I Have an Appointment with a Lawyer. Now What?

Seeking a lawyer’s help can come at a stressful time in your life.  You may be starting a new business and you need help setting up an LLC, or you may have just been sued and you do not know what to do.  Not only do you have the stress added by your legal issue, you now have an appointment for an initial consultation with a local attorney, but you have no idea of what to expect.  Meeting with an attorney may be a new and foreign experience and it is the goal of this article to give you some insight on what will happen in your initial consultation. 

1.What to expect?

First things first, relax.  An attorney will only be able to competently help you if you give them all of the facts in a way that they can comprehend.  It is understandable that you will be nervous, but the attorney that you will meet with is trained to ask questions and assist you in telling your story. 

At this point, you have only given a brief summary of your issue to the person that set up your consultation and you are eager to give the full story to someone that can help.  An initial consultation is a lot like an interview.  The purpose of a consultation is for the attorney to get to know you, the potential client, and determine if he or she can assist you with your problem.

At the start of the consultation the attorney is going to ask you why you have come into see him and will ask that you to summarize your legal issue.  During your summary the attorney will ask questions for more information.  Do not be embarrassed or ashamed to give your attorney all of the details.  It is imperative that you try to give the attorney all of the facts including both the good and the bad.  Without a full story your attorney will not be able to adequately represent your interests.  It is never beneficial to you when your attorney is surprised with a bad fact two months later that he or she now cannot fix.  

After you finish your summary your attorney will ask some follow up questions.  Although some of these questions may be difficult to answer, it is important that you answer fully and truthfully.  All communications during this potential client consultation will remain confidential even if you decide not to retain the attorney or he does not take your case. 

2.What do I ask?

When you first meet with an attorney you will have a lot of questions that you have eagerly been awaiting an answer.  One of the questions that may be most important to you will be whether or not you will win.  Unfortunately, this is a question that you will probably not receive a definite answer.  Unless it settles, a lawsuit is decided by either a judge or a jury, and while an attorney may be able to tell you if you have a strong case, they cannot guarantee results and will not guaranty that you will win. But, there are some good questions that you should ask your attorney in order to be fully prepared for your attorney-client relationship. A few suggestions are: 

•What is the best means of communicating with your attorney, email or by phone;

•How much will they charge for their services;

•Are they going to bill on a flat fee or hourly;

•What kind of experience do they have in this area of the law;

•What court is my lawsuit best suited for, small claims, district, or superior court;

•Will they continue to represent me if my matter is appealed;

•What is the statute of limitations for my matter?

These are only a few suggestions that you should ask.  If you have any questions please ask your attorney, the better you understand the legal process, the better your attorney can represent you.  Do not be embarrassed to ask any questions, you have hired your attorney for help and he or she cannot fully assist you unless they know what you are struggling with. 

3.What do I bring?

Generally I suggest that you bring it all, of course with limits.  It is important to bring all of your important documentation to your initial consult. If you are involved in a dispute surrounding a contract, bring the contract with you.  Bring any pictures or other evidence that will give the attorney a better understanding of your situation.  If you do not bring the contract or other documents, the attorney cannot properly advise you and will want to see the documents before he or she can give you an opinion on your matter.  If you think it may be helpful bring it.  It is usually better to have it and not need it rather than the reverse.   

4.Who should I bring with me?

Only bring those who are necessary with you to the consultation.  If you have a guardian or someone that you need to assist you in communicating with the attorney, your attorney may allow them to sit in on your consult.  But, in order to protect the confidentiality of your conversation with your attorney only those necessary parties will be allowed in your consultation.  Do not be taken back if your attorney asks that someone leave the room so that he or she can speak to you alone.  This is to ensure that what is said between you and your attorney remains confidential. 

5.The consult is over what now?

You have now explained your legal issue to your attorney and your consultation is coming to a close.  Generally this is the time when your attorney will decide if he or she is willing to take your case, and the time when you can decide if you want to hire this attorney. Although, cases can be accepted and attorneys can be hired in the initial consultation, you can usually take some time to think it over and even speak to other attorneys for a second opinion, but be wary of pending statute of limitations.  Once you hire the attorney and he or she accepts your case you will then signed a legal representation agreement that outlies the terms of the relationship with your attorney. 

Although seeking an attorney’s help may be a stressful undertaking, your attorney is there to help.  Be truthful and tell the attorney your entire legal issue and include both the good and the bad.  If you have any questions just ask; that is why you want to hire an attorney.