To many of us, meeting a lawyer for the first time can be a very daunting prospect. However, did you know that your lawyer is just as likely to be nervous about meeting you as you are about meeting him? Well, in most cases he is!
So, here are some of the things you can expect to transpire at the first meeting you have with your lawyer:
Lawyer Consultation Meeting
1. Without fail, the first thing your lawyer will ask you to do is to tell him the story of what took place. Now, keep in mind that he is not asking you if any law has been broken, there’s a fair chance he’ll be able to work that one out for himself. What he is looking for is as true and accurate description of the events that transpired so that he can evaluate your honest chances of success.
As most lawyers these days are retained on some sort of success basis, if your lawyer doesn’t think you have a chance of success, there is a chance he won’t take your case. On the flip side, if your lawyer listens to your case and thinks there may be a case for a class action suit, he may recommend that you bring others in with you in your lawsuit. It all depends on retelling the facts that transpired.
2. If your lawyer thinks you have a case, he’ll ask you to sign a power of attorney or some other document empowering the lawyer to act on your behalf. This power of attorney make give your lawyer broad powers, such as the power to release your medical records, so make sure you read this carefully and are happy with it. If you are not, don’t be afraid to question your lawyer.
3. Having been appointed, your lawyer will talk with you about whether or not you have entered into any discussions to settle the case. If you have not held discussions about settling your claim, your lawyer may well recommend that you do. Likewise, if you haven’t yet discussed matters with any insurance companies, your lawyer may ask if he can talk with the insurance company on your behalf.
4. The next thing your lawyer is likely to ask you is if you have any evidence or records of what transpired. It is at this time you can give him the photos and records you took.
5. Finally, before leaving your lawyer’s office, it is likely that your lawyer will ask you not to discuss matters relating to the case with anyone other than him. Heed this advice, it is probably the best you’ll get on that day.
Following your first meeting with your lawyer your lawyer should give you regular updates on how your case is progressing. Remember, if at any time you are not happy with what your lawyer is doing, you are free to express those feelings, so don’t bee overly worried about meeting your lawyer for the first time.
How Much will my Lawyer Cost?
This can be a very difficult question to answer. All lawyers have different fees, and fighting a parking ticket will cost less than a complicated tax appeal. It is not always true that you get what you pay for so shop around and follow these tips:
Meet with the attorney. At the end of the day, the way to find out how much they’ll cost is to ask them. Many lawyers will not quote a fee until they’ve met with you and had a chance to assess the case. The most important thing is that you are comfortable with the lawyer, trust him and are comfortable with his fee. Otherwise you should probably keep looking.
A note to remember about retainers is that they are not the lawyer’s fee. They are usually an estimate of what the case will cost but if the case becomes more complicated, you will have to pay more. Also remember that some lawyers quote very low retainers in order to get the client on board but the fees quickly escalate above this.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate. While many lawyers do not change their fees for different clients, others will be willing to lower their fee in order to get your business. You can also ask the attorney to change their billing method. You can ask to be charged a flat fee. This will not generally be cheaper than an hourly fee but will give you peace of mind as you know what the total cost is.
Another thing to do is set a maximum fee if you are being charged hourly. This means that the attorney will not incur expenses on your account above this amount without your authorization. A maximum fee can also be a good way of testing the accuracy of the retainer. Remember though, that it will not always be possible to quote a maximum if the case looks like it may run into complications.
Contingency fees are another option. These occur in cases where you stand to recover a lot of money from your legal action. In such cases you may be able to agree with the attorney that if the case he is successful he keeps a percentage of the fee but if the case is unsuccessful you will not owe anything. This allows you to proceed with your claim without any risk but remember that contingency fees, while limited by most states, are an expensive way to have your litigation performed if you have a very strong case. Also, you may be able to negotiate a reduction in the contingency fee if you case is very strong or lucrative. Also remember that in most cases you will have to pay for litigation even if you lose.
There are other options if none of the above are possible. For example, there may be a law school or law clinic in your area that offers free, or very cheap legal advice. There may also be the possibility of having your case taken on pro bono because of its particular merits.