Once you have decided to hire a attorney and made your selection the next important step will be the first meeting. Taking some simple steps to prepare for the meeting will help you and your attorney move quickly on to finding a solution for the matter you are dealing with. Failing to prepare may end up costing you money because it may take longer for the attorney you hire to get up to speed on your matter and prepare their advice. Some simple first steps may be:
- If you have been served with a complaint or petition, you will need to have a copy of that for your attorney. Read through the document and be prepared to give your attorney answers about the things claimed.
- If you are involved in divorce proceedings, your attorney will need answers to the questions on the financial declaration. You will probably need to bring copies of tax returns and payroll information. Click here for a copy of the financial declaration.
- If you have a property dispute, you will need to provide records about the property, i.e. receipts for purchase, cancelled checks, deeds, loan documents.
- If you have any juvenile court matters, you will need to take your paperwork from those proceedings to your attorney.
- If you have filed for bankruptcy, bring copies of those documents.
- If you have minor children, bring any information your attorney may need regarding custody and parent-time.
- If there has been any domestic violence, bring copies of police reports and any court orders.
You’ll also want to prepare a list of the facts in the order they occurred. Important facts may include:
- The type of the dispute (criminal, contract dispute, divorce)
- The names and contact information of the people involved in the matter. This will include possible witnesses or defendants. An attorney will need to make sure that there are no conflicts before they can take your case. If there is a conflict, finding out during the first meeting will be critical.
- The date the dispute or problem began.
- Key events of your dispute. Provide a “who, what, where, when and why” narrative
- The current status of your dispute.
Dates are very important and you must be accurate to the best of your ability. One helpful idea may be to purchase an inexpensive calendar and create a reference for your attorney by marking down dates of when things happened and when you received any notices or other documents.
Spend time thinking about what other information you may have on hand such as photos, letters, and other notices. Try to organize these files before you meet with the attorney.
Your attorney will want to understand what your goals are in dealing with the matter. Once you have everything in hand prepare a list of goals that you want the attorney to help you achieve. Typical goals might include:
- To file a complaint against another person or company.
- To respond to a complaint, lawsuit, or demanding letter
- To get a contract, will, lease, or other legal documents reviewed.
- To form a new partnership, corporation or other type of business
You’ll also want to prepare questions to ask the attorney. Since a primary goal of obtaining legal advice is to understand and protect your rights. Questions you might ask a attorney include:
- How many similar cases has the attorney managed?
- How have other clients addressed similar issues in the past?
- How would the attorney go about handling your situation?
- What would the attorney like to see in order to evaluate your case?
- How is the other side likely to respond?
- What are your options, both legal and non-legal?
- How confident is the attorney in their skill and experience in this type of matter?
- How long will it take to bring the matter to a conclusion?
- How would the attorney charge for their services?
- Would the attorney handle the case personally or would it be passed on to some other attorney in the firm? If other attorneys or staff may do some of the work, could you meet them?
Having these questions ready and the materials for your matter prepared will help ensure that the attorney can quickly take up your case.