Preparing To Meet With A Lawyer

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  • Selecting A Lawyer
  • Meeting With A Lawyer

      It can be a big waste of time for both you and the lawyer if you aren't prepared for your first meeting. Being unprepared may also end up costing you money because it'll take longer for the lawyer you hire to get up to speed on your legal matter.

      The lawyer will want to know who you are and how to contact you. Be sure the lawyer has your:

    • Home address
    • Work address
    • Home phone number
    • Work phone number
    • Cell phone and/or pager number
    • Fax number
    • Email address

        You'll want to prepare a chronological summary of the facts leading up to your decision to meet with a lawyer. Important facts include:

        • The names of the key players in your dispute
        • Key background facts
        • The date the dispute or problem began
        • The type of the dispute (harassment, contract, divorce)
        • Key events of your dispute. Provide a "who, what, where, when and why" narrative
        • The current status of your dispute

            Dates are very important. You must be accurate. Get a calendar and mark down dates of when things happened and when you received any notices or other documents. Bring the calendar to your meeting to use as a reference.

            Gather all of the documents you have that relate to your legal matter. These can include:

            • Contracts
            • Correspondence, including emails
            • Photos
            • Accident reports
            • Employment materials, such as an employee handbook
            • Witness statements

              Spend some time thinking about what you may have on hand. Try to organize the documents in a logical manner before you meet with the lawyer.

              Sometimes, a lawyer may also try to speed the information gathering process by sending you a questionnaire to fill out in advance of any meeting. If this happens, be sure to fill out the questionnaire and send it in to the lawyer's office before the meeting. Also send along copies of any available documents that may be requested in the questionnaire.

              Before you get too far into a meeting or conversation, the lawyer will want to know about possible conflicts of interest. You should bring a list of people who may be witnesses or defendants. If the lawyer or the lawyer's firm represents anyone on the other side of the fence, he or she will have a conflict and probably won't be able to represent you. The sooner you learn this, the better.

              Prepare a list of goals that you want the lawyer to help you achieve. Typical goals might include:

              • To get a contract or other legal document reviewed
              • To form a new partnership, corporation or other business
              • To respond to a legal complaint, lawsuit, or threatening letter
              • To find out if you have a legal case worth pursuing against someone else

                  You'll want to prepare questions to ask the lawyer. These will usually be related to achieving your goals, since a primary goal of obtaining legal advice is to understand your rights. In theory, no question is too silly to ask. Keep in mind, though, that you don't want to scare a lawyer out of representing you. Questions you might ask a lawyer include:

                • What are the essential deal points?
                • How should you respond?
                • What are the areas of concern?
                • How have other clients addressed similar issues in the past?
                • How is the other side to the document likely to respond?
                • What would the lawyer like to see in order to evaluate your case?
                • What are your options, both legal and non-legal?
                • How many similar cases has he or she handled?
                • What percent of his or her practice is in the area of expertise that you need?
                • Does the lawyer usually represent employers or employees?
                • What problems does the lawyer foresee with your case?
                • How would the lawyer go about handling your situation? What is the process?
                • How long will it take to bring the matter to a conclusion?
                • How would the lawyer charge for his or her services?
                • Would the lawyer handle the case personally or would it be passed on to some other lawyer in the firm? If other lawyers or staff may do some of the work, could you meet them?

                    Putting a little time into preparing to meet with your attorney could save you a lot of time and money later on.

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