Legal Advice – Consulting FAQs – Updated For Covid 19

 In Consulting, Helpful Articles

Legal advice can be expensive if you retain counsel but there is an alternative; legal consulting gives you legal advice for as often as you need according to your budget.  It’s also a great option during Covid times since you can get the advice you need by phone or email and not need to go in to see an attorney.

How much does legal consulting cost?

  • The client chooses how much time they want to spend with the attorney and are usually billed at an hourly rate.  Some attorneys offer a free initial consultation.  All of this information should be provided before a consult is scheduled.

What is the difference between retained counsel and legal consulting?

  • Retained counsel enter an appearance with the Court for your case and are responsible for meeting court deadlines, filing all necessary pleadings and appearing in court with the client.  They are expected to be on hand to advise the client and deal with opposing counsel and anyone else concerned with the case whenever needed.  That’s useful but it also means any time the Court wants something done, an opposing counsel wants to talk or something else happens it goes on your bill because your attorney is required to diligently respond.  Attorneys who do legal consulting can provide service as needed.

Can an attorney I consult with draft legal pleadings?

  • Yes, as long as they note in the Caption of the pleading “Legal Representation for Drafting Purposes Only” and the client must file the pleadings.

Can an attorney attend Court with me on a limited basis?

  • Yes, if they specifically state they are only there for a particular hearing but even so, there are rules and it can create confusion with the Court even when those rules are followed since Judges and clerks tend to expect that an attorney who has entered a case for a limited appearance will continue to be on the case.  Still, for some clients, having assistance with a particular hearing can be quite useful.

Do I have an attorney/client relationship with a consulting attorney?

  • Yes, which means there is full client confidentiality and an obligation to the client to advise them fully and accurately.  This obligation does not extend to any matter other than what the client chooses to consult the attorney on and is limited to the information the client provides to the attorney.

Is legal consulting less expensive than fully retained counsel?

  • Usually, it is far less expensive, because the attorney isn’t required to meet court deadlines, prepare court required paperwork, deal with opposing counsel and so forth. The attorney is only obligated to consult with the client when asked.  However, if the client consults with the attorney regularly, it could become more expensive.

How does a client choose between retained counsel and consulting?

  • Typically, this is a financial decision.  Some clients absolutely cannot afford to retain counsel but can afford an hour or more of consulting.  If finances are not as crucial, the decision has more to do with how complicated the case is, how much the client has at stake if they lose and their comfort level  as to dealing with a court case.

Is there a danger to legal consulting compared to retained counsel?

  • Litigation is full of hazards.  Having an attorney working on the daily basis means they know exactly what is going on and would likely have a better feel for the overall situation. They are also in the courtroom from the beginning of the case to the end and usually have the familiarity and comfort level with litigation so that they can deal with the challenges of litigation, including the unexpected.  However, having retained counsel isn’t a cure-all since their ability to help you depends on the attorney’s skill level, commitment to the case and how much information the client shares with them.  Still, legal consulting does have certain hazards because the attorney is not present throughout the case and that means they might not realize there is missing information  or that there is some dynamic that they are unaware of that that might affect their advice.   Worst case scenario, it could be more expensive if the client loses their case because they weren’t prepared to do the case correctly on their own or because the client didn’t tell the attorney crucial information that led to advice that wasn’t helpful.

If it’s potentially dangerous to not have retained counsel, why don’t people pay or borrow the money to have retained counsel?

  • Litigation is often extremely expensive due to the requirements the Courts have of attorneys, the length of the case and other variables.  For that reason, many  people consult because it’s a middle ground between  a legal bill that is beyond their means or having no legal assistance at all. Additionally, there are some clients feel their case is something they can manage on their own with some advice because it’s not too complicated and they don’t feel there’s a significant downside if they’re mistaken.

If I am considering consulting with an attorney, what do I ask them?

  • Check to be sure they do consulting, their prices, whether any of the initial consult is free and what their areas of expertise are.  If, for example, you are getting a divorce, it would be helpful to know if  domestic relations (also known as family law) is a regular part of their practice and if their initial consult has a free component (such as that the first half hour is free) as well as what information they want you to bring with you.  The more you know about their process, the better able you are to decide if you want a consult and how long that should be.

How is consulting paid?

  • Payment is due in advance or immediately after service is provided.  It is uncommon to bill the client unless there is an ongoing consulting relationship with a retainer.  (If a client anticipates an ongoing need to consult with an attorney, they might put in a small retainer so that they can call, email  or schedule more conveniently.)

Do all attorneys do legal consulting?

  • No, many don’t because they are uncomfortable with the prospect that they might not have all the relevant information and because they do not have control over the case. And of course, some honestly feel that it isn’t appropriate to send a party off to represent themselves.

How do I determine how much time to 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?

  • Precisely 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.
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