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  • Writer's pictureClaire Edwards

Initial Interview with Attorney

The first step of embarking on a legal journey is the initial consultation with an attorney. What should you expect?



The Tone of the Meeting

The initial consultation is a crucial meeting serving as an opportunity for both the attorney and the client to gather essential information about one another. It allows both to determine the best course of action for what's going on. During an initial consultation, lawyers ask a variety of questions to gain a full understanding of your situation.


What's going on?

"What's going on?" is a typical question for an attorney to ask. They know your personal story is going to come forward. They know it's hard to step foot in the attorney's office. Please be ready to give the attorney a detailed account of the incident that led you into the attorney's office. This includes specifics about events, timelines, and any other pertinent details.


What have you done?

While a personal injury case will focus on your medical history and medical records, a family law case will focus on your personal history and any records you can find. The attorney will be wondering if you've been to a therapist, if you've moved money around, etc. One of the best records my custody clients bring into my office is a calendar where they show me who had the minor(s) for the past few weeks.


What legal documents do you have?

If you've been to court before meeting with a lawyer for the first time, be sure to bring the prior child custody records. Bring judgments showing divorce (or know it!). Personally, I'm a listener more than a reader so I'm happy to listen to clients tell me what's going on. I use their paperwork from court to support what they're saying and in case I hear something funny or something that doesn't track.


What financial documents do you have?

For spousal support and community property, financial documents can make or break a case. It's rare, but possible, for both parties to agree to stipulate to all the "stuff" they have, so it's ideal for the client to bring their financial documents to the attorney's office. This can be as extensive as bringing all the bank statements or as focused as the client making their own excel sheet. For spousal support, it's almost impossible to get it without proper financial documentation.


What is your legal experience?

There's a part of my intake packet that asks for prior legal history and outcomes, including car accidents, prior family law, anything really. I want to know what my client's prior experience is with the legal industry. This helps me determine how much exposure the client has with the legal system. Does the client know what a pleading is? Do they know where the court house is? I like to help clients best understand what's going on, and this helps me stay on the same page as the client.


What are your expectations and goals?

This is easily the most important part of your meeting with the attorney. You need to know what your expectations and goals are, and you need to be sure with your attorney that they can help you achieve these goals and follow these expectations.


Conclusion

Remember, the initial consultation is as much for you to assess the lawyer as it is for them to assess your case. It's important that you feel comfortable with their expertise, approach, and communication style. Being prepared and open during this consultation can significantly impact the effectiveness of the legal representation you receive. In the case of family law matters, recognizing the unique aspects of your situation and addressing them during the consultation will help pave the way for a more informed and collaborative legal process.

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