Your first meeting with your divorce lawyer is essential to set the tone for the rest of the proceedings. This is where you will start building the foundation for your case and you’ll also be able to start gauging whether the lawyer you have in front of you should be the one representing you. This is why it’s important that you come fully prepared. Here are a few questions you should be asking on your first consultation.
How Familiar are You with Family Law?
Before you decide to go ahead with the lawyer, you have to establish how much experience they have in the field of family law. Only experienced family lawyers understand the nuances of different divorce and separation issues and issues regarding spousal support or child custody.
How Emotionally Involved Do You Get in Cases?
This one is a tricky question since you need a certain balance when dealing with a divorce lawyer. On one hand, you want someone who’ll be level-headed and a rock next to you during those difficult times and when in court. You also have to go with a lawyer who is emotionally responsive and who actually cares about each and every one of their clients.
What Will the Fee Structure Be?
It’s also important that you start discussing fees right away if you want to avoid issues later on. Will they be working on an hourly model or a flat rate? Or do they offer different mixed fees for handling different stages of the divorce process?
Is there a way we can set a cap on the amount that can be billed? Some lawyers will allow you to set a cap that cannot be exceeded before they get your permission to do so, which will allow you to keep fees under control. You should also ask if they can give you a realistic estimate of how much you think you might have to pay in total for the whole case. If you’re under the billable hour model, it might be almost impossible to get an exact quote, but experienced lawyers will usually be able to give you a fair estimate for different phases of the case. If you’re looking for flat rate fees, this is something which you can get an idea of if you visit their website, like the family lawyers at Crossroads Law who outline the flat rate prices on their website.
Do You See Yourself as a Transactional Lawyer or a Trial Lawyer?
This one is very important too. You might be surprised to hear this, but not all lawyers are used to courtrooms. As a matter of fact, some actually hate it, though they’ll rarely say so to their clients. You have to know which type of lawyer you will be dealing with. Most people will prefer for their divorce to be finalized as quickly as possible and might prefer a lawyer who’s skilled with out of court negotiations. Other cases, such as those involving domestic violence or other types of parental issues, may prefer a lawyer who actually likes the courtroom. Make sure that you know who you’re dealing with from the get-go.
How Many of Your Cases End Up Getting Settled?
This is another important thing that needs to be addressed. This should tell you a variety of things. First, it will tell you whether you’re dealing with a lawyer who ends up settling everything, can’t manage to settle cases at all, or somewhere down the middle. This will also be able to tell you how well your lawyer handles the business side. Do they even have this kind of data on hand? If they don’t, then this might be a sign that they don’t take the business side as importantly as you may have thought.
Are You Carrying a Manageable Amount of Cases?
Depending on your needs, you might need a lawyer that will have a smaller caseload so that they’ll be able to give your case the attention it needs. Or you may want to work with a big law firm with multiple lawyers who can handle a bigger caseload. It is very important that you establish this at the start first. You don’t want to work with a lawyer who’s overworked.
Don’t be afraid to ask them how many cases they’re actually handling. The way the lawyer will answer this question should give you an idea of whether they’re feeling overwhelmed. If you have the feeling they have too much to handle, consider someone else. Lawyers that are too busy won’t be as efficient, might expedite some parts of the process and might not be as available when you need them, so be aware of this.
What Constitutes a Great Deal?
Even if your case ends up never going to court, it would be wise to have a basic understanding of the law and know what constitutes a great deal. While it’s true that each case is different and what is considered a good deal will be affected by subjective factors like both parties’ needs, you should have an idea of how exactly your lawyer will be analyzing the case and the framework that will be used to assess whether a deal is good or not.
What to Do if Mediation is Going Nowhere?
Most people will want to give mediation a try just in case. However, there are sometimes when mediation is not an option since the parties are just too far apart with their demands. Ask your lawyer what they intend to do if it’s clear from the get-go that mediation won’t go anywhere. A good lawyer will not automatically dismiss the idea and will try to see if they can settle some smaller or temporary issues when it’s not possible to negotiate a full settlement.
How Often Will We be Able to Talk?
You have to make sure that you’re working with someone who’s actually available and will be able to talk to you if you have questions, need clarifications about a particular phase of the divorce, or just need updates on your case. Some lawyers will contact their clients on a weekly basis or more. Others will wait for their clients to reach them. And others will contact their clients every month for a strategy session no matter how many times they’ve contacted you during the month. While there isn’t one way to answer this question, you have to make sure that the lawyer you’re picking won’t be too elusive and that you have a clear plan of communication in place before you think about working with them.
Asking these questions will not only be able to tell you more about your lawyer and your case but understand the procedure better. Make sure that you keep these questions in mind for your first visit and make sure that you work with a lawyer that will actually care and do everything in their power to look after your interests.