Meet your lawyer Part 2
In last week’s blog I talked about why going to see a family lawyer for the first time can be a nerve-wrecking idea but by the end of the initial appointment they can help clients to feel a sense of empowerment and allow them to make informed decisions about their matter going forward. In Meet Your Lawyer Part 2, I talk more about the practical details and how to prepare to meet your lawyer.
Despite my optimistic perspective towards initial appointments, I realise that for some people, such appointments can still be highly stressful occasions and there can be 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 vested in the case, they’re more likely to remember all of the details of the conference and they can act as a useful person for both the client and lawyer to bounce ideas off during and subsequent to the meeting. At the very least a support person can help a client feel less isolated during a difficult time and build of sense of having a good team around them generally.
Quite often clients deliberately choose to keep things to themselves and prefer not to have anyone accompany them. That’s of course equally understandable given the confidential nature of the meeting and certainly not a problem. In either case, after the appointment I normally send at least a short letter of advice summarising what was discussed so there is less chance of a client feeling burdened by trying to recall all of the issues talked about in the meeting itself.
The physical preparation needed by a client for an initial appointment is usually minimal. A few days before the meeting my office will send a short questionnaire asking for certain about their circumstances to give me a head-start in the meeting and a general sense about their background. Completing the questionnaire itself can also sometimes help focus a client’s own mind about their dispute, would they would like out of the meeting, what their own goals are and any specific questions they would like to ask to me.
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 will usually chat to them over the phone to get a preliminary idea about their matter, to explain briefly the purpose and nature of a more formal conference, and to iron out the particulars of what they should bring with them. In all cases, there’s no harm in the client bringing their own notepad with some bullet point questions on or the chance to jot down a few notes as the meeting progresses.
In writing this two-part blog I’ve explained the process of meeting a new client from my personal perspective as a lawyer at Farrar Gesini Dunn. However, although each lawyer at this firm will adopt the same broad approach, each of our lawyers has a slightly different style in accordance with their particular personality, level of experience, and their particular expertise.
We have a similar number of male and female lawyers working at the firm. One of the benefits of consulting a specialist family law firm is that we have the option to match a client to the “best” lawyer for them and the one they feel most comfortable with.
If you’re considering making an appointment to see a lawyer at this firm but are still unsure about the process or the benefits or the costs of doing so, you are of course welcome to give the office the call and ask to speak to any of us at a convenient time for a preliminary chat which I’m sure would be of assistance.
Daniel Myers is a family lawyer at Farrar Gesini Dunn, in our Melbourne office