The Divorcerer Speaks:  The Initial Consultation Conundrum

I provide a free initial consultation to prospective clients for many reasons.  There is the obvious initial determination:  are we discussing a matrimonial or family law issue?  If so, there are many things we must also consider before we can contemplate my legal representation. Compatibility. Strategy. Objectives. Goals.

A consultation is a conversation that allows for the prospective client and attorney to determine whether or not they can or will work together.  The conundrum that prospective clients may not understand is that every lawyer and law firm may provide different services, different strategy and different fee structures.  When we are discussing retainer fees and attorney billable rates, some prospective clients may not know that in Illinois we all follow certain factors in considering and determining the reasonableness of our fees and rates.  We consider the following, which are just some of the many factors contemplated:

(1)   the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;

(2)   the likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;

(3)   the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;

(4)   the amount involved and the results obtained;

(5)   the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;

(6)   the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;

(7)   the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services (for example, I have practiced matrimonial and family law in excess of 15 years and remain an Adjunct Professor at The John Marshall Law School teaching family law drafting to law students); and

(8)   whether the fee is fixed or contingent (contingency fees are prohibited in divorce proceedings due to public policy favoring the continuation of marriage and Ward Family Law, LLC does not provide fixed fee services for matrimonial or family law matters but does provide a detailed written engagement letter outlining the retainer, fee structure and expenses).

The bottom line is that every prospective client should be prepared to discuss all aspects of their case during the initial consultation to obtain the best result, which is representation that can meet your needs.

Jennifer R. Ward is the founder of WARD FAMILY LAW, LLC and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 2002.  Ms. Ward continues to exclusively practice matrimonial and family law in the Chicagoland area.  Additionally, Ms. Ward has been Adjunct Faculty at the John Marshall Law School since 2005 and teaches family law legal drafting to law students in a Legal Writing program that U.S. News and World Report ranked as #5 in the Country in 2017.  Ms. Ward also had the honor of speaking at the “Leaving a Long-Term Marriage” workshop produced by The Lilac Tree, an Evanston-based not-for-profit resource for women contemplating divorce.

You can find Jennifer R. Ward, Founder of WARD FAMILY LAW, LLC at www.wardfamilylawchicago.com or you can follow her on Facebook @WardFamilyLaw, Instagram @divorcerer, Google Plus @Wardfamilylawchicago and Twitter @WardFamLawIL