In researching potential blog topics, I ran across an excellent article written for the State Bar of Michigan: The Initial Consultation with Your Divorce Attorney: What to Expect When You Don’t Know What to Expect . This article is so well written and so thorough that I really don’t have much to add. But, I will summarize and comment. I will also discuss in terms of our office and our procedures at Nelson & Davis, LLC.
The first topic discussed is the article is the initial contact and information you need to provide. When you call our office, we will ask for some basic information such as what type of action you have or may have, what county you reside in and whether an action has already been started. This is important because it assists our intake coordinators in determining whether we can help you at all. We do not practice in certain counties and people sometimes are confused as to what constitutes a “family action”. Our office only handles divorce and paternity cases.
If we determine that your case is something we can help you with, we will tell you what our retainer is and ask you whether you would like to schedule an office appointment. We don’t want you to be surprised by our retainer only after you take the time to come to our office and we don’t want to waste your time or ours if you don’t want to, or can’t, pay our fees. We also will only do in-office appointments and not telephone consultations except in rare cases. There are some attorneys who will do telephone consultations but we find it works best if we meet potential clients in person.
If you decide you want to schedule an appointment, we then ask your name and the name of your spouse or other party. This is crucial information and sometimes people do not want to give it to us but we will not schedule an appointment without it. We keep that information confidential but we must determine if we have a conflict of interest. The most common conflict is that we have already met with the other party. In that case, we cannot meet with you. We do not disclose that fact (nor will we ever disclose that to the other party if he/she contacts us) but simply will tell you that we cannot meet with you because we have a conflict. However, there may be other conflicts. One of our attorneys may know you or your spouse/the other party in another way and may feel it would be a conflict to represent you. Or, we may have represented someone connected to you such as your employer, an employee, a relative or a business associate. Those individuals are a great source of referrals for us and it usually is not a problem but, depending on the facts, we also may consider it a potential conflict. Whenever there is a potential ethical issue for us, we try to err on the side of caution.
When you come in for your appointment, we will also ask you to fill out an intake questionnaire. We will ask you to provide more specific information including your income and assets. The reason for this is so we can provide you more detailed information about what to expect in your case. All of this information is kept strictly confidential. The article does a very good job in describing the type of information you will be asked to provide and why. Keep in mind, if you are uncomfortable in providing any of this information, simply discuss that with the attorney you are meeting with.
The one difference or problem I have with the article is that it indicates that the attorney will be giving you advice at your initial consultation. This is not true! Until we are actually retained, we cannot provide you with legal advice. However, what we will do is review the facts of your case, tell you what the law is, what the process is, what you might expect to happen and what we can do for you.
In our firm, it is our goal to provide you with realistic expectations about your case. Keep in mind, we may tell you things that you are not going to be happy with. However, we are going to give you an honest evaluation of your case. It does not help you if we fill you with unrealistic expectations only for you to lose or be disappointed later. If you want the kind of attorney who is simply going to do whatever you want, then we are not the firm for you. Be forewarned though – hiring that kind of attorney is only going to cost you attorneys fees and disappointment later.
We have some other blog posts which you may find helpful which discuss what type of attorney to look for, when to start looking for a divorce attorney and what questions you can ask at you initial consultation (Archives – May, 2012).
If you have any questions or would like to meet with one of our lawyers for a free initial office consultation, please call us at 414-258-1644. You can also visit our website for more information.