You are in a stressful time of life without any assurances it’s going to let up. There is worry about the family, the grandparents, the kids and your next steps. Then you include the stress from bills, work and expectations from groups like PTA and church. Whether you face divorce, a civil law suit, aging parents or estate planning issues, when you visit with an attorney for the first time, what to expect and plan for shocks many people.
Now, when meeting with an attorney for the first time, put a plan in place and get an idea for what to expect or ask about. Furthermore, if you go in to meet with an attorney know who you are meeting with and what ask. Here are 8 factors to consider and discuss with the attorney:
The consultation –
- Do they charge for a consultation?
- How much?
- How long is the consultation?
- Does my payment for the consultation go towards the requested retainer amount if I hire you?
However, don’t expect a free consultation. I offer a half-hour free consultation; however ,many attorneys charge a rate for a consultation. Remember their business is information and time. You wouldn’t expect a free consultation from a doctor, so you shouldn’t expect one from an attorney.
Do they expertise match what you are looking for – Ask them whether:
- Do you specialize in (area of law), or is (area of law) just a part of your practice?
- How long have you been practicing law?
- How many cases have you handled? (understand that a lawyer cannot give you percentage of wins as that implies his likelihood of winning your case and is illegal but they should be able to give you an idea)
- Are you board certified? (A non-board certified attorney still hasa license to practice. This only means they have not applied for and/or met the requirements for board certification)
- Will you be working on my case or someone else?
- If someone else will be working on my case, may I meet them?
So, it is important to remember that you are hiring a professional with experience and credentials. Make sure the attorney you meet with meets your expectations.
- What is your hourly rate?
- What increments of time do you charge (typically attorneys charge at 15, 10 or 6 minute increments)
- What costs (other than your own) do you expect will be involved (for example, for private investigators, forensic accountants, physicians, and/or psychologists, experts, mediators, etc.)?
- How will you charge or handle them?
- How much of a retainer do you require?
What this means is the number one issue many clients have with attorneys is the costs of the case. Many cases can get expensive. Make sure you understand the costs before hiring. It makes for a much better relationship for both you and the attorney.
Based on what you know about my case, how would you predict a judge would rule on it? Just like a new person you meet, when judge hears a case for the first time, there is no guarantee for what they will decide. However, the attorney should be able to provide you some information and be able to give you some idea of how the case will go unless they simply don’t know. If they don’t know, can they explain why?
The Pitch –
Go into the consultation with a 5-10 minute pitch explaining the case. Some attorneys will want to control the consultation by asking questions. Others will allow you to tell a story. Either way, you have questions of your own. Don’t take up your entire 30 minute consultation telling your story. Get it down to the main points and allow the attorney you meet with to ask important questions as needed.
Negotation & Limit Costs –
Do you want to keep costs down? Do you want to be able to discuss the case with the other side if they call you? If so, make sure you ask:
- Do you allow me to negotiate directly with the other side or do you expect me to have all communication go through you?
- You recommend a way to keep the cost of the lawsuit lower (limit phone calls, travel time to and from the courthouse, et cetera)
- Are there tasks that I can do myself to cut down on the amount you will charge me?
This helps to set an understanding between the two of you regarding your expectations and their expectations with your case.
Some attorneys will share everything with you. Some attorneys will not. Sometimes clients want an attorney to only tell them about the important matters. Some clients want to know about everything, every step of the way. You need to know what your attorney intends to do and what you want. Make sure you ask.
8. Your Comfort –
The last one is incredibly important as well. Simply ask yourself whether you are comfortable with the attorney who will work on your case. Do you like his demeanor? Do you like the way he speaks to you? Do you feel like he is being fake? Does he seem reliable and trustworthy to you? You are placing an important matter in his hands. Its likely very personal. Make sure you feel comfortable and trust him because a big part of this relationship you have with the attorney is built on trust. I always tell clients it’s a bit like a dating relationship. If you don’t trust the person you’re dating, you break up with them. It should be the same with your attorney.
If you find yourself in a difficult situation and need to discuss your situation with someone, you can always reach out to an attorney to give you some advice and direction. Please feel free to give Rasley Law Group a call at 972-584-7626 or visit our website at www.rasleylaw.com.