Do Divorce Lawyers give Free Consultations?

A free consultation with a lawyer can be a great idea.  Most divorce attorneys or family law firms advertise for a free or low-cost consultation.  However, we do a bad job of explaining them.  In addition, consultations vary depending on the law office. 

The ambiguity surrounding a legal consultation is a disservice to you.  It creates confusion and frustration during the consultation, which often translates into a missed opportunity for you to get to know a divorce lawyer better. 

Free Consultation with a Lawyer: What it is Not

Needing legal guidance and counsel in your divorce are reasons to hire an attorney.  At the free consultation with a lawyer, the divorce attorney typically will not provide significant legal advice or guidance regarding how to proceed with your divorce or what steps you’ll want to take next.

“Legal advice” is not always well-defined.  I consider legal advice to be any of the following:

  • I have “X” family situation, what do I do?
  • I have “X” family situation, what happens in the legal system?
  • How do I do “X” legal procedure?

Lawyers don’t give free legal advice for three reasons. 

First, lawyers are pay for service professionals.  Providing legal advice is a service.  Everyone is familiar with getting paid for your work.

Second, a phone consultation typically does not provide enough information to the lawyer.  A lawyer can’t give fully informed advice based on a phone call.

Third, legal advice creates ethical problems.  This relates to the second point, providing advice without fully understanding the situation.  Also, it may create ambiguity about the lawyer’s role with the person receiving the advice.  If it were wrong and the potential client relied on that information, the lawyer could be liable.

Therefore, if you’re looking to the free consultation for free legal advice, it can be irritating to you and a waste of your time.

To compare, think about the medical profession. When you go to the doctor, you report your symptoms.  Based on his or her knowledge, expertise, training, etc. he or she determines what’s wrong and provides a remedy.

You see a doctor because you lack the knowledge and experience required to diagnosis yourself.  Therefore,  you pay the doctor for these services. Similarly, when you obtain a lawyer, you’re paying for his or her legal knowledge, experience and expertise. 

However, sometimes paying for a divorce or family lawyer just isn’t possible.  In that event, if you can’t afford an attorney and are looking for legal help, the website, MN Family Law Attorney, has several resources.   This includes: links to county family courts in the Twin Cities area; Minnesota Court FormsMinnesota Family Court RulesMinnesota 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.

Free Consultation with a Lawyer: What it is

A free consultation with a lawyer 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.  

It serves several functions.  First, the lawyer needs to know that your situation is one he or she is qualified to handle.  In the case of Majeski Law, most people find the firm through the internet.  So, callers know I work in divorce and family law.  Therefore, it’s usually pretty easy for me to tell if I have the expertise for your case.

Second, it allows the lawyer to determine the case is within his or her jurisdiction.  For example, Majeski Law is a Minnesota firm only.  Working near the Wisconsin border, we sometimes receive calls from Wisconsin family law.

Third,  it gives you the chance to evaluate the lawyer and his or her firm.  You can determine if he or she is a good fit for you.  Questions ideally focus on the lawyer’s practice, general procedural questions, and cost questions. This consultation typically doesn’t need to be more than 15-30 minutes for divorce and family situations.

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.

Benefits of a Consultation

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 he or she 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. 

Free Consultation with a Lawyer
During your free consultation with a lawyer, disorganization can be a bad sign.

    It’s reasonable to ask during the consultation about the attorney’s              caseload in order to confirm that s/he is equipped and capable       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 requests basic information about you   and your divorce case.  This includes your full name, address and   spouse’s full name. 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. 

7. 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. Instead, a attorney-client relationship only forms after the both of you have signed some sort of engagement letter

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.

Why Caseload Matters In Your Divorce

Why Caseload Matters
An overworked and disorganized attorney can be a bad sign

The Divorce Attorney’s Current Caseload

The divorce attorney’s current caseload may impact his or 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.

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.

Will the Attorney Has Time for Me?

 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?”

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!

Other Considerations

For one, if your divorce attorney has a legal assistant or paralegal, 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 for caseload
Legal support staff can help manage caseload

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, he or she 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 increase caseload
Lack of specialization can increase an attorney’s caseload

Therefore, this example shows how taking into consideration the attorney’s current clients and caseload and 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.

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. 

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.

When a Divorce Lawyer May Be Just What You Need

Woman on phone with divorce lawyer
Calling a divorce lawyer is often the first step

Reasons You May Want a Divorce Lawyer

Divorces can be incredibly difficult both emotionally and procedurally.  A divorce lawyer can help guide you through the process.  This includes making it as smooth and quick as possible while still protecting and advocating for your rights.

The following are a list of reasons you should consider hiring a divorce lawyer:

  • You don’t trust that your spouse will be honest and do the right thing during the divorce
  • Your spouse has already shown they are vengeful, dishonest, or aggressive
  • You are concerned that your spouse may be hiding assets
  • You’re uncomfortable with the divorce process \You’re not sure what to do during a divorce process and feel easily overwhelmed by the large amount of paperwork
  • Your spouse has a divorce lawyer representing them
  • Your divorce has special issues that need extra attention, like:
  • Who will get custody of the children?
  • How often will each of you spend with the children?
  • Who will get child support and how much will it be?
  • Are either you or your spouse entitled to alimony?
  • How will marital property be split up?
  • How will marital debts be split up?
  • There has been domestic abuse or child abuse in the relationship
  • You’re worried your spouse may become abusive if a divorce is started
  • You don’t feel comfortable negotiating a divorce alone with your spouse
  • Either you or your spouse has problems with drug or alcohol abuse
  • Either you or your spouse has mental or physical health problems
  • You would be comforted having someone help guide and lead you through the potentially complex process.

A Divorce Lawyer Can Help if You Have Kids

Children are often hit the hardest by divorces.  Not only do they see their primary caregivers split apart, unfortunately some are put in between the parents in potentially horrible ways.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the divorce process by itself.  This pressure becomes even more enormous when you’re worried about the welfare of your children.

A divorce lawyer can be especially helpful in the following situations, when your spouse has: 

  • Been physically or emotionally abusive towards them
  • Used the children to try to manipulate you
  • Denied you access to your children
  • Threatened to harm or take away the children if you leave
  • Has already kidnapped the children

For Your Piece of Mind

Ultimately, a divorce lawyer will deal with all of the legally complex issues and arguments that may need to be made during a case.  The lawyer will keep you informed of your options and where the case is going.  Lastly, the lawyer will allow you to go on with your life as seamlessly as possible and help you move on.

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.