The first appointment you have with an attorney is arguably the most important. It gives you a chance to figure out if they will be a ‘good fit’ to represent you, and allows you to get an inside-look at their workflows prior to signing a letter of engagement. Due to the importance of this first meeting, we’ve outlined ten tips to help make the most of it.
1. Be Prepared
Don’t think that your work is done once you’ve scheduled an appointment with an attorney. Make sure that you’ve prepared well and come to the meeting full of questions that you need answered. Know how much you’re looking to pay, what outcome you’re looking for, and what is expected from the attorney in terms of communication. An attorney will only help as much as you allow them to, so try and facilitate a productive appointment by knowing exactly what you want to get out of their legal representation beforehand.
2. Know What You Want from the Attorney
Going hand-in-hand with being prepared, always know exactly what you’re looking to get from an attorney before you meet up for your first appointment. Have a clear understanding of what you’re expecting as far as cost, outcome, communication, etc. before you step foot in any law firm.
3. Bring Documents
If you arrive to a legal consultation empty-handed, it’s going to be extremely difficult for an attorney to provide you much value at all. Without copies of documents involved in your case, you run the risk of providing the wrong information to your attorney, opening up the chance for an underestimation or overestimation of the complexity of the case. Bring copies of: contracts, deeds, timesheets, letters, emails, police reports etc. - really just bring anything that you have pertaining to your case. Don’t worry about the relevance of certain papers, the attorney will figure out what’s needed for your case and what’s unnecessary.
4. Get To The Point
Since law is so complex, attorneys have the difficult task of distilling down massive amounts of information into digestible chunks. Due to this, it’s easy for lawyers to get side-tracked during meetings, going in-depth about various convoluted laws that you may not necessarily need to know about. Be sure to ask succinct questions and don’t be afraid to cut an attorney off if they start going off on a tangent. They don’t know that you have all the information you need until you tell them!
5. Ask For A Free Consultation
It’s always worth it to ask if an attorney offers a consultation, as many will provide a free initial meeting to prove to you that they will represent you well. Use this time to feel out if the attorney would make a good fit to represent you. This is also time to figure out whether or not your case even requires an attorney, so ask some basic info regarding your case to try and get a better grasp of what you’re dealing with.
6. Ask For Clarification
Legal jargon (or ‘legalese’) is infamously confusing, and has led to countless misunderstandings. Be sure that you never leave a conversation with an attorney without knowing exactly what was said and what is expected. Law is one aspect in life where there really aren’t any dumb questions, so don’t be afraid to ask them!
7. Read And Understand Fully A Contract Before Signing
With all the subparagraphs, subsections, and clauses, legal contracts are also infamously convoluted. That being said, the second you sign a contract, you agree to all encompassing aspects of that contract. Saying that you ‘didn’t understand’ something in the agreement is not an argument to get out of a contract. Thus, be sure that you clearly understand expectations outlined by the agreement, including the payment structure, the firing process (and associated fees), what makes the contract void, etc. before you sign anything.
8. Be Honest
Arguably the worst thing that a client can do is lie to their attorney. Attorneys can only help you if they fully grasp all of the details of the case. Though you do not necessarily hold attorney-client privilege until you sign a letter of engagement or pay a retainer, attorneys have a duty to preserve the confidences of a prospective client. Thus, you are taking no risk by admitting any guilt to a prospective attorney (in fact, you’re taking a risk by NOT admitting it!).
9. Take Notes
Always come to legal meetings armed with a pen and paper. Due to the complex nature of law, it’s very easy to forget seemingly small details of your case that can turn into big problems down the line. Further, your attorney may offer resources to take note of.
10. Find A Specialist And Never Go With The First/Only Attorney That You Meet
Even though you may actually end up with the first attorney that you meet, it’s always a good idea to consult with at least three attorneys before making a decision. There’s nothing worse than figuring out too late that you could have better representation for a cheaper price tag. Beyond that, leverage the searching process to receive free legal advice during your initial free appointment.
Updated: October 18th, 2016