San Diego Divorce Lawyer Free Consultation

Choose San Diego Divorce Lawyer Free Consultation For Quality Services

Many divorce attorneys will charge clients for an initial consultation.  Others will offer a free consultation, but will add that time to the client’s bill if the client hires the lawyer.  At the Law Office Of Michael C. MacNeil, I will give a prospective client a free half-hour consultation.

Now, a half hour might not sound like a long time, and that’s true.  But I conduct consultations like I practice law:  efficiently.  Although a potential client would like to tell an attorney “the whole story,” I know what information is necessary for me to determine the issues in your case.  I am able to get to the point quickly.  There is usually time for the client to tell me some background information and additional details.  And I have time to listen.

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Why might an attorney charge for a consultation?  If an attorney schedules two “free” consultations in an hour, that is an hour when the attorney is not charging four or five hundred dollars an hour.  And when an attorney charges four or five hundred dollars an hour, he or she probably does not need to offer the carrot of a free consultation.  I do not charge four or five hundred dollars per hour.  I do not have a staff or inexperienced junior attorneys doing work for me.  I am personally responsible for all the work performed on the client’s case.

Another reason a lawyer might charge for initial consultations is that unscrupulous spouses might try to create a conflict of interest with multiple attorneys so that they cannot represent the opposing spouse.  Although a potential client does not become the lawyer’s client until a fee agreement has been signed and a deposit paid, the initial consultation does create enough of an attorney-client relationship that it would be unethical for the lawyer to represent the opposing party in the lawsuit.  Attorneys have both a duty of confidentiality and a duty of loyalty.

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So once an attorney has received confidential information from one spouse, the information cannot be given to anyone else without the client’s consent.  Also, once an attorney has undertaken the first steps of representing a client, by having a consultation, the attorney cannot ethically engage in representation which is adverse to that client’s interests.  By charging a fee for the consultation, the attorney makes it financially unattractive for spouses to try to “conflict out” attorneys.

What will the client receive at the initial consultation with a divorce lawyer?  A lawyer can explain the process of getting a divorce and the likely costs that will be incurred.  A lawyer can answer some general questions, but in the limited time of an initial consultation, those answers are guaranteed to be qualified until the attorney is able to obtain additional information.  Lawyers crave information.  The more information an attorney receives, the better understanding he or she will have of the case and will be better able to achieve the client’s goals.

No attorney will give you free advice during your consultation.  An attorney has no product to sell, and instead sells his or her time, work, and legal advice.  During a consultation, you should be able to get a sense of a lawyer’s philosophy, style, communication skills, and talent.  You should be able to form your own opinion of whether the lawyer will take a one-size-fits-all approach for you, or whether you will receive personalized legal services from a responsive, responsible attorney.

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Do you need to bring anything with you to your free consultation?  It probably will depend on the type of case you have, but likely not.  You can just as easily tell the lawyer the answers to the questions as to have the lawyer read from documents.  If you are under time pressure, or you have pretty much made up your mind that you are going to hire the attorney, it is probably a good idea to bring some form of payment.

Most lawyers require a deposit in the thousands of dollars before beginning work on your case.  If you want a lawyer to protect your rights, you should expect a competent attorney to insist on protecting his or her own right to be paid for the services provided.  Many, but not all, attorneys take credit cards.  In family law, it is possible in many cases for the judge to require the party with the greater financial resources to pay all (less likely) or some (more likely) of the other party’s attorney’s fees and costs.  That said, most attorneys will still require the client to put “some gas in the tank” for the lawyer to get started.

It is also possible in family law cases for the attorney to obtain a Family Law Attorney Real Property Lien (also known by their acronym, FLARPL) on the family residence in order for one party (or both) to tap the home’s equity in order to pay for legal representation.  This subject is more complicated than we have time for here, however.

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A free thirty-minute consultation may be conducted over the phone or in person.  Technology has made the practice of law much easier.  Often, even in family law, one or both parties may reside outside San Diego County, or outside of California, yet the court in San Diego has jurisdiction over the case.  This frequently is the case due to San Diego’s large military population.  These days, documents are exchanged easily over e-mail.  Payments may be made electronically.  Even signatures for documents and pleadings may be obtained electronically.

Usually, it is not necessary for clients to personally appear in court.  Unless there is a hearing in which the party will be required to testify, the lawyer may appear on the client’s behalf.  When a court hearing is expected to be brief, lawyers can appear in court telephonically, which can save the client money.

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If you prefer to have a consultation in person, the lawyer will see you in his or her office.  The office setting makes some potential clients feel more comfortable.  It is not easy to discuss sensitive personal issues that are often present in divorce cases.  A good divorce lawyer should be sensitive to these issues.  And most importantly, the client’s confidentiality should be protected.  So take advantage of a free consultation.  It will only cost you your time.

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