When an individual initially contacts a law firm to seek legal advice or representation, that individual is typically involved in some type of problematic or difficult situation that requires the knowledge and expertise of an attorney. Whether it is someone seeking representation for a DUI hearing or advice on a landlord / tenant dispute, a consultation with an attorney is beneficial and often necessary in successfully navigating a tough situation. This is no different from those individuals seeking legal advice for a family law matter such as divorce, custody, or spousal or child support, as those matters can often be complicated areas of law.

The first step in seeking legal counsel is to contact a law firm to schedule an initial consultation with an attorney that specializes in the area of law in which guidance is needed. During the initial consultation, the attorney will be able to answer any questions, offer legal advice, and potentially recommend and initial course of action based on the individual’s specific situation. In addition to the information that the attorney is able to provide, there are a handful of things that the person seeking the consultation can do to enhance his or her experience in order to get the most out of that first hour or two with the attorney.

If a case has already been established with the Court and an initial complaint or pleadinghas already been filed, whether it be a Divorce Complaint, Custody Complaint, or Complaint for Support, it is important to bring a copy of that documentation to the initial consultation, as the attorney will want to review any existing pleadings in order to get a better picture of the case at hand. In addition to any existing documents that have been filed with the court or have been issued by the court, there are other documents that may be helpful to bring along that may aide in that first meeting with the attorney. For instance, if an individual is seeking advice for a divorce, and that person knows that there is marital property to distribute between the parties, it would be helpful to bring along financial documentation such as tax returns, mortgage documents, bank account statements. Providing this information will give the attorney a more accurate snapshot of the case and therefore will likely be able to provide a more precise prediction as to costs, fees, and the length of time expected to wrap up the entire case.

The initial consultation is an opportunity for the potential client and attorney to become familiar with one another and to get to know each other.The potential client is able to explain his or hersituation in detail while the attorney listens and processes the information from a legal standpoint. The attorney can then answer legal questions, outline legal rights and responsibilities, provide advice, and potentially recommend an initial course of action or direction in relation to the matter. At the conclusion of the consultation, the individual may decide whether he or she wants to retain the attorney.

While some choose to retain the first attorney they meet with, others take additional time and meet with two or three attorneys before making a decision as to whom they wish to represent them. This all depends on personal preference. Knowing what to expect during an initial consultation can aide in forming a successful and professional attorney-client relationship. Moreover, being prepared for the consultation will result in a more productive meeting, and the attorney will be better enabled to assist an individual with their legal matter.

Emily Keefauver, Paralegal