Preparing for your meeting is vital if you want a productive session. Proper due diligence before the meeting can save both you and your attorney effort and money, and ensures all the important issues are addressed.
This guide will walk you through the steps that need to be taken as you prepare for your initial meeting with the attorney of your choice.
Contacting Your Attorney and Setting Up a Meeting
Once you have chosen an attorney, you need to contact him or her to set up your initial meeting. Be sure to share your contact information early on when scheduling a meeting, so the attorney can contact you at any time during the process if necessary.
Before scheduling the meeting, you should ask some basic questions to establish ground rules for the session and your overall relationship. You should ask about:
- Money: Will the initial meeting be a paid session or a free consultation? If it is paid, what are the fees, and how much money does the attorney require in advance? If your funds are tight, is the attorney willing to consider a deferred payment plan?
- Topic: What will you be discussing at the initial meeting?
- Materials: What documents will the attorney need, and what other materials should you bring?
- Goals: What needs to be accomplished by the end of the initial meeting, and can the attorney do so?
- Scheduling: What will the schedule of the meeting be, and how much time will you have? If the meeting runs over, will the attorney have time to stay longer?
Use this list of questions as a guide, and brainstorm any other important facts you may want to establish before you meet.
Prepare Your Facts and Documents
It is important to know beforehand what materials, reports, data, transcriptions, records or documents you need to bring to the meeting in order to meet the attorney’s needs.
The most important things you will bring to the meeting are, of course, the facts of your case. It may be a good idea to type out a clear, linear explanation of the issue so that you don’t forget anything. Some of the facts you must be prepared to share with your attorney include:
- Who is involved in the situation (full legal names)
- The type of dispute (e.g. intellectual property, HR, slander, etc.)
- Background information on the issue
- The date the problem began
- Dates and times of relevant incidents and events
- The current status of the issue
Be aware that your dates must be accurate; if you are considering calling an attorney about an issue, remember to keep records of any incidents on a calendar (with the exact times it occurred).
The essential documents you should bring to the meeting include:
- Any correspondence relating to the case or issue, including emails
- Screenshots of any relevant text or instant messages
- Photos that relate to the case
- Any accident reports
- Financial documents
- Contracts and agreements
- Witness statements
- Employment documents or legal agreements (e.g. an employee handbook)
- A list of potential witnesses and defendants, so the attorney can judge if there is a possible conflict of interest
You should always keep your original documents for your records and make copies for your attorney. An attorney may charge to make copies of these documents, so make them in advance.
Also, keep in mind that attorneys will occasionally send an initial questionnaire before the meeting to answer general questions about your situation or case. You should fill this out as soon as possible and return it before the meeting.
Prepare Your Goals
In addition to important facts and documents, you should also prepare a list of your goals and what you want to address at the meeting. Your goals will vary greatly depending on your reasoning for visiting an attorney.
Whether you want to update contracts, respond to a legal complaint or determine if you have a case worth pursuing, it is important to consider what end result you want and to state those goals clearly. For example, your long-term goals could include forming a new business or partnership, while your short-term goals could include drafting the initial documents for the appropriate entities.
Prepare Your Questions
Finally, you should prepare a list of questions that you want answered during the meeting; this list will serve as a guide for the meeting. The questions you ask should be related to your goals, but don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on anything you are unsure about. For this reason, you should also make sure no one involved rushes the meeting.
These questions could include:
- What will the legal process for this case be like, and how long will it last?
- How should I respond to any legal complaints I receive?
- How might the other side respond to my actions?
- What are all of my options in this case?
- What is the worst thing that can happen if I fail?
- What is the best-case scenario or a “win” in this situation?
- How do other clients handle similar issues to mine?
- How many similar cases have you handled?
- What are any foreseeable problems with my case?
By putting in the extra time to plan before your meeting with your attorney, you will be able to use your time more wisely and prevent any misunderstandings.