Picking the right attorney to represent you is the first and most important step in ensuring a favorable outcome for your legal concern. As such, it’s important that you undergo a legal consultation first before you decide whether to hire a particular attorney. Simply put, a legal consultation is a brief (15-minute) and confidential initial meeting with an attorney. It will help you and the attorney determine if they can legally and proficiently assist you with your case based on the information you provide them.
Think of it as an initial interview — if things are in order, then you can proceed with signing a representation agreement or a similar contract wherein you agree and consent to being represented by the attorney.
Which Documents Should I Prepare for My Lawyer Appointment?
Prior to your consultation, it’s important that you prepare and organize any and all documents that are relevant to your case. Even if you’re unsure of whether or not some of the documents you have are relevant, it’s best to bring them along with you. The attorney can help review and determine which ones are useful. The following are the essential documents you should bring depending on the nature of your legal concern:
- Contracts: For contract disputes, you should bring copies of the contract(s) as well as any supporting documents relevant to the contract being disputed.
- Police/Accident Reports: Secure a copy of the police/accident report of the incident you were involved in as this will contain critical details regarding your case.
- Medical Bills, Records, and Receipts: For any case that involves insurance claims, injuries, and subsequent treatment, make sure to bring all bills and records relating to the incident. This can include your hospital bills, treatment/medication costs, and the like. Additionally, for cases where you’ve lost wages due to your particular incident, you can also bring any document involving it.
- Receipts: For property damage (i.e. your car) which requires repairs or replacement, bring the receipts of those transactions.
- Photographs and Videos: For legal concerns involving accidents, property damage, and the like, make sure to bring photos and/or videos of the incident or from the scene of the accident. If possible, take a picture of the damage and any injuries sustained.
- Property Deeds: For property disputes, you need to bring a copy of the deed or any documents related to the property in question.
- Employment Records: For employment disputes, bring all important employment documents such as employment contracts, agreements, timesheets, payroll receipts, and so on.
- Premarital/prenuptial agreements, marriage and parental documents: For any family law concerns, make sure to bring any and all documents related to your marriage and/or the parentage of your children, as well as any previous decrees of legal separation, if applicable.
- Other Documents: You should bring any bank records, warranties, titles, tax returns, and any document that is remotely related to your case to your initial meeting; as mentioned earlier, your lawyer can help determine which ones are relevant.
And lastly, don’t forget to bring your driver’s license or any form of identification to your appointment.
What Will Be Discussed During the Legal Consultation?
So, now that you have your documents ready, you should have an idea as to what will be tackled during your initial meeting. Your discussion will heavily revolve on your legal concern and its nature, as well as the details surrounding your case. Regardless of the nature of your legal issue, the following topics will normally be discussed:
- Costs: Generally, initial consultations will always include discussions of the fees the attorney charges to represent you in your particular legal issue.
- Facts and Evidence: You’ll have a discussion on the facts about your case, and a review of all the documents and evidence you have related to it.
- Legal Claims: You will be discussing with the attorney your “claim” with regards to your legal concern; i.e., what you are owed or believed to be owed.
It’s also important to note that whatever you discuss during a legal consultation will be confidential. So, be completely honest and forthcoming during the process. You can rest assured that even if you decide not to hire the attorney you’re consulting, whatever is discussed or presented will not leave the meeting room.
What Questions Should I Ask The Lawyer About My Legal Issue?
During a legal consultation, it’s expected that you (the potential client) will have questions about your particular case. Similar to the discussion above, your questions will depend on the nature of your legal concern and the details surrounding it.
Generally, you should ask about the strengths and weaknesses of your case, their strategy for your particular case or how they’ll handle it, the alternatives to going to court (if applicable), the possible outcomes, an estimate as to how long will it take to be resolved, and your role in the case itself. It’s also prudent to ask about what happens if you lose the case, specifically the costs.
Furthermore, you should take this time to ask about the lawyer’s background in order to figure out if they’re the right one to assist you with your legal concern.
What Questions Should I Ask the Lawyer About Their Background?
A legal consultation is the best time for you to get to know the lawyer and determine if they’re the right fit for your case. As such, it’s recommended that you ask the lawyer about:
- Experience: You’ll want a lawyer who has experience handling cases similar to yours. It would also be prudent to ask how long they’ve been practicing in your particular state, as there are state-specific laws. (i.e. “Have you handled cases like mine? How long have you been practicing in Texas?”)
- Clientele: Asking the attorney regarding their typical client is also a good way to know about the cases they handle and the clients who retain them. (i.e. “Who are you typical clients? What types of clients do you often represent?”)
- Specialization: The legal field covers various areas, and many lawyers tend to specialize in a specific legal field or subset of practice. As such, you can ask the lawyer about their specialization (i.e. “Do you specialize in family/bankruptcy/criminal law?”)
- Professional History and Education: It’s also necessary to ask your lawyer about their professional history, particularly if they’ve been involved in any fee disputes, malpractice lawsuits, and disciplinary actions by the state bar. You can also ask them regarding their legal education.
- Contact Information and Communication: You should ask your attorney about the best method for contacting them, their availability for consultation/meetings, and so on.
What Questions Should I Expect During the Appointment?
The lawyer you’ve set an appointment with will generally ask you a description of the legal case you need assistance with. They will be asking questions specific to your case and your background. This will help them have a better understanding of the case and the circumstances surrounding it, as well as any evidence or documents you may have.
For instance, suppose you’re having a legal consultation to claim damages after a vehicular accident. With such a case, you should expect the lawyer to ask when it happened, how it happened, the police report, medical care, any injuries sustained, the extent of the damage and the cost to repair, and if you or the other driver admitted to being at fault.
It’s important that you provide facts and answer all the questions honestly as your meeting is bound by confidentiality.
What Should I Aim to Achieve After the Legal Consultation?
By the end of your legal consultation, you should have enough answers and details from the lawyer to decide whether or not to hire them. You should be able to determine if they are qualified to competently represent you in your legal case, and whether they can provide you a better chance of getting a favorable outcome.