Your initial consultation is of critical importance. In fact men and women alike may find that this meeting is the most significant time spent with a family law attorney. The advice you receive will likely impact some of the most important decisions you will make. This meeting with your divorce attorney is an opportunity for you to assess and become acquainted with the lawyer that you may select to represent you. You should expect to obtain information about the divorce process, the law, and the application of family law to your unique situation. It is important for you to prepare for the consultation in a way that maximizes its value to you. In the consultation, you should receive the advice you need to begin making wise decisions about your case and your future. We strive to begin the process of case resolution and strategic planning from the initial conference.
The following steps, taken before the initial conference, will enhance the value and cost-effectiveness of the time spent with your lawyer:
- Prepare a written list of your questions and concerns. This list should be viewed as a partial agenda for the meeting. You may have preconceived ideas about the process and the law, please allow us to confirm your ideas and beliefs or to correct them.
- Bring a previously prepared financial statement or prepare a simple, handwritten list of your assets and liabilities. The list should include both separate and community property. Assets fall into categories such as business interests, partnerships, investments, bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, collectibles, life insurance, club memberships, retirement plans, etc. Liabilities include mortgages, pledges, lines of credit, credit card debt, pending lawsuits, taxes due, contingent liabilities, student loans, or any other debts that you are aware of. The value of the assets and the amount of the debts do not need to be exact. Regardless of whether you have a high net worth or a modest estate, rough estimates are sufficient for the initial conference.
- Prepare a written bullet point outline or summary of any “story” that you want to relate to us. Topics of the “story” might include your date of separation, child custody issues and issues relating to potential separate property. Topics may also include issues related to the formation, development and growth of a business. For our advice to be of maximum value to you, we need as much relevant information as possible. In high net worth matters, carefully outlining the assets can be a significant time saver. If you prepare a written summary you will be less likely to forget important details and the time spent conveying the information to your lawyer will be a fraction of the time that would have been required to relate the facts to us orally.
- If you have been served with any court pleadings that contain statements that are incorrect, prepare a very detailed statement explaining your version of events or facts, point by point, and paragraph by paragraph. Your statement should address the issues in the same order as set forth in the pleadings. Your statement should be rich in facts, dates, places, witnesses, circumstances, etc. The statement should not be a simple denial. Provide us with the very accurate details. Bring all court pleadings with you to the conference.
- Prepare a summary of your goals, interests and objectives. What do you perceive as the real issues? What are your thoughts regarding a potential settlement? What objectives do you want us to help you achieve? Do you have a settlement proposal that we can help you analyze and evaluate?
- Provide us with the last three years of tax returns if they are readily available.
By completing the items listed above, you will allow your divorce attorney to provide you with the best and most comprehensive advice and insight possible. It is not necessary for you to email your thoughts to us before the conference. We believe we can provide you with significantly more relevant, individualized, and targeted advice if you use our outline to prepare for our conference. Your detailed input will make your initial consultation far more cost-effective, informative and efficient. If you communicate the facts and your objectives at the conference in a complete and organized fashion, we can spend more time in the meeting analyzing, strategizing, and problem solving your issues, interests, concerns and questions.
Your conference will be more efficient and informative if less time is spent gathering facts and more time is spent explaining the law to you and discussing potential solutions. Spending time planning and preparing for your conference will be time extremely well spent.
We seek to have a long term positive relationship with you. Obviously, we want to maximize the chances that you will highly recommend us to others for many years to come. We are aware of the fact that one of the issues that determines a client's satisfaction is the amount of the total fees. Your fees will be less if you are organized and efficient in planning our consultations, provide us with the requested documents at your earliest opportunity, communicate with us immediately if there are areas of concern, take reasonable positions on the issues, and keep us informed as to your thinking, or changes in your thinking, on the relevant issues.
It is critical that you tell us the absolute and complete truth about all relevant issues. Volunteer all of the relevant information, even if we do not ask a specific question on the topic. We rely on what you tell us in developing a strategy and a game plan to resolve your matter. If we do not know all of the facts, we will not be able to analyze your matter accurately. You will be paying for a consultation. However, you will not be asked for a retainer in the initial conference. Our policy is not to allow clients to retain us in the initial conference.
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