FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY
What to Expect in an Initial Family Law Consultation
The Initial Consultation
Choosing a lawyer, particularly during one of the most difficult times in your life, can be a daunting endeavor. That said, your initial consult with an attorney could be seen more as simply gathering information. During the initial consult, you will learn the basics of Oregon law governing the issues in your case and what a range of potential, and probable outcomes might be.
In addition, the initial consult will allow you to determine whether you and the attorney are a good fit. Much like a doctor or therapist, not each attorney’s style works with each client’s personality.
If it doesn’t feel like a good fit, you should continue your search. Also, like a doctor, you should feel free to seek a second opinion from another lawyer if you are unsure about what you were told by the first one.
Preparation For The Initial Consultation
The more information you can provide the attorney during your initial consultation, the more specific and accurate his or her information and advice can be. In advance of your appointment, you should gather the following information:
- Financial documents. To the extent you can obtain and provide documentation regarding your finances, you should do so. That documentation can include income and expense information (pay stubs, tax returns, insurance costs, mortgage payment amounts, utilities, etc.), information about assets (retirement account balances, value of real property and the balance of any obligation secured by it, etc.), and information about debts (credit card balances, student loans, vehicle loans, etc.).
- Legal pleadings with which you have been served. If you have already been served with legal pleadings, bring copies of those to your consultation.
- Any other documentation you feel may be helpful or relevant to your case. I would rather have documentation I do not need than to need documentation and not have it.
- A list of any questions you have. Perhaps the most important way to prepare is to prepare a list of questions, comments, and concerns you may have regarding your case. Usually gathering the information and documentation identified above organically leads to a number of questions.
What You Will Get from the Initial Consultation
The initial consultation usually is going to provide you with:
- General information.
- A ’10,000 foot view’ of the various aspects of your case.
It is only after obtaining a great deal more information and documentation that an attorney will be in a position to offer you more specific suggestions and advice. Certainly, you should leave a good and complete initial consultation with a solid understanding of the main issues involved in your case, a range of possible results, and an opinion as to whether you and the attorney are a good fit for one another.
One of the most important parts of my job is to educate my clients as completely and accurately as possible. Information and knowledge are power, and I strive to make you as powerful as possible under your specific circumstances.
You should feel confident and comfortable that any information you share with me at the initial consultation is covered by attorney-client privilege. I cannot share any information you divulge to me with anyone else without your explicit permission. I cannot even share that you and I had an initial consultation together. Protecting your confidences is one of the most important ethical obligations an attorney has.
That said, at this stage in the process, you need to know that we will not have established a formal attorney-client relationship yet. That relationship does not exist until we have entered into a retainer agreement together and you have paid the retainer fee.