When a problem arises, searching for a lawyer can be nerve-wracking. In addition to questions about legal options, individuals might find themselves wondering:
· How do I find the right attorney?
· How long will this take?
· How much will this cost?
· How should I prepare for a legal consultation?
After almost two decades of practicing law in Washington State and consulting many clients and potential clients over those years, I thought it would be helpful to provide the general public some clarity on what to expect during your first legal consultation with a lawyer. (Note: these examples of topics and questions that I have identified as best practices may differ from those of other firms and lawyers.)
Normally, the first contact that we have with a potential client is a phone call or email from them, regarding a legal matter or other problem that they are facing. As part of our intake process, and to understand the situation better, we send over a short form that gathers some basic information about the situation, and goes over the process of discussing their legal matter before we schedule an initial consultation.
The primary purposes of the first legal consultation are to determine the nature of the potential client’s legal issues, discuss potential options, discuss the business terms of representation, and otherwise determine whether the potential client and our firm will be a good fit for each other. Because this initial consultation is a way to introduce both the potential client and the lawyer to each other, our firm typically offers 30-minute initial consultations free of cost.
Determining the Nature of the Legal Matter
As part of our short form, we provide the client with a checkbox in order to quickly understand the matter at hand, as well as how urgent the matter is. It is often the case that the client is not sure exactly what it is that they need help, with and the initial consultation provides an opportunity to get a clearer picture for both potential client and the lawyer. Sometimes, the client has been served with legal papers. If this is the case, we ask them to provide us a copy the legal papers along with the case number, court date, judge, and jurisdiction prior to the consultation. Because deadlines are important in litigation matters, we will ask the potential client the date that they were served with the papers. Most lawyers will ask for relevant documents prior to an initial consultation so that they can review them before to the meeting.
Determining Other Persons Involved
This is often overlooked but very important. Good lawyers will inquire right away the identities of other parties and potential witnesses involved with the matter — in part, to identify and rule out any potential conflicts of interest. In addition, many lawyers will regularly want to know if you’ve spoken to other attorneys about the matter in addition to any other people who you have shared information or who know details and information about the potential case.
Discussion of Potential Options
Keep in mind; the ability of any attorney to give a detailed legal analysis of any situation during an initial consultation is likely to be very limited. The lawyer should be able to give you some basic ideas about potential options available to deal with the client’s legal problem, as well as some idea of what is involved, including the associated fees and costs.
Discussion of Business Arrangement and Payment of Fees
Discussing the terms under which the attorney will work and the fees that will be charged for services is something that might not comfortable for clients to discuss in the initial consultation, but good lawyers will be transparent with their fees and costs. And though good lawyers generally cannot give specific figures for fees and costs, except for certain types of matters, they generally should be able to give the prospective client a range of the potential fees and costs.
At the End of Initial Consultation
For potential clients of our firm, there will be four possible outcomes to consider after your initial consultation: (1) You and the attorney mutually agree to the terms of your representation, (2) The attorney declines representation, (3) You will decide not to use the services of the attorney, (4) You require additional time in which to decide to retain an attorney. This is a typical approach for many lawyers. A client should expect to get the terms of the representation in writing and have the opportunity to review them before agreement to the representation.
As much as you would want your lawyer to prepare for the first consultation, it is important for you to come prepared as well. Be professional, be honest, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you decide to continue working with that particular lawyer, you should feel comfortable and trust him or her. Trust your instincts!
Do you have a legal matter you’d like to discuss with Possinger Law Firm? Contact us here, or leave a comment below.
DISCLAIMER: This blog post (document) and discussions contained herein, as well as any data and information provided are for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice nor should it be relied on as legal advice. To the extent that this document may contain suggested provisions, they will require modification to suit a particular transaction, jurisdiction, or situation. The law is a rapidly changing subject, no representation is made that everything posted on this site will be accurate, up to date, or a complete analysis of legal issues. Please consult with an attorney with the appropriate level of experience if you have any questions. Review or use of the document and any discussions does not create an attorney-client relationship with the author or Possinger Law Group, PLLC. No attorney-client or confidential relationship is or should be believed to be formed by the use of this site. The opinions expressed here represent those of Jeffrey Possinger and not those of Possinger Law Group, PLLC or its clients. Similarly, the opinions expressed by those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Jeffrey Possinger, Possinger Law Group, PLLC, or its clients.
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