How Do I Prepare for My First Meeting with a Lawyer?

From Clicklaw Wikibooks


Information

The lawyer will need to know certain basic facts about you and your relationship, particularly if there is a chance the lawyer will be starting a court proceeding on your behalf. So make sure you either have this information at the tips of your fingers or have it written down.

Basic information

The lawyer will need to know this basic information:

  • your address, occupation, annual income and date of birth,
  • your spouse's full name, address, occupation, annual income and date of birth,
  • the date each of you began living in British Columbia,
  • the date the two of you started to live together,
  • if you're married, the date of your marriage and the name of the city or town where you got married,
  • the date of your separation, if you're separated,
  • the full names and birthdates of any children,
  • the care arrangements that are presently in place for the children,
  • your surname at birth and your surname before you got married, if you are married,
  • your spouse's surname at birth and their surname before you got married, if you are married,
  • whether you were unmarried, divorced or widowed when you married, if you are married, and
  • whether your spouse was unmarried, divorced or widowed when you married, if you are married.

Financial information

The lawyer will need to know this financial information:

  • the approximate balance of all financial accounts, including savings, RRSP and investment accounts, and the names of the financial institutions holding the accounts,
  • approximate credit card balances, and the names of the credit card companies,
  • the balances of any loans and lines of credit,
  • the full details about any personal and family debts,
  • basic information about any stock or bond portfolios,
  • whether either of you has a pension and, if so, the name of the pension plan,
  • the addresses of any real estate either of you might own and information about how those properties are owned,
  • the approximate market value of any real estate and the amount of any mortgages, and
  • the full details about any assets or property that either of you own that is located outside British Columbia.

Concerns and risks

The lawyer will also need to know:

  • any health concerns about you, your spouse and the children,
  • any pending financial risks, like bankruptcy or a loss of employment,
  • any pending personal risks, such as risk of abuse or the abduction of the children, and
  • the basic reasons why your relationship came to an end.

Don't worry if you don't have all this information available right away. There is almost always time to collect this information afterwards, and the lawyer you meet will most likely have a list of other information that you'll have to gather in any event.

Documents

You really only need to worry about documents if you're already in the middle of a court proceeding or negotiations between you and your ex have started.

If litigation is under way, the lawyer will want to see all the legal documents (also called "pleadings") that have been produced thus far. If you can't truck the whole file down to the lawyer's office, at least make sure you bring:

Supreme Court

  1. the Notice of Family Claim,
  2. the Response to Family Claim,
  3. the Counterclaim, if any,
  4. any Financial Statements that may have been prepared,
  5. a copy of all orders made so far, and
  6. if you're seeing the lawyer about an interim application, a copy of the Notice of Application and the supporting affidavits.

Provincial Court

  1. the Application to Obtain an Order or the Application to Change an Order,
  2. the Reply,
  3. any Financial Statements that may have been prepared,
  4. a copy of all orders made so far, and
  5. if you're seeing the lawyer about an interim application, a copy of the Notice of Motion.

If you're in the midst of negotiations, you will want to bring:

  1. a copy of any offers made so far, and
  2. any Financial Statements that may have been prepared.

If you're planning on starting a divorce proceeding, you'll definitely need to bring:

  1. your original certificate of marriage (the ugly brown government document, not the flowery document you might have received from whomever performed the marriage), and
  2. a photograph of your spouse.

Payment

Before you even darken the lawyer's door, make sure you know whether or not the lawyer is going to be charging for your first appointment.

Some lawyers offer an initial consultation for free; if so, they will usually advertise that first meetings are free. Other lawyers will offer an initial consultation for a reduced fee.

Most lawyers charge for initial meetings at their usual hourly rate. Do not assume that there will be no charge for your initial appointment. If you must make an assumption, assume that the lawyer will be charging you at the lawyer's normal hourly rate.

If the lawyer is going to be charging for your first visit, they will usually expect payment once the meeting is done. All lawyers will take cash and cheques, and many will also take credit cards. Make sure you are able to pay for your first meeting when you book it.

For more information

You can find more information about choosing a lawyer in the chapter Introduction to the Legal System for Family Matters within the section Lawyers & the Law Society.


This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Thomas Wallwork, May 9, 2017.


Creativecommonssmall.png JP Boyd on Family Law © John-Paul Boyd and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.


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