A legal consultation takes place before you actually hire an attorney to take on your case. During this meeting, the attorney will determine if they can represent you based on the information you provide.
Both you and the attorney will decide if this is a good working match, and the attorney will explain to you the representation process if you proceed. Many attorneys offer this initial meeting free of charge. However, some attorneys charge for the hour, while others deduct the cost in your retainer agreement if you decide to hire them.
This initial assessment is very important for moving forward with any legal action. Further, it may be the most valuable service your attorney gives you for free. So, it is important to get as much out of this time as possible.
Once you’ve made the decision to consult an attorney, you should gather all documentation and evidence that is relevant to your case. The attorney will decide what is relevant and what is not, so it is better to bring too much information than too little. Depending on the type of case, this information can include:
- Copies of relevant contracts;
- Deeds to any properties in question;
- Timesheets if this is an employment dispute; or
- Letters, such as those authored by the person being sued.
- Make Copies Beforehand: Make a copy of every document you intend to bring with you. This saves time and ensures that you keep your originals for your own use;
- Take Notes Before and During The Consultation: Sometimes, it’s easy to forget a question you have or a point you’d like to make. Note these as they come so you go into the consultation with a clear mind. Pay close attention to what the attorney is saying and document their answers;
- Be Honest in Your Account: As this consultation concerns legal matters, it is absolutely imperative to be honest in your retelling of the situation; and
- Talk About Budget, Costs, and Payment Plans: Since this meeting is partially to determine whether or not you’d like to hire this attorney, be prepared to discuss financial details. The attorney might give you a rough estimate for what your case will cost. If it’s estimated that services will cost over $1,000, the attorney is required to provide you with a written fee agreement.
- Further, if you are unsure about your ability to cover the costs, you can always ask the attorney if they provide payment plans, or what options they might offer.
Every attorney has a different process for their consultations. When contacting potential attorneys, do not be afraid to ask if the consultation is free, what you can expect, and how long the consultation will last.
Will My Legal Consultation Be Confidential?
Absolutely. Every attorney conducts their consultations differently. Some attorneys treat the consultation as a sales pitch and give very little legal advice, whereas others will be more giving with their advice.
A legal consultation does not necessitate an attorney-client relationship, but confidentiality is always a given. Everything you say to the attorney will be privileged and confidential as if that attorney-client relationship were established.
Knowing that confidentiality is of the utmost importance, you should confidently give the attorney all of the details of your case, even if they are harmful to your case. Without all of the relevant information, the attorney cannot properly represent you. It is in your best interest to be totally honest from the very start.
What Kind of Questions Should I Ask During a Legal Consultation?
A legal consultation is a great chance to get to know your potential attorney, someone who is going to be very involved in your life for the duration of your case. Because of this, and the sensitive nature of the attorney-client relationship, you should not be afraid to ask questions. You want to be absolutely certain that this is the person you want representing you in a legal capacity. Some of these questions might include:
- Questions about the attorney’s background, such as where they were they received their education, their experiences with your type of case, etc.;
- What their approximate legal strategy is for your case;
- How the firm will manage your case, such as timeframes for answers to your questions, and who your point of contact will be;
- Questions about who the attorney’s typical client is; and
- Questions about the likely outcome of your case.
Additionally, you should not be afraid to ask very tough questions, such as whether or not the lawyer has been sued for attorney malpractice, or has been subjected to discipline. If the attorney is evasive or defensive, this is a red flag and should be taken into consideration before proceeding.
Should I Contact an Attorney and Schedule a Legal Consultation?
When you are ready to find potential attorneys regarding your case, you will want to be informed and prepared. Use an attorney database such as Legalmatch to find attorneys in your area you can contact. Be sure to ask if there is a charge for a consultation, and if so, how the fees are collected.
Additionally, it is important to remember that this consultation is in no way a solution to your legal issue; the meeting is not meant to solve any problems or provide specific advice, but rather to get to know each other and determine if it is a good match.