1. Having a friend at the meeting may make you comfortable but the meeting may not be confidential then so choose wisely.
2. Be yourself.
3. Be organized when you first meet with the lawyer.
4. Tell the story, but only provide a summary.
a. This meeting is not the time to share every minor detail. If the attorney wants more information, he/she will ask.
b. Try to have a written summary or outline of your problem.
5. Take notes!
a. Quite often people leave the initial consultation and realize later they felt overwhelmed by the experience. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll remember everything that was discussed without writing it down!
6. Ask the questions you prepared and speak up if you don’t understand.
a. Has the attorney had experience with this type of problem before? How recently? How often? What was involved?
b. What percentage of the attorney’s practice is devoted to this kind of problem?
c. Will the specific person you’re meeting with actually be working on your case? In what way? Will any other persons be doing work on your case? What will they do? How will it affect the fee or relations with the lead attorney?
d. Will the attorney talk to you in plain English when you do not understand "legalese"?
e. Will the attorney provide you with copies of all documents and letters received or written in your case? Will that be treated as an out-of-pocket expense or will you be expected to pay for such expenses in advance? Will the attorney allow you access to your case file at his/her office?
f. Will the attorney keep you informed about all developments in your case? For important things, will the attorney allow you to make the final decision?
g. Will the attorney send monthly billing statements?
h. What kind of continuing legal education classes has the attorney attended and how recently? (One way to judge a lawyer's competence is by the amount of time they devote to keeping up with changes in the law through continuing legal education.)
7. Set expectations as to what you want out of your representation.
8. Be honest as to what you can afford. MOST lawyers want to help people and some are willing to work with you on payment arrangements.
Making a Decision:
1. When you hire a lawyer, the lawyer will be working for you. He/she should be genuinely interested in your problem and in giving you the best possible advice.
2. The lawyer may not be able to accomplish everything you desire because of the facts or the law that apply in your case. Many times a good lawyer will advise you to avoid court action.
3. A lawyer should be able to explain, in terms you can understand, what he/she hopes to accomplish for you and how he/she plans to do it.
4. Think about how the lawyer responded to your questions, his/her experience, and whether you will be able to work with the lawyer.
5. If you are satisfied with the interview, tell the lawyer everything about your problem, including facts that may be unfavorable or embarrassing to you. Unless you are completely candid, the lawyer will be unable to advise you properly and help fully.
Strict rules prohibit the lawyer from repeating to anyone what you say, unless you admit any ongoing or planned criminal activity.
A WRITTEN FEE AGREEMENT IS ALWAYS ADVISABLE.