In short, a legal consultation is an initial meeting with an attorney that takes place before you make the decision on whether to hire that attorney to represent you in your particular legal matter. Further, the attorney will also use the consultation in order to determine if they can legally and competently represent you based on the information that you provided them.
It is important to note that an initial legal consultation does not mean that the attorney is officially representing you or has taken on your case. Generally, in order for an attorney to legally represent you, there must be a written representation agreement signed by both you and the attorney, or you must be able to prove that through their words or actions they consented to representing you.
Before consulting with an attorney you should make sure that you properly prepare for the consultation by gathering any and all documents that are relevant to your case. It is important to bring every document you have for the attorney to review, as they will be able to properly determine which documents are relevant, and which are not. Documents that you should bring with you may include any of the following:
- Contracts: If your claim arose from a contract dispute, then you should bring copies of the contract and any documents explaining the contract;
- Police or Accident Reports: If possible, you should bring any police or accident report that was created as a result of the incident you were involved in;
- Property Deeds: If your claim involves a property dispute, you should be sure to bring a copy of the deed or any documents relating to the property, such as an oil and gas lease, etc.;
- Employment Records: If you claim is an employment dispute, then you should bring all of your employment records, such as your employment contract, employment agreements, or timesheets; or
- Other Documents Evidencing Damages: Other important documents to bring include any evidence of damages, such as medical records or expenses, or any warranties or letters created by the party you are trying to sue.
As mentioned above, there are numerous different reasons why a person would seek out the counsel of an experienced attorney. Therefore, what is discussed in a legal consultation will heavily depend on your particular legal issue. However, some discussions that normally occur at a consultation include the following:
- Costs: Importantly, an initial consultation will generally always include a discussion of the fees that an attorney may charge in order to represent you regarding your legal dispute. Attorney fee arrangements may be based on a contingency fee, a flat fee, or hourly fee basis. It is important to discuss an attorney’s fee arrangement during the consultation; and
- Legal Claims and Facts: It may seem obvious, but a consultation will always include a discussion of the legal facts and your legal claims. It is important to be honest in telling the attorney about your particular case, as lying about the facts or circumstances surrounding your case will lead to criminal sanctions or other civil penalties.
For example, a typical family law divorce consultation will include a discussion regarding the reason for divorce, a discussion of marital and separate property, and a discussion of child custody, if relevant. Further, the consultation will discuss the attorneys hourly fee. Further, you should ask before the consultation, whether the consultation itself is free, which they often are.
Another reason to be completely honest during a legal consultation is that legal consultations will always be confidential. This means that what you discuss with an attorney will not be discussed outside the meeting room.
Once again, although an initial consultation does not form an attorney-client relationship, as that is not formed until there is a signed representation agreement, everything that you communicate with an attorney during a consultation will remain privileged and confidential, as if an attorney-client privilege had formed. Thus, you should provide the attorney with all of the information you have, whether helpful or harmful, so that they may properly evaluate your case.
As mentioned above, every legal consultation will depend on the particular circumstances regarding your specific legal issue. Questions that you should ask during a legal consultation may include questions regarding the attorneys background and qualifications, the attorneys fee arrangement, and specific questions about your case.
For instance, in a divorce case, you may want to ask the attorney what their legal strategy is for obtaining child custody or alimony. Further, you may want to know if you are able to evict your spouse from the marital home, or create a separate bank account. An initial consultation is a great time to figure out whether the attorney you are discussing your case with would be helpful or the right fit for your particular case.
As noted many times above, an initial consultation or discussion with an attorney does not form an attorney-client relationship. However, an attorneys communications towards you may form an implied attorney-client relationship, even though there was not a signed agreement.
Legal advice is advice given to a person that seeks the advice from an attorney, the advice given pertains to matters within the attorney’s competence, and the attorney expressly or impliedly agrees to give advice or their assistance in the matter. If such legal advice is given an implied attorney-client relationship may be formed between you and the attorney, even at the initial consultation.
However, if the lawyer states that the advice they are giving is not to form such a relationship, or is not to be relied on, then you may consider that simply a legal pitch of their services. Legal pitches or other off the cuff comments are not considered legal advice, and, thus, cannot be used to later prove that an attorney-client relationship was formed.
As can be seen there are many advantages to scheduling a legal consultation with an experienced and well qualified attorney in your area in your area. For instance, they will be able to evaluate your case, and represent your best interests throughout the legal process, should you choose to hire them.
An attorney database, such as LegalMatch’s database, is helpful in assisting you in locating the right attorney for your particular legal issue. However, it is important to remember that a legal consultation alone will often not provide a full solution to your legal problem, as it is only the first step in resolving your legal issues.