys may say yes because they don’t know their limits, or worst case scenario, say yes because they want your business. However, even in the worst case scenario, I’d still ask and here’s why…

By asking this question, you signal to your divorce lawyer that this is a concern for you. By communicating this concern from the get-go, you ensure that your divorce attorney is made aware of your concern right away. By making your lawyer cognizant of the issue from the start, s/he is able to take the necessary steps throughout your case to ensure that it doesn’t happen. Therefore, by voicing your concern, you increase your chances of receiving quality representation and services.  After all, it’s in any lawyer’s best interest to keep his/her clients happy since lawyers depend on referrals from past clients for future business!

One more helpful tip,

Consider As Many Criteria as Possible when You’re Deciding Who to Hire

It’s to your advantage to take into consideration as many of the 10 criteria as possible when you’re judging which divorce lawyer to hire. The more criteria you use when evaluating and deciding which divorce attorney is right for you and your divorce, the more satisfied you’ll be with the attorney you pick in the end.

To illustrate, if your divorce attorney has a legal assistant or paralegal (criteria 3: support help), then the firm can take more clients, than a solo practitioner, because more staff means more people to help with your case and share the work.

 Support Help

Therefore, this example shows how taking into consideration both criteria 5 (the attorney’s current clients and caseload) and criteria 3 (support help) help you make a better decision about if you’re divorce attorney will have time for you and your divorce case, than if you only focused on criteria 5 or criteria 3.

In addition, if your divorce attorney practices exclusively in family law and is experienced with divorce cases (criteria 4: background experience and education), s/he can have more clients at a time, than an attorney who practices in several areas of law, because presumably the general practice attorney is going to be serving a wider range of clients and therefore having to set aside more time to learn and research laws in multiple areas (such as, criminal law, or bankruptcy law) due to having unrelated cases.

Multiple Law Areas

Therefore, this example shows how taking into consideration criteria 5 (the attorney’s current clients and caseload) and criteria 4 (background experience and education) help you make a you make a better decision about if you’re divorce attorney will have time for you and your divorce case, than if you solely focused on criteria 5 or criteria 4.

Ultimately, the reason you care about the 10 criteria that I’m sharing with you in the series, is because they will help you find the right divorce attorney for you and your divorce by helping you answer important questions, such as how we used criteria 3, 4, and 5 in today’s post to help you answer the question, “How do I know if my divorce attorney has time for me and my divorce case?”

And as I just demonstrated, it’s detrimental to base your decision only on a single criteria because you just saw how criteria 3 and criteria 4, can impact criteria 5. So when you make your final decision of who to hire as your divorce attorney, just make sure to consider as many criteria as possible. 

Thanks for reading. In the next post in the series,  “Got a Good Lawyer?”  we’ll discuss criteria 6.

Love to Hear From You…

Time Management Skills

Other factors such as, the firm’s organization and the attorney’s time management skills, impact how many clients and cases an attorney can competently represent at one time.

What else do you think impacts an attorney’s ability to competently represent several clients at a time?

Take a moment to add to the discussion by commenting in the section below.