Many people can be uncomfortable before or during an first meeting with a divorce attorney. However, a lot of these concerns can be avoided when you know what to expect. Here’s a general idea of what happens.
First Meeting with a Divorce Attorney
Ideally, you can expect these five things to occur during your first meeting with a divorce attorney:
1. Establish a Relationship
This meeting is your first opportunity to establish your relationship with the lawyer. It’s essential that you feel comfortable talking to him or her.
In addition, if possible, introduce yourself to any other additional staff you’ll be working with. This includes a paralegal or legal assistant. You may save money by working directly with the paralegal on certain case matters such as scheduled court appearances, correspondences, and filings.
2. Complete the Engagement Contract
At this first meeting, you and the lawyer will review a contract. This is sometimes called the client retention contract, the engagement letter, or the representation and fee agreement. In any case, it’s important that you review it with the lawyer. Also, ask any questions you may have and get a personal copy for your records.
The contract lays out the client-attorney relationship, legal fees and service payments, client and attorney responsibilities, and other additional information regarding representation and firm policies.
The contract may seem long, however it creates clear expectations from the start. If an attorney doesn’t have a contract, it’s extremely vague or short, or he or she is unwilling to sign a contract with you, this is a big red flag.
He or she should be more than willing to explain and answer any and all questions. In addition, if a concern or question regarding representation and/or legal services isn’t addressed in the contract, bring it up and consider adding it to the contract before signing. At the least, you should feel sure about how an issue is handled.
3. Deposit the Retainer
You’ll officially have representation when you and the attorney have both signed the contract, and you’ve provided the retainer. At that point, you’re a client and the lawyer is your attorney.
4. Discuss Divorce & receive Legal Guidance
This is the “meat and potatoes” of the first meeting. At this meeting most divorce attorneys will collect information about you, your family and your spouse. Typically, he or she will ask you a wide-range of questions. This process will typically take one to two hours, depending on how much there is to discuss.
Although it can feel invasive, it gives the your new lawyer a first overview or your situation. Also critically, it helps him or her spot possible issues that may arise in your case.
At this first meeting, you should also bring up any other issues not yet discussed. In addition, you may seek legal advice on any immediate concerns. Lastly, if you’ve been served with divorce papers or have any other previous court orders, your lawyer may review them with you at this time.
5. Developing a Plan & Next Steps in Case
At the end of this first meeting, you and your lawyer should develop a plan for moving forward the case. This will be based on your specific situation, goals and preferences. Before leaving your attorney should clearly explain what he or she will be doing and what’s needed from you going forward.
For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page. If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page. For Court rules, please click here.