Many people have anxiety about having a meeting with a lawyer. Whether it is for a civil case, or a criminal one, there are some basic steps you can take now before your meeting that will make things go a lot smoother. Once you know what to expect, you can be better prepared and you might find that there was nothing to worry about from the beginning. Here are a few tips in making that first meeting with your lawyer a productive one:
1: GATHER ALL THE RELEVANT DOCUMENTS AND BRING THEM WITH YOU TO THE MEETING.
If you don't have any documents, simply because you don't have a legal issue that has a bunch of documents, then don't worry about that. But, if you are in a car wreck for instance, you may want to bring a copy of the crash report if you have it, along with any photographs and medical bills/discharge papers that you have. These types of documents are extremely helpful to the lawyer assisting you in your case.
If you have a criminal case, you may want to gather up the bond paperwork when you released, or any other documents you think would help the lawyer understand your criminal case.
Other standard items like your drivers license (if you have it) and your medical insurance card, are great things to have on you at the time you meet your lawyer for the first time.
2: WRITE A LIST OF QUESTIONS YOU HAVE FOR YOUR LAWYER BEFORE THE MEETING.
No one wants homework before they meet with their attorney. But often times, you may have several good questions that you just simply forgot to ask in your initial consultation. For those consultations where you are paying the lawyer to consult with you, you certainly want to get your money's worth. Jotting down a few questions in advance will keep you on track when you are actually in the meeting with the attorney and will ensure that when you leave, you had all of your questions answered by the lawyer.
3: HAVE AN IDEA HOW YOU INTEND TO PAY FOR THE LAWYER.
Many law firms, including mine, will consult with you for free about your case. However, if you like the attorney you are consulting with, the issue of compensation for the lawyer to represent you will certainly come up. In personal injury cases, most if not all law firms will represent their clients through a fee structure where they will not get paid unless they recover money for you. This arrangement is called a contingency fee retainer. You don't actually pay money up front for the lawyer to work on your case, but you will pay them a percentage of what is recovered in your case, if anything. If you are hiring a lawyer for a criminal case or for another type of civil matter, the lawyer may charge you a flat fee of one lump sum to be paid, or, they may suggest billing you by the hour. Having an idea of what the attorney would charge you is always helpful, but often times, you won't know what their price is until you are in the meeting itself. If you have some funds available to retain the lawyer, let them know what you are financially capable of doing and see if they will work with you. Some lawyers will work out a payment plan and some won't.
4: BE PREPARED TO HIRE THE LAWYER ON THE SPOT.
It is possible that you may shop around to find the right attorney and that is a smart thing to do in my opinion. Being a lawyer is much more than just knowing the law, you have to be able to communicate and connect with your client. If you don't like something about your lawyer but you were told they were the best, then you need to decide if you can put up with whatever the lawyer is doing that annoys you. However, if you have a good feeling about a lawyer, not because of what they say, but how they communicate with you, then you may want to hire the attorney right there on the spot. Getting your lawyer involved as soon as possible is a great way to start taking control of your legal issue.
5: RESEARCH YOUR LAWYER.
Google is great. But the Texas Bar Website is also a great place to look up an attorney and see if they are in good standing and have had any discipline issues. When you are searching for a specific lawyer on google, check out what other lawyers are saying about him or her. You can find that kind of information on AVVO and other lawyer rating services. See if your lawyer is a Texas Superlawyer, rated by Texas Monthly magazine. Lastly, don't hold a single bad review against an attorney. There are many reasons why someone anonymously would leave a bad review for a lawyer. Could be a valid complaint, sure. But it may also be a personal matter, or a competitor, or just someone that had a bad day. Look for reviews that are detailed by real clients. You will be able to tell legitimate reviews from others that may be there to "game the system". We have found that real, authentic, reviews, for better or worse, take time. So check to see how relevant the reviews are. It does you no good to think your lawyer is a 5 star reviewed lawyer if his last review was in 2016.