The initial client consultation is the first meeting that a family law lawyer will have with a potential client. Most divorce lawyers grow our legal practices one client consultation at a time.
Many times this important meeting is just the beginning of a longer, more substantial ongoing relationship.
After the initial client consultation, the goal is to get retained by becoming the person's divorce lawyer,
For many of us who practice family law in a highly competitive market, it is important that we nail the initial client consultation. Many family law lawyers spend money on Google advertising, they network a lot, and they do other kinds of marketing. These efforts are often costly and time consuming. We want to make sure that when our marketing works, that is, we have a potential client sitting in front of us, that we have not wasted your efforts.
We want the potential client sitting in front of us to become become an actual client.
For some divorce lawyers, their focus during an initial client consultation is on how this client will ultimately be a source of income for them. The lawyer may be distracted with thoughts of how the client will pay for them and whether or not this initial consultation will be worth their time.
Although it is clear that we are in this business to make money, this is not, in my view the best way to proceed.
It is best to set aside everything except for focusing on how we can be in service to this potential client. We spend that half hour (or more) during the initial client consultation doing everything we can to assist that person. This is doing such things as helping them with some burning questions, just listening, or doing a calculation for support.
Ironically, when we focus on being in service more than money, in my experience, the clients are way more likely to retain us.
Before I even sit down with the potential client, I ensure my office is tidy. I don’t have books and papers scattered everywhere, coffee mugs on my desk etc. I give my desk a wipe.
I also want to not only act like a lawyer, but look like a lawyer. It is important that I do this because presenting the lawyer part is never easy for me. I have a very casual manner. I also very much prefer to dress casually rather than in a suit. What I am saying is that even though this “looking like a lawyer” thing does not come naturally, In the interest of continuing the growth of a thriving legal practice, I suck it up and do it anyways.
The next thing I do is sit down with the potential client I tell them I have a checklist of everything I want to ensure that we cover. I also let them know that I am sure they have some questions and that by the end of our meeting I will be able to help them with those. The fact that I am taking charge of the interview while at the same time saying I will answer their questions is reassuring to most potential clients.
I also let them know I will be taking notes of our meeting and that I will give them a copy of what I have written down.
Many people, if seeing a lawyer for the first time in their family law matter, may be feeling sad, overwhelmed, or nervous. For many, seeing a divorce lawyer was never something they thought that they would see themselves doing. This is not business as usual for the potential client. I always stay aware of this.
lawyers charge for the initial client consultation of 30 minutes (or so). Others do not charge at all.
Our office’s policy is that the first 30 minutes is of no obligation (if they don’t hire us they don’t pay for it) and that if they do hire us, they pay for it. We also charge them for any time we go over the first half hour.
I then reassure them that we will cover a lot in the first half an hour of time.
I then note the time and get started.
Here is the initial client consultation checklist that we use at our firm, Hemminger Law Group:
As I go through the checklist, I ensure that I am totally present with the potential client and listen to their concerns while at the same time making sure I am getting across to them all the information about how me as a lawyer, and we, as a firm, proceed with family law cases.
By Val Hemminger, divorce lawyer
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Val has created this website to share with her colleagues. She is not suggesting, by any means, that she is the best divorce lawyer out there. She is, however, suggesting that she is the best divorce lawyer that she herself can be. Feel free to share anything you find useful.