The initial consultation is a crucial step in pursuing litigation for personal injury. In order to make the most of this valuable time, it’s important to adequately prepare for the meeting. That includes knowing what to expect, bringing relevant documents, and preparing questions to ask the lawyer during the consultation. Keep reading to learn more.
What can I expect at a lawyer consultation?
Think of a lawyer consultation as somewhat similar to a job interview. Both you and the attorney are trying to determine whether you will be a good fit. This means you will both need to review as much information as possible about the other.
At the very least, the lawyer will ask you for details about the incident at the center of your claim, and review documents related to the incident or aftermath, such as police reports, insurance correspondence, medical appointments, etc. This is an important way for the lawyer to be able to determine whether they have the knowledge, experience, and resources to handle your case.
However, the lawyer should not be the only one asking questions. Just as the lawyer is vetting you, you should be vetting the lawyer.
How do I prepare for a lawyer consultation?
In addition to any documents related to your case, it’s important to show up with a list of questions to ask the lawyer during the consultation. It’s also a good idea to consider the answers you expect, or hope, to receive beforehand.
With that in mind, here are some good questions to ask a lawyer during a consultation.
6 Questions to Ask a Lawyer During a Consultation
1. Have you handled this type of case before?
This might be the single most important question to ask any lawyer during a consultation. In order to get the best results, you’re going to want a lawyer with plenty of experience handling cases just like yours. Although the level of experience necessary will depend on the complexity of your situation, you’ll still want a lawyer who has some experience in the field of personal injury.
If your case is relatively straightforward, then you can decide whether or not you feel like hiring a less experienced lawyer whose services may come at a reduced cost.
In determining experience, the more concrete, detailed examples you’re able to get from the lawyer during the consultation, the better. Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions, especially relating to the success rate and any potential problems you might expect.
2. What will the fees and expenses be?
It’s important to know, right from the start, what the lawyer you’re meeting with is going to charge. Whether it be a fixed amount or an hourly rate, having a clear understanding of the cost of your case will help you decide whether or not it makes sense to proceed or pursue other options. If you’re suing for monetary damages, you should ask your lawyer if they can represent you on a contingency basis, which means they get paid only if they win the case on your behalf.
If a lawyer does provide the option to work on a contingency basis, ask what percentage of the money they’ll receive at the end of the case. Keep in mind, it’s typical for lawyers to take around one-third of the total amount, but this can vary from lawyer to lawyer and case to case.
When it comes to money, it’s crucial that you know early on what to expect, even though the lawyer most likely won’t be able to give you a precise quote during the initial consultation.
3. What strategy do you intend to use?
Some lawyers might be hesitant to give a strategy that’s too concrete until you’ve signed a contract or paid a retainer, but it’s still worth inquiring about. If the lawyer is willing to discuss it, ask not only about what strategies the lawyer is considering, but also about the amount of time they believe each strategy will take. You’ll have to balance the potential benefits with the cost and risk of different strategies, so it’s important to know about them early on.
4. What are the possible outcomes of my case?
Speaking of strategy, it’s a good idea to ask about the potential outcomes of any strategies the lawyer is considering. This provides even more information to help you determine the costs and benefits of each strategy.
5. What will my role be?
Another important question to ask the lawyer during the consultation is what the lawyer’s preferred strategy requires of you. On that note, you’ll want to ask how often the lawyer intends to provide updates over the course of the case as well as what kind of response or other communication is expected of you.
6. Are there alternatives to legal action?
Finally, it’s worth asking whether legal action is even the right course at all, as opposed to alternatives such as mediation, arbitration, or settling out of court. A good lawyer will give you an honest answer. Other good follow-up questions include how many of the lawyer’s cases typically get settled out of court and how much experience the attorney has going to trial.
Call Nelson MacNeil Rayfield with your questions
Although the specifics of your case will affect your concerns and the questions you ask a lawyer during a consultation, the value of writing your questions down (and writing down the lawyer’s responses) cannot be understated. When you schedule a free consultation with the personal injury attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we encourage you to ask any and all questions you may have concerning your case.