Your first meeting with a lawyer is an important step in dealing with your legal dispute. In addition to giving you a chance to meet each other, you can also learn a lot about your legal dispute, and what the result is likely to be.
If you will be hiring a lawyer, the first meeting should be like a job interview. You should consider the characteristics and expertise you want from a lawyer. During the session, ask questions to determine if this is the right lawyer for you.
If you are going to pay for just some legal services (see Unbundled Legal Services), you need to determine if you and this lawyer can work in partnership. During the session, you need to bel clear about each other’s expectations and roles. Ask questions to determine if there is a good fit. Can you work as a team?
Finally, if you are meeting with a free or low-cost lawyer, you want to get the most you can from the session. Usually, you will only have 30 minutes of their time. The information below provides more information about how to prepare.
What your lawyer will want to know
As with all other professional relationships, your lawyer will want to know who you are – a bit of personal information (such as your job), your personal situation (like if you are married, if you have children), and contact information. Most importantly, your lawyer will ask about the reason that you decided to consult him or her.
It is very important to tell your lawyer everything that is related to your dispute, not just the information that supports your side of the story. This does not mean that you tell your life story. You need to provide complete information about your legal issue. Sometimes, it is difficult to know what is relevant and what is not, but your lawyer will help you sort this out.
You must also disclose all relevant documents to your lawyer. Your lawyer must be able to accurately assess your case at an early stage. In order to give you good legal advice, your lawyer must know all the facts. Being prepared and having copies of important documents will help greatly in this regard.
Take a file of documents to your appointment. Your lawyer will want to learn about all the details that you think are important to your case, such as contracts, letters, court documents, receipts, invoices, and agreements (for example, a separation agreement). Provide the lawyer with the names and contact information of witnesses who can support your case.
It also helps to write down a brief summary of what happened in your dispute, noting the dates that certain events happened. A limitation period may apply to your case, and your lawyer may need to take certain steps right away to protect your legal rights. For example, you generally have 2 years after a car accident to start a claim against the other driver, so it is important to tell the lawyer exactly when certain events happened.
Use Worksheet #1: Meeting with a Lawyer, to prepare for your session. Complete the questions and gather the information needed before your first meeting with a lawyer.
Things you will want to know
It is a good idea to write down questions you want to ask your lawyer. You might want to take a worksheet of things to discuss. (See Worksheet #1.)
First, you will want to know if you have a legal problem. Not all disputes can be resolved by taking legal action. If you have a legal problem, you will want to know about the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and what the likely outcome will be. Whether you have a legal complaint against someone or they have one against you, you will want to know about the legal risks you are facing.
In the legal system what you can prove is often more important than what happened. Find out what evidence you will need to support your case. You may need to start collecting more documents or find other witnesses.
Ask what options there are for resolving your legal dispute – some disputes are resolved after the exchange of a few letters between your lawyer and the other party. Your lawyer might be able to estimate how long it will take to resolve your problem. You will also want to talk about the cost of taking certain legal steps, such as litigation.
You should also ask about other ways to resolve your dispute without going to court, like negotiation, mediation, or arbitration. In some cases it is far more cost-effective to settle the dispute immediately by paying money or transferring property from one party to another.
What your lawyer expects from you
Your lawyer wants to do a good job for you. To do this, he or she needs you to be honest and open about information in your case and provide all the information that you can. It will only cause unnecessary delays if you are not responding to your lawyer’s requests for information.
When your lawyer asks you to make a decision, provide clear instructions about how to proceed. If you want to think about it, tell the lawyer when you will get back to him or her.
Most importantly, your lawyer wants to develop a respectful, professional relationship with you. Good communication is critical to this relationship, so be responsive to the lawyer’s request for accurate details and information. And, you should find a lawyer who is able to communicate clearly to you.
If you have no lawyer or are only using a lawyer for limited services, you should learn more about Representing Yourself in Court.
Last reviewed: March 2016
IMPORTANT: This page provides legal information, not legal advice. If you need legal advice consult a lawyer.
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