Some 270 years ago, Benjamin Franklin offered a little Advice to a Young Tradesman that included this pithy saying: Remember that time is money. Most of us are now earning more than the 10 shillings a day Ben uses to illustrate his point, and most law firms charge a bit more than that for a 30 minute or hour long consultation. How can you make the best use of your time, and your attorney’s time, during a family law consultation? We are certainly not Franklin, but we do have some pro tips to offer.
“It’s Your Dime”
You pay for your time with a lawyer. Hand in hand with paying for the time you talk with a family law attorney is the concept of “opportunity cost.” Both you and the lawyer face an opportunity cost to your consultation. Any time you spend in consultation is time away from whatever else you could be doing. For you, that could mean many things:
- Earning a living
- Enjoying a vacation
- Spending time with your children
- Studying to improve your earning power
- Meditating to relax your mind and body
- Working out in a gym
For the attorney, it usually means one thing:
- Working on a case for a current client
You have limited time in a consultation—you will pay in one way or another for the time spent lamenting your plight, reciting your woes, and cursing your enemies.
Pro Tip: Get your lamentations out of the way on your own time; be brief and to the point with your attorney. If the problem is a contested divorce, detailing every fight you and your wife have had for the past 20 years is not helpful.
“Luck Favors the Prepared Mind”
Whether you translate Louis Pasteur’s saying as luck, or chance, or fortune, as long ago as the 1800s people knew you had to do your homework. The same is true when consulting a family law attorney. Do not arrive empty handed or empty headed. Write down your questions regarding your issue, and bring any documentation you have that is truly relevant to your problem.
For the questions, consider using some available resources to frame your thoughts. Experts at Live About offer not three, not 10, but 31 questions to ask your divorce lawyer, for example. The list is exhaustive, covering everything from the attorney’s case experience to fees to document handling.
The law firm you choose may also have a web presence, complete with blog entries and free resources. Do your homework; research your situation thoroughly so you can ask useful questions. One caveat: do not confuse your time at the University of Google with earning an actual law degree.
How do you know a question is useful? A useful question results in an answer that you can act upon. Take this short quiz to see if you know the difference:
- Will your firm charge me for texts, emails and telephone calls?
- Do you eat two-hour lunches at posh Virginia Beach restaurants every day?
The first question guides you to make the most of communications (everything costs!). The second question is uselessly confrontational.
Pro Tip: Ask only useful questions; quell your curiosity.
“My Paperwork Has Paperwork”
One of the ironies of the law is the phrase “legal brief,” as if anything ever produced by lawyers was brief. You need to come equipped with your paperwork, but what paperwork? And what will happen to all your lovely papers?
Whatever your family law matter is, you’ll want to organize your papers before you hire an attorney, but only bring the most relevant documents to your consult. Divorce, sex crime, military law, domestic violence, property division — if you received an official paper from a Virginia or federal agency, bring it, even if only to be safe. Bring printouts of emails or text messages if they relate to your case. If they are useful, bring photographs (bruising, the wrecked living room, your crying children). This could be painful, but you are turning to a family law firm for legal help that could keep you out of jail or financially secure. Be honest; withhold nothing.
One of the odd quirks of law work is that, yes, the paperwork will have paperwork. Once you hire an attorney, all those documents you stuffed in a shoebox will be inventoried and a list made. You might as well get them in order as you begin this process!
Pro Tip: Lay all your documents out on the dining table ahead of your consultation, to see what categories emerge. Use file folders to increase organization, and buy a Bankers Box cardboard storage carton to keep everything neat. Doing this will also save you money once you hire an attorney.
Stay Positive – We’ve Got Your Back
To win the best legal outcome for your case and to get the best work from your lawyer, be at your best when working with your attorney. Stay focused and stay optimistic. We will leave you with Ben Franklin’s words once again:
“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.”
When you call The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184, or you contact us online, we make the most of your time as we work tirelessly to defend men’s rights in Virginia family law matters. We value your time and money, and we welcome your questions.