What to Expect at Your Initial Consultation and How to Get the Most Out of It

For prospective family law clients who are interested in retaining my services, usually the first step is for me to meet at my office for an initial consultation.  Long distance clients have the option of a telephone consultation.

At the consultation we will discuss your current goals and situation, California family law concepts, your rights, court procedure and any trouble spots I might see.  Of course I will also try to answer your questions to the best of my ability.  It is not a stretch to call this a strategy session.  Beyond the specific issues of your case, as the client, you may also wish to use this opportunity to get acquainted, discuss my background, training and experience, my fees and billing policies, what expenses may be involved in the matte and how we will be communicating during the case (e.g. personally in the office, by phone, by e-mail or by writing).

From my perspective the consultation gives me an opportunity to evaluate your case, assess whether or not I am qualified or well suited to handle your case, and determine if there some factor exists that would prevent me from working with you (such as a conflict of interest).  In a nutshell, I am trying to make sure that we are “good fit” to work together.

Family law consultations usually take about an hour.  However, sometimes it is necessary to meet longer, especially if your case has complex facts or it is an existing case with many documents in the file to review.  If your session goes longer than an hour, I will tell you when time is up and usually give you the option to keep going (also at the reduced hourly rate).  Sometimes this is not possible if I have other appointments scheduled.

I normally charge $100 for a family law consultation.  This is a steeply discounted rate as my customary hourly fee is presently $300.  I accept cash, credit cards, debit cards and (local) checks.  I normally meet with prospective clients in the afternoon or early evening and I’ll try to work around your work schedule if possible.

Here’s some tips on what to bring in order to get the most of our meeting:

  • Create a list of goals you would like to achieve in your case.
  • Consider making a time-line that shows major events related to the case.
  • Consider making a list of questions you would like to ask me about.  It’s easy to forget them if you rely on your memory.
  • Consider what your budget is to litigate the case – be realistic and be prepared to talk about it.
  • Bring a recent paycheck stub and copy of last year’s taxes.
  • For existing cases with a court file, bring a copy of the file to date.  All pleadings are potentially important, but court orders, mediation reports and motions are essential for me to have a good understanding of your case and give you the best possible advice.
  • For divorce cases, consider bringing a list of your major assets and debts.
  • For cases with custody and visitation issues, think about what your “dream” parenting plan would be.  Try to be as specific as possible and include holidays and vacations.
  • Lastly, bring along any other supporting documents that you think will help me to understand the case better

If you would like to make an appointment for a consultation, please send me an e-mail or telephone.  I am positive you will the find this strategy session very helpful and informative!

Photo credit by John-Morgan at Flickr [CC by 2.0]