Meeting your lawyer
What should I talk about at the first meeting with a lawyer?
Your first meeting with a lawyer is a time when information is exchanged between you and the lawyer.
The lawyer will want to know:
- the facts of your legal matter;
- what you expect him or her to accomplish for you;
- if you have documents or other materials relating to your matter;
- the names of people involved in order to determine if he or she is in a conflict of interest;
- if another lawyer has previously dealt with your matter;
- if you are able to pay the estimated legal fees;
You will want to know:
- if you have a legal case worth pursuing;
- if you are being realistic and reasonable in your expectations;
- how much experience the lawyer has in resolving your type of problem;
- what kind of legal options you have;
- what the law is relating to your legal problem;
- the likelihood of achieving a successful outcome;
- what services the lawyer will provide;
- what the lawyer will require from you;
- how the lawyer will involve you in the process;
- what you can expect will happen in the short term and in the long term;
- if there are important deadlines that you should meet;
- what the lawyer’s fees for service will be as well as other costs associated with your matter;
- how and when you will be billed and expected to pay;
- how frequently the lawyer will keep in touch with you and by what means;
- how long it will take the lawyer to respond to your communications;
- if others in the lawyer’s office will be communicating with you;
- how you can initiate contact with the lawyer between meetings;
- if delays or other problems might occur;
- approximately how long it will take to conclude your matter.
Take notes during your meeting. Without something to refresh your memory, it may be difficult to recall everything that was discussed and to remember what you may be expected to provide to the lawyer.
How can I help my lawyer?
When you and your lawyer work together, your legal matter will proceed more smoothly.
- give your lawyer as much information as possible, answering all questions truthfully and completely;
- provide all documents that your lawyer requests;
- notify your lawyer of any changes in your contact information;
- advise your lawyer of new developments;
- listen to your lawyer’s advice;
- ask for explanation or clarification if you don’t understand what is happening;
- learn from your lawyer as much as you can about your legal options;
- stay involved with your lawyer and keep all appointments;
- return all telephone calls; read and respond to correspondence immediately;
- give your lawyer clear instructions on how you wish to proceed;
- be patient; there may be periods of time when you think that nothing is happening but in actual fact, your lawyer is working hard on your behalf;
- avoid arguments; when you disagree with your lawyer’s advice or actions, talk about it and make choices that are satisfactory to both you and your lawyer;
- trust your lawyer’s judgment and actions; he or she has the knowledge and experience;
- don’t make frequent, unnecessary calls to your lawyer; this takes time away from your lawyer’s work and costs you extra expense;
- pay your lawyer’s bills according to the schedule agreed upon.
If you feel that your lawyer has failed to represent your best interests, report your concerns to the complaints & discipline department of the Law Society. The staff there may be able to provide helpful information.