Preparing to meet a family lawyer for the first time - Part 2
As featured in The Jewish News on 26 May 2017. In the final of a two-part article, Daniel Myers talks about what to expect during an initial appointment with a family lawyer, and why they’re not all as scary as you might think.
In last month’s article I talked about why meeting a family lawyer at first can be nerve-wracking, but by the end they can help clients feel empowered and informed. In this final part, I discuss the practical details and how to prepare for the meeting.
Initial appointments with a family lawyer can be stressful occasions and there can be a lot of information to take in. For this reason, I usually encourage new clients to bring a support person with them, such as a family member or trusted friend. Because that person is usually less emotionally caught up in the case, they’re more likely to remember details of the conference and they can act as a useful person for both the client and I to bounce ideas off during the meetings and afterwards. A support person can also help a client feel less isolated during a difficult time and help boost their confidence.
Some people however choose not to have anyone accompany them. That is of course equally understandable given the confidential nature of the meeting and certainly not a problem. Either way, after the first appointment I normally send at least a short letter of advice summarising discussed points so the client doesn’t feel burdened by having to recall all of the matters raised in the meeting.
The physical preparation required by a client for an initial appointment is quite minimal. A few days before the meeting, I’ll send a short questionnaire asking for details about the client’s circumstances to give me a head start in the meeting and a general sense of their background. Completing the questionnaire itself can also help focus a client’s own mind about their dispute, what they would like out of the meeting, what their own goals are and any specific questions they would like to ask.
In most cases the questionnaire is the only paperwork necessary to bring to the conference, although sometimes a copy of a draft agreement or existing court orders are useful.
Before meeting a new client I’ll usually chat to them over the phone to get a preliminary idea about their matter, to explain the purpose and nature of a more formal conference and to iron out the particulars of what they should bring with them.
Last but not least, is the issue of costs. This is often the most important part of the meeting, because it’s no secret that lawyers aren’t cheap.
The open-ended nature of family law makes it difficult to give a precise quote at this early stage, but most good lawyers will try to be as upfront and transparent as possible. I always offer my clients at least a broad indication of the likely fees depending on various scenarios and the scope of the work I’m asked to carry out. For certain work it may also be possible to agree a fixed fee, for example preparing Consent Orders or a pre-nuptial agreement.
To conclude, although meeting a family lawyer is not most people’s idea of fun, it can be a useful investment of time and money, and obtaining early advice can help a client to adopt a “prevention” rather than a “cure” approach to their dispute.
About the author
Daniel MyersPrincipal Solicitor/Accredited Mediator
Daniel heads up the firm’s family law practice. Having grown up in Manchester, Daniel has been a proud Melbournian since 2007. He’s since practiced exclusively in all aspects of family law matters, including both simple and complex property and parenting disputes. Daniel’s experience also includes working for five years as a volunteer at the Fitzroy Legal Service family law clinic.<...