What Questions Should I Ask in an Initial Meeting with a Lawyer?
In an initial consultation with an attorney, you should get the chance to thoroughly go over the facts of your case The lawyer should ask you questions to help understand the factual and legal issues. You may also want to ask the attorney the following:
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of my case? An attorney familiar with your area of law should be able to identify obvious issues and common problems that may arise. He or she should make you aware of any risks or hurdles that you are likely to face in pursuing your case.
- What is the likely outcome? A good attorney will rarely predict the outcome of your case because many variables may affect the end result. He or she should be able to tell you the outcomes of similar cases, however. A good attorney will usually not promise you a specific outcome, especially in a personal injury or criminal defense situation.
- What is the likely cost of pursuing your case? By the time you leave an attorney’s office after the initial consultation, you should have a general sense of reasonable fees and expenses. Fees are the attorney’s hours multiplied by his/her hourly rate, or the percentage of the recovery in a contingency fee matter. Expenses are the hard costs that the attorney spends in the case that are usually billed back to the client. Typically, a client is responsible for both fees and expenses. You should request a copy of the lawyer’s standard fee agreement.
- Who else will be working on the case? An attorney may utilize a paralegal for routine tasks and follow-ups. If you will be dealing frequently with someone else, ask to meet that person. An attorney in a large practice may use associates. Associates are less experienced attorneys that work under the main attorney, who directs and supervises their work. You should ask if the attorney you meet with will be working directly on your case.
- How frequently will the attorney be available? Ask about the attorney’s office hours and his or her availability generally. If you need to meet outside office hours, ask if this is possible. Also, find out if the attorney needs to meet frequently with you during office hours. If you will have to take time off of work or arrange for transportation to accommodate these meetings, it’s better to know up front.
- How long will it take for the case to be resolved? Again, no attorney can make a guarantee on the time table for resolution, but an experienced attorney should be able to provide an estimate based on past cases with similar facts and legal issues. The attorney should tell you the applicable statute of limitations for your type of case as well as any other mandatory deadlines.