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What to Expect From Your Initial Consultation with an Attorney

Posted On January 3, 2023 In General

If you’ve ever hit the internet searching for a lawyer to represent your interests in a personal injury case, wrongful death action, or divorce and/or child custody agreement, you may have noticed that the majority of family attorneys and personal injury attorneys offer a “free consultation” or a “free evaluation.’ But what should you, as a prospective client, expect from an initial consultation with an attorney?

Having a lawyer advocating for your side, defending your interests in settlement agreements or courtroom litigation, and taking diligent care of all necessary paperwork can greatly improve the outcome of your case.

Before setting up your first consultation, you should always read reviews and client testimonials about the law firm and evaluate their record of success in cases similar to your own. 

The First Meeting With an Attorney

Most law firms have landing pages or websites for those seeking an attorney in their area. These pages typically reach out to prospective clients with contact information for clients to call or email for a consultation about their case. An initial consultation is the first time you’ll speak to your lawyer face to face, typically at their law firm location, though some also make Zoom call appointments available for those who prefer. During this meeting, the attorney will wish to hear about the details of your case and may ask questions in order to gain a better understanding of the particulars, such as your purpose for litigation and what your goals are for an outcome. The lawyer you speak with will also assess the following:

  • The details of your legal issues
  • Your potential options and strategies
  • Your chances of a successful outcome
  • The amount of work necessary for your case
  • Whether or not their firm is the right fit for your case

You should also take advantage of the consultation to ask important questions of your own. Some great questions to ask during an initial meeting include:

  • How long have you been practicing?
  • Do you have a great deal of experience with cases that are similar to mine?
  • What is your preferred method to communicate?
  • What laws apply to my case?
  • What is your preferred strategy to move forward?
  • What is my role?
  • Will you be handling my case personally?

Your attorney should discuss your chances of achieving your goals, challenges that might arise in your case, how much work is likely to be involved, and an estimate of the amount of time the case will take to come to a conclusion.

Understanding Attorney-Client Privilege

It’s important to your peace of mind to understand up front that Arizona’s Statute 13-4062 states that attorney-client privilege applies to your initial consultation with an attorney and can’t be presented in court. Attorney-client privilege is one of the state’s rules of evidence, and confidentiality is an ethical rule followed by attorneys. This means anything you disclose to your prospective attorney remains confidential. Even if you decide to choose a different attorney, the lawyer you discussed your case with will not disclose any information you shared.

Covering Costs and Fees

Once you and your prospective attorney complete discussions of the particulars of your case, you’ll also cover the costs and fees associated with your case and the law firm’s representation, as well as their billing practices. Most law firms charge fees in one of the following ways:

  • Flat fees: a preset amount for cases with predictable time expenditures, such as uncontested divorce or drafting documents such as wills and powers of attorney
  • Contingency fees: no out-of-pocket costs, but instead, the lawyer takes a percentage of the amount of compensation the client receives (personal injury and wrongful death lawyers may offer this option, but family lawyers do not, since their clients aren’t suing for damages)
  • Hourly fees

Be sure to ask your lawyer about court costs and filing fees as well so there won’t be any surprise bills.

Always look for an attorney who is upfront not only about costs and fees but also about the chances of achieving your desired outcome. A good attorney talks openly about the realities of your case rather than overpromising and under-delivering.