Your initial meeting should accomplish at least three goals: first, to establish a level of comfort and trust. Second, to answer any questions you have about the divorce process. Third, to inform the lawyer of the situation and determine a plan of action. First, establishing trust is vital. Divorces, like all family matters, are extremely personal and painful for clients. You are divulging very personal details to a virtual stranger. Though lawyers have a duty of confidentiality to not repeat this information, the trust between a lawyer and client is a bit deeper. At the first meeting, the client should feel that the lawyer understands his/her concerns, and the two should begin to establish a comfortable rapport. Of course, this may take some time to develop fully, but each client should feel heard and understood at the beginning of the relationship.
Second, the lawyer should explain the divorce process to you. While each divorce is specific to each family, all cases follow the same general process. You should emerge from your first meeting with a good understanding of this process. This understanding usually helps to decrease anxiety by providing a structure so you know where you are in the case at any given time. Any other questions about possible outcomes, attorney fees, the other lawyer, the judge, etc. should be asked. This is probably a new experience for you, and your lawyer should answer any questions to help you feel comfortable.
Third, you should explain your current situation fully. It makes my job easier when a client gives a thoughtful summary of what brought him to my office, and what outcome he seeks. Do not worry about filling in every detail, your attorney will ask questions to fill in any important gaps in information. Your thought should be to relay the information that you find important to tell your story. Once this information is gathered, the lawyer’s job is to inform you of your options, determine your goals, and begin preparing a strategy for the case. This strategy will be an overall guide to the case, so it should be clearly explained and understood.
The initial meeting sets the tone for your relationship with your lawyer. You should emerge from the meeting with a feeling of confidence in your lawyer and and understanding of the process and how it will affect you.
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