How to Prepare for Your First Meeting with a Lawyer

Legal balance scale in a court room

Some situations call for a lawyer. When you’re getting ready to meet with a lawyer for your initial consultation, you’ll need to prepare. No lawyer wants to be thrown a blob of assumptions and random events. Additionally, a lawyer may charge you by the hour, even for an initial consultation, which means that it’s in your best interest to be efficient. In this case, time is money.

What happened?

Provide the attorney with a complete, truthful description of the incident or situation. It’s important that you tell all the facts—good or bad—that pertain to your claim. If there are defenses that could be brought against you, let him know. This will enable him to prepare for any weaknesses in your claim that may be exposed in court. Honesty—even if the truth seems against you—is always in your best interests. Because lying can carry serious consequences.

What evidence do you have?

Bring all of the evidence that pertains to your case. Tangible evidence, such as written records or photos, are always easier to substantiate than verbal allegations of mistreatment.

For a personal injury case, your attorney will need records of your expenses, such as receipts, mileage and transportation costs, and lost work and wages; photos of the accident scene and your car, if applicable; medical items, such as pill bottles, braces, and casts; and records of your pain and suffering and any physical limitations you’ve suffered as a result of the incident.

For a discrimination case, a lawyer will need copies of your personnel file, your employee handbook or company policies, your written record of events, your pay records, and your mental health and medical records; physical evidence of the harassment or discrimination, such as an inappropriate image that was sent to you by a coworker, written correspondence showing that you were demoted or paid less than a coworker due to your age, or negative performance reviews that began when you hit a certain age.

For any type of case, bring contracts, financial documents, correspondence, photos, and witness statements that pertain to the situation.

What questions do you want to ask?

It’s important that you prepare a list of questions that you want to ask your lawyer. After all, you’re making a significant investment and you want to make sure that you are on the same page and that he knows how to handle your particular type of case.

You can ask questions about how he’s handled cases like yours in the past and how many he’s handled. Does he think you have a case? Are there any problems that could arise? What are your options for bringing about a positive resolution on your behalf (for instance, should you try to negotiate a settlement)? Find out how he charges (i.e. by the hour, on contingency, or on a flat fee).

Effective preparation will go a long way toward getting you the results you’re desiring. Make sure you do your homework before you show up at an attorney’s office.

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