02 May Your Consultation: What Should You Know?
When you go into a lawyer’s office, you are going with a problem to be solved. You need legal help to solve or navigate a challenge.
Have you ever waited for an appointment and when it finally arrives you realize the meeting was completely different than you anticipated? The information you needed is at home and what you brought with you is not applicable?
I think we have all been in that situation at least once in our lives. Let me help you get the most out of your legal consultation.
What do you come prepared with?
A consultation is an opportunity to make sure your attorney has an understanding of your case and that the person representing you is a good fit and vice versa.
To prepare for a consultation, ask yourself these questions:
Why do you need a lawyer?
Maybe you have a legal dispute with someone that you are not able to resolve, or you need legal advice and to ensure that your business is legally compliant. Whatever the reason, go into your consultation with a clear idea of what you need.• What is your goal for your legal matter? Do you want to ensure that you can see your child every weekend? Do you want to get a divorce and have possession of the house or get your marital portion of your spouse’s retirement funds? Knowing what the desired outcome is for your legal matter helps guide the conversation with your attorney.• Are you able to pay for an attorney? This question is often one that makes people shift in their seat. Yes, legal fees can get expensive, but think about what you are paying for.
Most attorneys have a minimum of 20 years of education. I have a Master’s degree in Public Administration as well as being a lawyer, so I have 22 years of education. After law school they take the bar exam. A large majority of attorneys spend anywhere from 50 hours to 70 hours each week working on their cases – including nights and weekends.
They put the time in in pursuit of the outcome you are seeking. Who would you rather have representing you – the person who stayed up studying or the person who scanned the folder five minutes before walking in the courtroom?
You are paying for expertise. You are investing in the success of your case. If you are having surgery you want the doctor who is going to do the best job with the least amount of recovery time, right? It’s the same with an attorney.
The downside is there is no “medical insurance” for attorneys so people bear the cost of these services out of pocket. Cost is a consideration for the majority of people. Unless you make a large amount of money each month you may need to tap into your savings account, a loan from a retirement account, or borrow from a friend or relative, or from a bank.
Figure out a budget and talk openly with your attorney about what their services cost so that you can plan accordingly.
Do you want to spend money on an attorney? If you go as far as retaining an attorney and paying an initial retainer fee, be prepared to replenish the trust account that holds your retainer funds, as time progresses.
The legal services that you need take time on the clock and people dedicated to hours of research, reading, filing paperwork all leading up to the time you enter the courtroom, whether it is for trial or not. The attorney is being compensated for the time they spend on your case. It will cost you less money and time in the long run to have an attorney do the work properly for you the first time than pinch a penny and try to do it on your own.
Understanding your commitment and seeing it through will be the best money you could spend for your wellbeing in the long term.
Do you like the attorney you are consulting with? Actually, asking yourself if you dislike the attorney is more important.
Lawyers are analytical by trade, so you might not get a feel for the attorney’s personality right away. You both are strangers, they are being professional and matter of fact, so the delivery might not show a lot of emotion or warmth. For some, that could very well be fine, but if there is something about them that bothers you, it may be wise to consider another legal advocate for your case if it’s something that you know you can’t live with.