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.
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 Forms; Minnesota 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
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).
* 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.
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.
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!