When you call to set up the consultation, let the attorney's office know the nature of your visit- did you just get served with a lawsuit, are you thinking about separating from your spouse, are you being accused of domestic violence? This way the attorney's office can let you know what information and documents you should bring with you. Remember too, this is your time and money with an attorney, so you need to step up to the plate and determine the course of the consultation. Don't expect the attorney to specifically ask you want you want to talk about...the more detailed you are with describing your needs, the more satisfied you'll be with the outcome of your appointment. Sometimes people don't have a clue about what a divorce entails, so if that's the case, let the attorney know. On the other hand, if this is the second or third divorce attorney you've consulted with, speak up so that you don't have to hear the same information again, and tell the attorney why you're seeking another consultation.
2- Ask Questions.
Before your meeting, come up with a list of questions which you want answered during the initial consultation, which can be about the specifics of your case as well as about the law firm itself.
3- Take Notes.
There is no way that you will be able to remember everything the attorney says during your consultation, and you need to be able to reflect on everything afterwards. Many times the only thing a potential client will write down is the amount I have quoted them for the initial deposit. While that is certainly important, what is more important is that the attorney has answered your questions and outlined what he or she would do in your case and have a clear plan of action.
4- Don't Be Late.
One of my mottos is "If you are early, you're on time; if you're on time you're late; if you're late, you're late." Your time and the attorney's time is important, so try to show up early. Many times an intake form needs to be filled out prior to the appointment (we email ours to the potential client in advance), so account for that as well. Filling out the application might eat into your alloted appointment time and cut short how much time you have with the attorney.
5- Think Before Bringing Someone Along.
It's always a bad idea to bring your children, and I typically will reschedule the appointment if someone brings their children. For starters, it's not appropriate to have your children in the room because they're usually a topic of conversation. Secondly, my office isn't a daycare and we cannot properly supervise your children. Likewise, bringing your parents or your best friend may not be the best idea ever. For starters, having another person present waives the attorney-client privilege, so you could be forced by a court to talk about what you and your attorney talked about. Secondly, the other person might try to take over the consultation and tell their friend or family member what he or she should or shouldn't do...that's why you've come to talk with an attorney.
6- Bring Documents and Paperwork
I cannot stress this enough. When you make the appointment, make sure you ask if there is any specific information or documents you need to bring. I always want potential clients to bring information and documents...and the more you bring, the more fact-specific the attorney can be. If your case involves the division of marital assets and debts, bring statements showing the balance of all assets and debts- credit card, bank statements, vehicles, real property, retirement, etc. It's also a good idea to bring tax returns and paystubs.
Consulting with an attorney can often be your first step in beginning a family law case. It's ok to be nervous, unsure and not to know exactly what you want to do. That's fine, that's why you're meeting with an attorney, to get information and answers to your questions.