The first attorney consultation is essential. Most attorneys offer free initial consultations so you can get to know them and their firm. Take advantage of this opportunity. Don’t be afraid to “shop around” before choosing a lawyer because it can take more than one try to find a good fit.
Once you set up that consultation, it’s important to know how to prepare and what to expect.
Here are five tips for preparing for your first attorney consultation
1. Gather your documents.
The more you bring, the better. The attorney can wade through your documents and figure out what is relevant to your case and what isn’t.
For example, if you were involved in a car accident, you would want to bring any photos of the scene or damage done, doctor’s visit notes and diagnoses, the police report and any witness reports, and any other relevant information relating to the accident.
2. Have your questions ready.
Once you start talking to an attorney about your case, it’s easy to forget a question or so. Make sure to think through and write down any questions you have before your meeting. Some questions you might ask would be things such as:
“Have you handled cases like mine before?” and
“How confident do you feel you can get the outcome I’m hoping for?”
3. Bring something to take notes.
You won’t be able to remember all of what the attorney says, so writing down some main points is strongly encouraged. While the initial consultation doesn’t include legal advice, you may get some more general information or opinions on your situation.
Also, if you need to jot down a note to remember to bring or send something you forgot, it’s good to have your notes all in one place.
4. Give all the facts.
Most of the meeting will consist of giving an account of what happened that led you to seek legal counsel. For example, if you were hit by someone who was texting and driving, you would tell the story of what happened leading to the crash, how the crash occurred, damages and injuries it caused, etc.
It’s crucial to include all of the facts, even if that means you’ll look bad. Your attorney has to know every detail of your case to determine whether or not they can help and to what degree.
5. Go over all fees and the next steps.
Attorneys have different ways of charging you for services, so ask about how they charge and what they charge for their services. Some require a retainer (a certain amount upfront), while others don’t collect anything from you until you win compensation. Ask them to go over all their fees, so nothing surprises you.
Once you’ve both answered questions, talked through your case, and talked about payment, you need to ask about the next steps. Have the attorney explain the entire process and your part in it.
A first consultation does not tie you to a particular attorney until you sign an agreement. As stated in the beginning, you can go to multiple free consultations with attorneys in your area to see who you’re most comfortable with and who you think will be the best advocate for your case.