When you need to meet with and hire an attorney to help with legal services, it’s important to ask the right questions, come prepared, and hire the right person to help you achieve the outcome you desire. Going into an initial consultation prepared ensures that all your questions are answered, and you are ready to move forward in the legal process– whatever that step may be for your unique situation.
Here are a few steps you can take to prepare for a legal consultation:
Write Down Your Questions
Prior to going in for a first consultation with an attorney, it’s important to prepare any questions you have. Write down your questions and concerns, along with any actionable research or steps you have taken prior to the appointment.
Bring something to write with and collect information to your consultation–a notepad, pen, and folder is fine. This brief preparation ensures you can collect all the information that your attorney provides and check off answers to the questions that you brought in. By “asking and answering”, you can stay on topic and resolve any issues before they occur and prevent information from falling through the cracks.
Prepare A Statement
Write down or collect any information that you would like to tell your lawyer or discuss with them, so you don’t forget and have the full details with you. This doesn’t have to be an official document or in any specific format, but it should cover all the topics that you would like to discuss and what information you have to relay to them.
Include a “who, what, where, when and why” narrative to share with your attorney, along with the current status of your problem or legal matter. Include dates, names, key events, the type of legal issue or matter, any prior attorney contact or legal intervention, and all other important details to get your lawyer up to speed. You should also describe what you would like to see happen as the outcome of the matter. This “outcome statement” will help your lawyer understand exactly what you want to occur and what you expect them to help you achieve. It will also ensure there are no conflicts of interest on their part.
Bring Relevant Documents
In addition to providing your attorney with an account of your situation and how you hope to move forward with an outcome, you should bring all relevant documents with you and make copies of them before the initial consultation.
Important or relevant documents will really depend on the type of legal matter you are pursuing or inquiring about, but a few examples include:
- Your contact information
- Contracts or agreements
- Financial documents (taxes, earnings, investments, retirement)
- Any kind of correspondence (letters, emails, texts, etc.)
- Police or accident reports
- Photos or videos (dash cam, cell phone, security, or doorbell video)
- Witness statements or contact information
- Employee or business handbooks
- Wills or insurance information
- Other documents that could be helpful to your case
Use Time Wisely
Plan to use your consultation time wisely. Stay on-topic and within the allotted time slot, and shut off any distractions (like cell phones). It’s important to understand that everyone’s time is valuable during the discussion. The first bit of the consultation or initial appointment will be for introductions, but to save time you should thoroughly research the attorney beforehand.
You can learn about you attorney’s background and expertise by visiting their website, reading online reviews, and checking any profiles they have online–such as participation in legal forums or memberships or legal organizations. Your time should be spent discussing the matter at hand and how they can help you. Use every minute of your consultation time wisely, since both their and your time is valuable, and this meeting will determine future actions you will both need to take.
Plan For Payment
Before arriving for your legal consultation, discuss what the payment structure is for the visit. Many lawyers offer a free initial consultation (within a certain time period such as an hour), and then require payment after an agreement is made during the consultation. Each attorney will have different payment methods in place, whether they require cash, credit, a payment plan, or an upfront retainer.
Understand what services you are paying for and bring your wallet with you or discuss setting up a payment plan with the attorney or their legal secretary. Whatever the case, you will need to make arrangements for payment if you move forward beyond the initial consultation and should do some research on the costs of legal service. In addition to researching online for the average cost of the services you will likely require, it’s perfectly fine to ask your attorney for an estimate for their services.
Understand what a consultation means for you and the professional relationship that an attorney has with their clients. Generally, people tend to meet with attorneys alone in order to maintain an attorney-client privilege. This “privilege” or confidentiality is somewhat lost if you bring another person into discussions, as in a court case they could be called on to testify against you and to your detriment, unlike your attorney.
While you may certainly bring another person with you for support, keep in mind the loss of one-on-one confidentiality and decide if bringing support or another party is the right choice for your situation. In a criminal case, it is inadvisable to involve more parties that strictly necessary. However, in many other practice areas, it may be better to bring all involved parties or witnesses to your consultation, especially if they can provide content to help you attorney better represent you.
If you or anyone that you know is in need of legal advice or representation in northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. or Maryland, contact the attorneys today at The Law Office of Scott S. Ives for a free case evaluation. You can also reach us directly at: 703-444-6600. Our team of experienced attorneys will work hard to ensure that you receive the justice and compensation that you deserve! We have over 30 years of experience providing expert legal service and advice in a variety of practice areas. Since our attorneys are local to northern Virginia, we years have experience dealing with the courts in the area.