I often have clients come to see me for the initial meeting who are nervous, unsure what to expect from me and uncertain what will be expected from them. Recently someone asked me if there was anything they should be doing before the meeting, which got me thinking of some top tips to make that first meeting just a little bit easier.
1. Find out before the meeting what the meeting will cost
Many Solicitors offer a free initial meeting, and some charge a fixed fee. Others charge by their usual hourly rate. You need to know before you get to the office what the arrangement will be for your meeting. Which brings me on to:
2. Be realistic about what you can expect from the first meeting
It is quite usual for your first meeting with a Solicitor to be limited to a general overview of the law regarding divorce, or children issues, or whatever it is that you are consulting them about, together with an explanation as to how they can help you. This is for a variety of reasons, but perhaps most importantly because family law matters are inherently complex and the advice you ultimately receive will depend on a variety of factors, which cannot always be covered in a brief meeting. So you are very unlikely to get all the answers in that first meeting.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
That is not to say that, because you won’t get all the answers, you shouldn’t even ask. Make a list of things you want to ask, which may range from basic legal and procedural matters to more detailed questions, and take the opportunity to ask them. In addition, if you don’t understand something, ask your Solicitor to clarify it for you.
4. Take support with you if you need it
If you are worried about forgetting to ask something important, worried that you won’t remember the advice you have been given, or just need someone to metaphorically or literally hold your hand; ask a friend to go with you. Your Solicitor will be used to this. But do think carefully about who you bring, you will be discussing a lot of personal information so make sure that you don’t mind the person you bring knowing these things. In addition, consider carefully before bringing a mutual friend or family member who will be having an ongoing relationship with your spouse. And it (almost) goes without saying, never bring minor children with you, and think very carefully before bringing grown up ones.
5. Make sure the person you are seeing is the right one for you
There are a lot of Family Lawyers out there, all with varying skills and experience. The Law Society operates an accreditation scheme which acts as an independent assessment of a Solicitor’s skill, as does Resolution, a specialist Family Law organisation. Ultimately many people choose to instruct a Solicitor that they feel most comfortable with, but make sure that the person you choose practises in the right way for you. By this I mean that if you want to make sure that your case is handled in a positive way minimising the potential animosity, then look for a member of Resolution who will be committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes. Some lawyers specialise in children matters, or financial matters, so make sure that the person you see has the experience needed to deal with your particular problem. Finally, if you are interested in Collaborative Law (more on this in later posts), make sure that the person you see has trained as a Collaborative Lawyer.
Image by: Victor