The Do’s and Don’ts of the Initial Consultation & Important Considerations in Selecting an Attorney
Updated: Sep 3, 2018
Many law firms offer a 30-minute initial consultation, free of charge. After the initial consultation, you will be faced with the decision of whether or not to retain the services of the attorney/law firm. Therefore, how you choose to utilize those 30 minutes is especially important.
DO your research before the initial consultation.
Research the attorney and the law firm ahead of your initial consultation. Odds are that if you are prepared to retain an attorney, that decision will be made immediately following the consultation.
DON’T simply rely upon Google reviews and other internet reviews. Do not disregard these reviews, but just keep in mind that they can be misleading.
DO reach out to other individuals and businesses within the local community regarding any experiences they have had with the attorney/law firm. Many people are very forthcoming with their experiences, positive and negative alike.
DO use the initial consultation as an opportunity to obtain legal information and interview the attorney. You heard it right, interview the attorney. Ask the attorney questions! DON’T use the consultation to merely try and obtain as much legal information as possible.
DO make sure you bring to the consultation copies of all pleadings (court filings) and court orders pertaining to your case.
DO make sure you fully understand the law firm’s billing policy.
If you don’t fully understand the law firm’s billing policy, it is possible that you may have the ability to hire the attorney today, only for that attorney to no longer represent you in the very near future.
How much will my entire case cost me?
Unless your retainer fee is a flat fee or contingency fee, no attorney should be quoting you a specific amount that you will spend to bring your case to a full resolution. If they do, get it in writing. Practically speaking, the overwhelming majority of family law attorneys bill clients on an hourly basis. Barring the magical ability to predict the future, no attorney can predict the number of hours that will be spent working on your case.
While on that point of getting things in writing, if there is anything discussed with the attorney during your initial consultation that is of particular importance to you, DO make sure those terms are spelled out in your retainer agreement.
DO read the retainer agreement and make sure you fully understand the retainer agreement before you sign it.
After all, the retainer agreement is a binding contract between you and your attorney. Making the argument later on down the road that you didn’t understand what you were signing will be an uphill battle.
DO ask the hard questions:
Who is actually going to be working on my case?
If the attorney provides you with a vague response, dig a little deeper. Ask more specific questions, such as:
What percentage of my case will you handle as opposed to another attorney within your firm?
What types of duties will you handle and what types of duties will you assign to your paralegals or law clerks?
Approximately how many hours will your paralegals or law clerks work on my case?
There is a common misconception that a client is going to spend less in attorney’s fees if paralegals or law clerks draft the majority of pleadings, discovery, and other case documents, rather than the attorney. The hourly rate charged by paralegals and law clerks is typically less than that charged by the attorney. However, think about the amount of time a paralegal/law clerk spends working on any particular document at his/her hourly rate, combined with the hourly rate charged by the attorney to review and revise that document.
How many of these types of cases have you handled? How long have you been handling these types of matters?
It goes without saying that it is extremely important to retain an attorney who has experience handling the type of matter you retain them for.
How many cases do you handle within the county where my case is pending or will be filed?
I cannot stress enough the importance of retaining local counsel. There are numerous advantages to hiring an attorney whose office is located within the county where your case is pending or where it will be filed, and who routinely handles cases within that jurisdiction. Local counsel is immensely familiar with local procedure, the Judges and Magistrates, the court clerks and court staff, as well as local, opposing counsel. At the end of the day, hiring local counsel is likely to save you time, money, and frustration, and could quite possibly impact whether or not you receive a favorable outcome in your case.
What is your policy on how quickly you will respond to my telephone calls/emails?
-One of the biggest complaints that individuals report regarding experiences with their attorneys is a lack of communication or responsiveness. E.g. failing to return client’s telephone calls and/or emails in a timely manner.
-If the law firm doesn’t have a policy regarding how quickly they will return your telephone calls and emails, that should raise a red flag.
-I inform my clients at the outset of my representation that absent some unforeseen situation or emergency, I will respond to their emails and telephone calls within 24-36 hours.
Absent a written agreement to the contrary, keep in mind that you are under no obligation to hire an attorney simply because you meet with him/her for an initial consultation. Attorney selection is perhaps one of the most important decisions you will make in your life, and definitely one of the most important decisions you will make for your case.
You can be picky in making your selection! I would suggest meeting with at least two attorneys from different law firms before making the ultimate decision on which to hire. Best of luck!
Christina Marlow is the founding attorney of Marlow Law, LLC. Marlow Law, LLC’s office is located just steps away from the Historic Carroll County Circuit Court building in Westminster, Maryland. Contact us today at (410) 871-4490 to schedule your free, 30-minute initial consultation.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog post (“Post”) is provided for general informational purposes only. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through this Post, without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction. Please note that an attorney-client relationship can only be created by a written, signed, fee agreement entered into with an attorney.