FAQs on Legal Consulting
What are the positives?
- You can be very precise as to what information you need and how much of it you need based on your finances and your comfort level with the legal problem. You can budget for an hour or for sessions three times during your case.
- The attorney can help draft pleadings if they disclose to the Court that they’ve been retained for the limited purpose of drafting documents.
- Understanding how the legal process works and have a better idea how to proceed.
- Having your case go better because you understood the strengths and weaknesses in your case and are better at communicating with people like judges.
- Feeling calmer and more able to deal with the problem once they understand how to proceed.
- Usually a higher likelihood of success since a client is more likely to know if they need to settle if their case is weak, should settle if there is a good prospect for it or how to do a successful hearing or arbitration.
What are the negatives?
- The attorney you consult with can’t go to the hearing or mediation with you because they are not counsel of record.
- They attorney can’t send correspondence for you though they can coach you how to write a letter.
- The attorney can’t negotiate or even talk with various people involved because they are not counsel of record.
- The attorney can’t obtain information for the client in a formal way (although they can do legal research and informal research).
- The attorney is limited to the information provided by the client; which means if there are missing pieces the advice will be wrong or not as useful.
When should I schedule an initial consult?
As soon as you know there is a serious problem. There are more options at the beginning of a legal problem, which might resolve the controversy. If you wait, some of those options will be gone and errors might have been made that can’t be fixed.
How much does an initial consult cost?
When you are scheduling, be sure to check that attorney’s policy to see if they do a free consult or what their hourly rate is and then budget a time that fits with what you can afford. Also, check to determine if they do legal consulting since some do but most expect you to retain them. This is critical if you might want to have an ongoing consulting relationship with an attorney.
How much time do I schedule?
– Estimate how long it would take to explain the problem and show the attorney your documents. Keep in mind they will have questions and will need time to explain the law and their recommendations. For most legal problems, it is appropriate to schedule an hour or and hour and a half with an attorney. However, if you have a stack of legal documents or the problem is quite complicated, you might require more time.
What do I bring to an initial consult?
– It is important to bring court documents (for example, if you were just served with papers, bring them. If you are part-way through a case, bring all the pleadings). For other types of problems, bring documents like leases, agreements, police reports, etc. Official documents are important to getting good advice but informal documents might also be important. For example, if you have four emails that show threats made to you, bring them.
What should I tell an attorney at the start of the consult?
– What you want from them. Do you want an overview of the law? Do you understand the law but need specific answers to questions? Do you want them to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your case? Do you want them to coach you on how to handle a hearing, mediation, etc.? Do you want a list of options available to you with their recommendations?
How do I maximize the time I have for a consult?
– If you have a huge stack of documents that you are considering taking with you, organize it and put it in easy to reference sections and consider doing a summary of what the documents are and what is important about them since some of it may not be relevant to your case. Also, write down your questions and concerns so that you stay on track and get all the information you need.
What do I avoid at a consult?
– The three problems are: 1) Being under-prepared; 2) being overly emotional and going off-track; 3) overwhelming the attorney with information. The under-prepared people often lack critical information and have to reschedule. People who are overly emotional may spend a great deal of time talking about how frustrated, angry or hurt they are and lose time they could have spent getting information. Finally, some people show up with a huge volume of information and have to reschedule because it would take hours for the attorney to wade through the stack and give them answers.
How do I determine whether one session is enough or how many I need?
– The first session should give you a sense of how much help you need. If you feel confident you understand the legal issues, your options and how to proceed, one session might be fine. However if you know the case is complex and you will need ongoing help as the case develops, be aware of information or developments that you don’t understand or feel comfortable with and consider a follow-up session.
How can I tell whether I can consult or if I will need full representation?
1) By doing cost benefit analysis; which involves looking at the likely range of cost to have an attorney compared to how much you have to lose. (for example, if you might lose $200,000 or custody of your children and the cost of having an attorney ranges from $4,000 to 25,000, then you should make serious efforts to get a loan for representation);
2) How complex are the proceedings? (If after a consult, you still don’t understand the process and what you will need to do on your own or you don’t feel you can’t manage them on your own, then you likely need full representation. There’s no simple answer on this since it varies according to the person.)
If I suspect I will need an attorney but want to save as much legal money as possible, what do I do?
-Schedule a consult and see if you can do some of the preliminary work on the case on your own while consulting with an attorney. Arrange with that attorney when they will jump in on the case. If you have been working with them, you can schedule hearing dates for dates when they are clear. Once they are the case, you might be able to assist on portions of the case which saves on the attorney or their paralegal needing to do certain tasks.