Divorce Consultations…Who is Interviewing Who?
A divorce consultation is one of the most important information-gathering sessions for both the lawyer and the potential client. Prior to the actual face-to-face meeting, brief information is gathered over the phone and, sometimes, the law firm will conduct a cursory internet search on the potential client to learn more about the person. Likewise, the potential client has likely reviewed the lawyer online and visited the lawyer’s website to learn more about the lawyer they may be hiring. By the time the in-person consultation occurs, both the lawyer and the potential client have had the right to research the other person in an effort to gain more background information. Now, the actual face-to-face consultation (or interview) takes place.
For the potential client, it is critical to find the right fit in an advocate and representative. For instance, if I were interviewing a divorce attorney, I would be interested in someone who is creative and a risk-taker. I believe that every family has a unique situation and unique facts. Other lawyers often say that we try the same cases with different facts every day. Because I feel that every case is unique, I feel that it is a lawyer’s responsibility to explore creative solutions for healthy and beneficial outcomes for each family. I would also look for a calm, but assertive demeanor in a lawyer and one that makes me feel like I’ve been heard. I am a very high-energy individual and, with that, I can admit that I am easily excitable. Therefore, I would probably seek out a lawyer that is not excitable like me, because I also need balance. Also, during an emotional time, such as a divorce or child custody dispute, it would not be in my best interest to have a lawyer feed into or contribute to my excitability. Those are just a few examples. Prior to interviewing a lawyer, give some thought to the kind of lawyer you want representing you – appearance of their office, their attire, their confidence, their body language, etc. While some of these issues may not seem important, they can play a large role in the confidence you have during negotiations and emotionally-charged situations. Also, most divorces last 6 to 9 months or longer. A client spends a lot of time communicating by phone and by email with their lawyer, in addition to in-person meetings, depositions, mediations, etc. Make sure your lawyer has character traits with which you can spend a lot of time.
For most lawyers, we are initially considering credibility of the potential client. If we believe that the potential client is not telling the truth in the initial consultation, then it’s not likely that the potential client would tell the truth in the future. Also, if we are able to detect an untruthful character in the initial consultation, then so will a judge. It is imperative that clients are always truthful with their lawyers, even with the facts and the stories paint an unfavorable picture. Also, if a potential client is not able to express any faults that they may possess and make their spouse the most evil person on the planet, then they will probably have a hard time considering any responsibility in the divorce. Lastly, if we encounter a parent who has shared too much of the divorce issues with their children, that will always raise a red flag, regardless of the age of the children. Likewise, if we encounter a parent who shares very little about their children, then it raises some concern that the kids may not be on the forefront of their minds during this time.
In sum, the lawyers and the potential clients are usually interviewing each other at the same time. However, speaking as a lawyer, I can say that there are a number of red flags that will cause me pause or motivate me to do more investigating before offering to represent that person in their divorce or custody dispute. As the potential client, be truthful with the lawyer, share every aspect of the marriage, including the kids, finances, and personal mistakes. Every detail matters when it comes to representing and guiding someone through one of the most difficult times of their life.