Choosing an attorney can be a mind-numbing experience. That first meeting can be scary, but simple preparation will make the experience better. Most attorneys offer free initial consultations, which is a time for you meet, briefly discuss your situation, and then decide if you want this person to work for you. What you may not have thought of is that the attorney is also looking across the desk and deciding whether he/she wants to work with YOU.
An hour meeting goes fast, and the attorney will only answer general questions so do not expect to be told what form to use or how to do it yourself.
A normal meeting follows this basic structure:
1. Introductions 5-10 minutes.
2. Telling the facts 10-30 minutes.
3. Questions and answers for 10-20 minutes.
4. Going over representation and billing 10-15 minutes.
Before you call:
1. Think about what you want done.
2. Look online for reviews.
a. Understand that most clients do not want to share their reason for meeting with an attorney, and in some situations no one wins.
3. Your friend may have used an attorney, but what is important to YOU?
4. Confirm that the attorney works in the area of law your issue falls within.
During the call:
1. Were you able to speak with the attorney directly?
2. Was your call answered professionally?
3. This call usually only lasts about 5 minutes, but ask a few questions:
a. Does the lawyer have experience with your kind of problem?
b. Does the lawyer charge for an initial interview, and if so, how much?
c. Is your problem a routine one, and if so, does the attorney have a standard fee? What does it cover?
d. If your problem appears more complicated, ask about hourly fees.
e. Does the lawyer have a written agreement describing fees and services provided for the fees?
4. Was a meeting set for a time you are satisfied with?
5. Did you feel that the person on the phone wanted to speak with you?
Before your meeting:
1. Gather all paperwork you may have.
a. receipts, contracts, medical bills, repair estimates, checks, tickets, etc.
2. Write down any questions that you may have, such as:
a. What are the strengths and weaknesses of my case?
b. What would you advise me to do about my situation?
c. Can a timetable be set for my case?
d. If I hire you, what will you be doing for me, and when and how will we get back in touch with each other?
e. Is there a statute of limitations, or legal deadline, in my case that we must be careful not to miss?
3. Decide how much money you have to spend.
4. Think about what “winning” means to you. (This is probably the hardest question to answer.)