Meetings- oh, how we all dread them. Those time consuming and distracting gatherings somehow have the knack of making the day go by slower and adding to our work pile. Some people seem to be naturally allergic to them and will do their best to avoid meetings like the plague.
On the other hand, some types of meetings are absolutely necessary in our lives. For example, your first meeting with a family lawyer is something that you definitely don’t want to avoid. The importance of that first meeting cannot be understated- it will set the tone for the entire case, and many significant issues will be addressed during the first meeting.
The problem is, even though family law issues are all over the news, many people feel clueless about how to prepare for a meeting with their family lawyer. So, here are a few pointers on what to do and (probably more importantly) what not to do when meeting with your family lawyer for the first time:
Don’t assume that your family lawyer will do all the work during the first meeting. You will need to prepare yourself by going over the legal issues that you think you are involved in. For example, if you are dealing with a divorce, you’ll need to review the grounds for divorce (if any) and any other issues that might be important, like property distributions. It helps to make a list of any facts that you think might be important for your case.
You may even wish to do some background legal research, just so you have a general idea of the laws surrounding your family law issue. Try and gather whatever documents that you think might be used in your case. Also, you should know that all lawyers are bound to perform their services according to Model Rules of Professional Conduct. You may wish to review these rules, as they dictate the standards that your lawyer must abide by (such as due diligence, fees, competence, attorney-client confidentiality, etc.)
You don’t, however, need to go all out and risk your hand at law school– just the basics will do.
2) Keep your Emotions under Control
Family law is often considered one of the toughest areas of law to practice in. This is not because it is technical or overly complicated, but because it often involves very sensitive, highly personal issues. Understandably, you may be facing some very tough issues like child custody or property distributions.
But, it will work in your favor if you’re able to keep your cool during initial meetings with your lawyer. Communication will run more smoothly, and you’ll be able to make decisions with a straight head. Unless emotional factors are intertwined with the legal issues (such as when claiming emotional distress), you should avoid giving center stage to your emotions.
3) Cooperate with your Counsel
In the midst of your legal issues, the last thing you want to do is create a conflict with your attorney. You should cooperate fully with any requests and inquiries that your lawyer may have. For instance, your lawyer may ask you to provide certain documents that might be used as evidence. Don’t be stingy if your lawyer asks you for something- your lawyer may already be having a heck of a time dealing with the opposing parties.
Also, don’t try to prod your lawyer into an all-out battle. While the legal system is adversarial in nature, both you and your lawyer can get into trouble for creating unnecessary conflicts with each other or with the other side. Professional Rules already require your lawyer to pursue your claim with zeal and fervor. You should, however, alert your attorney to any conflicts that could arise during the course of litigation.
4) Keep the Results of the Meeting Confidential
Ok, this one seems pretty obvious. But, you’d be surprised at how many cases get blown due to a client leaking out confidential information. Always remember that any communications made between you and your attorney in preparation for trial is subject to the attorney-client privilege. This means that such communications are private and may not be accessed by the opposing counsel.
Lastly, and most obviously, don’t go blasting out the results of your meeting on Twitter or Facebook. Sure, you might have found an excellent piece of evidence for your case. But that doesn’t mean you should change your status update to “Oooh my ex is going to get it in court!” Your internet activity can be used against you during hearings; this includes your activity on social networks. Best thing to do? Simply avoid all mention of and references to your legal issues.
Let’s face it- most people really don’t enjoy having to attend a meeting. After all, by definition a meeting is not part of the everyday routine. But with a little preparation and some sound thinking, your initial lawyer meeting can do wonders for the outcome of your case. And now, back to that pile of work…