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What Should I Expect at the First Meeting with My Attorney?

March 11, 2024

An initial consultation with an attorney is a key step in the litigation process. Let’s look at what you should expect in the meeting and what you can do to be ready beforehand.

This first meeting has a couple of purposes: (1) the attorney wants to understand the primary aspects of your case, determine the merits of your claim, and decide whether to accept you as a client; and (2) you want to see if have a case that would be aided by legal representation, and you want to decide if you should go ahead and hire this particular attorney.

To accomplish this, the attorney will ask questions and listen to your account of your accident. He or she will also examine any documents you have, such as your insurance policy, police reports, photographs, medical records, etc. Then, he or she will give you an assessment of your case and answer any questions you may have.

If you both are comfortable moving forward, you’ll be asked to sign a retainer agreement, which is compensation agreement for the law firm. For personal injury or medical malpractice cases, the law firm will agree to accept a fixed percentage of the amount you recover, which is known as a contingent fee arrangement. If you win, the attorney is paid out of the recovery; if you lose, you don’t pay anything except costs.

Get Ready for Your Initial Consultation

How well your initial meeting goes will be based in no small part on how well you prepare in advance. This prep work will give the attorney a more complete picture of your potential case. In addition, it will make better use of your time together. Here’s what’s on your “to-do” list:

  1. Collect Your Documentation. The firm will want to review all the documents and evidence for your case, which will help them evaluate the strength of your case. These documents might include:
  • Accident and police reports;
  • Insurance claims;
  • Photos of the scene and injuries of you and any passengers;
  • Medical records;
  • Invoices from doctors and hospitals;
  • Witness statements and contact information;
  • Any correspondence between you and the other party;
  • Financial records, like pay stubs, expenses for auto repair, rental car charges, and similar; and
  • Court pleadings.
  1. Create an Event Timeline. Compose a timeline of the relevant events. This can refresh your memory during the conversation with the attorney and help you keep your story more organized. Moreover, this will keep you from forgetting important points during the meeting.
  2. Make a List of Questions to Ask the Attorney. Prepare a list of questions in advance. You can also review the firm’s website to avoid wasting time asking questions that are answered there.

During the meeting, be honest and don’t withhold any relevant information. Your discussion with the attorney is protected by attorney-client privilege and will remain confidential. Plus, to give you the best possible representation, the firm must have all details to be ready for any issues that may be raised by the other side. At the close of the initial consultation, you should have a clear understanding of what you’ve talked about and what’s happening next. Hopefully, you now have an attorney who represent you. Ask questions so you’re comfortable with the next steps and have an expectation of what actions will follow.