For most of us, it is easy to be prepared to go to a new doctor’s appointment. We generally know what the doctor wants to know (our medical history) and what brings us to the doctor in the first place (a routine checkup to a lingering pain or bump). On the other hand, most people really do not know what to expect when they first seek an attorney for an auto accident, divorce, or criminal matter. Just the thought of needing an attorney and making an appointment can be overwhelming and create anxiety. Know in an initial consult, the attorney will know the right questions to ask to help you and assess your case, such as filing deadlines and court dates, to name a few. Nevertheless, there are three simple tips to help you make the most of your first visit with an attorney—the things you already know or expect when you see a new doctor—that are covered in this blog.
The first tip is to be fully prepared to talk through the legal issue you face. An initial consultation is confidential and being frank and forthright is the key to success. So, you and your potential new attorney can determine if what you seek is something the attorney can assist you with; and if so, how? While the attorney will know the law and questions, you are the person who knows your case best. You should also know that what you might want to “hold back” is probably a key to your case. Attorneys literally have heard it all before and cannot assess your case without all the facts. There are very few limits to the attorney-client rule for confidence and privilege, so just say it. If you are still concerned with a revelation, have counsel explain what is not privileged. With this, counsel can properly assess the case, and you can decide if this attorney is the right fit for you. This may seem obvious, but every attorney has had a consult where the client’s issue is outside of their practice area, but with the details, can steer you to the right counsel. Many former litigants have had consults and clearly do not have trust or fit with the counsel. The point in time to discover this disconnect is in the initial consult, not weeks or months into the representation.
The second tip relates to the life-blood of most legal cases: documents. In criminal cases, for instance, it is the state’s discovery that you might have obtained at an initial hearing, including the probable cause investigation and information. The attorney you are consulting with will need to see these documents. In a civil case, these documents may be the divorce petition or civil lawsuit and summons you receive. Having these documents with you—with providing complete information in your discussions—will speed along the consultation process and allow you to share the relevant information quickly and allow the attorney to hone-in on the status of the case and precise issue you face. Thus, have the documents relevant your case ready and with you for your initial consult. Where the case is already pending, it is often helpful to inquire before a consult what documents to bring. Bringing boxes of legal documents or stacks of disorganized papers is not a constructive use of consult time. The entire point of a consult is to allow for an effective and objective assessment of your case, comparted to your legal objective or desired outcome, and course to move forward. With these materials, this will help the attorney help you understand the law and your legal position.
With computerization and America’s speedy courts (due process requires it), many cases start with a litigant receiving a court date or deadline. Depending on the availability and schedule of an attorney, an upcoming hearing in just a few days or weeks may not be feasible with certain counsel. If you can have a list of dates for court hearings, discovery response due dates and upcoming mediation or hearing dates, it can help both you and the attorney determine if the relationship is one you can both move forward with based merely on time limitations. Surprise deadlines can often lead to more complex issues, so being sure to provide deadlines as quickly as possible can save headaches and potential significant legal problems and costs moving forward. What you do not want to have occur is to engage counsel only to learn he or she is unavailable, as this can create many undesirable outcomes.
The process of interviewing, consulting with, and hiring an attorney to protect your best interests in a legal matter is often the most significant decision you may make during litigation. Choose wisely. Following these tips will help you provide the best information to manage and get through this significant matter in your life. Hopefully, you know how to make the most of an initial attorney consult. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys practice civil, criminal and appellate issues throughout the State of Indiana and understand the importance of choosing the right attorney for your personal legal need. The legal outcome may impact you for a lifetime. This blog post is written by Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates and is intended for general informational purposes. It is not intended as specific legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.