Consultation Process


The Consultation Process for Family Law Clients in Howard and Montgomery Counties

Experienced attorneys serving clients Fulton, Columbia, Bethesda and Rockville


One of the most important steps in the process of choosing a family law attorney is attending the initial consultation. There, you will meet with the attorney who will represent your best interests and fight for your future. While every client is different, many have the same concerns and questions at the start – and one of those concerns is the initial consultation fee.

McCabe Russell, PA, like almost every other prestigious family law firm in Maryland, charges a fee for initial consultations. We have found that the vast majority of our clients sign the paperwork to hire us before their initial consultation is even over, and we believe that should you meet with us, you will likely do the same. Here, we will explain not only the consultation process, but why we charge fees, and why those fees should not affect your decision to choose us to represent you in your divorce, custody hearings, modification requests, or any other family law matter.

The three main types of attorneys’ fees

Generally speaking, unless your lawyer is working pro bono (i.e., for free), you will be charged for his or her services in one of three ways:

  • Contingency fees. These fees are the preferred method of personal injury and medical malpractice attorneys. When a case is won on contingency, that means the attorneys do not get paid until your case settles or wins at trial. Then, the attorneys not only take the costs associated with your case out of your award, but also an additional percentage for their fees. Social Security Disability and workers’ compensation rates are also contingency-based, though the states or federal government may set the rate. In Maryland, family law cases cannot be done on a contingency fee basis.
  • Flat rates. Attorneys who handle elder care planning, estate planning, and, on occasion, some transactional business law usually charge one flat rate: X services for X amount of dollars.
  • Billable hours. Here, attorneys bill for their time by the hour. This method is most often used by family law and divorce lawyers, criminal defense lawyers, and corporate attorneys.

Why do you bill for family law services by the hour?

On occasion, we may perform certain types of work for former or current clients at a flat rate, but the majority of our work is billed by the hour. The reason for this is twofold:

First, we cannot claim a percentage of an “award” from our clients. It is not as though we could take, say, 35% of your alimony payments for the rest of your life.

Second, every case is unique, and therefore requires different levels of work. Modifying a child custody agreement already in place is quite different from guiding joint business owners through a divorce and division of assets. As such, a flat-rate fee would be impossible to determine. Because of the type of work we routinely do for clients with high-asset, complex divorce proceedings, it would also be unfair to a client who wants to change his or her custody agreement (with the wholesale agreement of his or her former spouse) to charge the same fee.

Why do you charge a consultation fee?

We understand that many lawyers may offer free initial consultations. By and large, these are attorneys who work on contingency, or who offer flat-rate fees.

What we do is different. Consultations with our lawyers take at least an hour – often, they take far longer. During this time, you will sit down with one (or both) of our partners to discuss your needs, review your financial records, and analyze what problems or issues may arise in the future. Depending on your exact circumstances, you may be given information about additional resources that can help you, or the names of outside experts who can assist with areas of your life that could be affected by your divorce, but do not typically fall within the purview of a divorce attorney. We invite you to learn more about what happens in the initial consultation – and beyond – by reading about Our Process.

This process takes time and work, and that is what the one-time consultation fee pays for: our time, efforts, assistance and legal advice. If you retain us, the fee is like an investment into our services on your behalf. If you choose not to work with us, then you have paid for honest legal advice that you can use in the future, however you see fit.

Finally, we take our role as protector for our clients very seriously. Time spent in an initial consultation with a potential client is time we cannot spend working on the cases of our current clients. Charging a consultation fee also helps us discover who is serious about seeking a solution to their issues, and who is simply looking for free legal advice. We know what our services are worth, we know what we can do, and we know how our clients feel about us; after all, the majority of our clients come from referrals from previous clients.

Think of it this way: no plumber will ever come to your home for free, explain exactly how to fix your leaky pipes, and then leave without securing the job for him or herself, right? That is because his or her time is valuable, and his or her services are worth the investment. We know that our services are, too.

Choose a divorce and family law attorney best suited to your needs

At McCabe Russell, PA, our clients’ goals are our goals. We aim to alleviate as much stress as possible in the divorce process through constant communication and one-on-one support. We help you restructure your family in a way that is healthiest and best for you and your children. To learn more about our services, or to reserve your consultation time, please call 443-812-1435 or fill out this contact form. We maintain offices in Fulton, Columbia, Rockville and Bethesda to better serve the Howard and Montgomery County communities.