5 Questions to Ask Your Attorney at Your Initial Consultation

Attorney consultations are the first step in any legal matter. Here are five important questions to ask in order to get the most out of that first meeting.

Your initial consultation with a prospective attorney can be quite an experience. You might be feeling nervous, apprehensive, angry, excited or a variation of all of these emotions. Most importantly, you will want to have a consultation that is informative and can point you in the right direction with respect to resolving your matter. Asking the right questions is crucial to determining not only if this attorney can actually help you but also if this particular attorney is someone with whom you can work. Consider asking the following questions:

1) What are your primary practice areas?

If you are a recording artist, you would want to select an entertainment lawyer. Getting divorced? A divorce attorney or family law attorney would be best.  Buying a new home calls for a real estate attorney. Asking this question will help you determine whether this particular attorney actually knows the subject matter pertaining to your case.

2) What are your fees and how will I be billed?

This is probably your least favorite question to ask and have answered, but it is quite possibly the most important. It is imperative that both you and the attorney are on the same page, especially when it comes to money. You should know, before any work is done, whether you will be billed hourly off a retainer, be billed on a flat fee basis, whether the case will be on contingency, if you can pay in installments etc. You would not want to be hit with any surprises going forward, especially a $10,000 surprise. Forewarned is forearmed.  

3) When can I reasonably expect this matter to be resolved?

You will definitely want to know how long it will take for your matter to be resolved. Although surprises do come up from time to time, a good attorney will be able to give you a reasonable time line.

4) How often, and at what times, may I contact you and will I be charged for any communication?

It is important, for both you and your attorney, to have clarity with respect to communication. Going through a legal battle can be quite nerve-wracking and you may want to call your lawyer frequently for updates, to vent, or just to talk. Although some lawyers do not mind, others may put a cap on emails and phone calls and may charge you per communication. Knowing this at the outset will make your journey together run smoothly. Additionally, you may also want to ask your attorney if they accept text messages. If that is your preferred method of communication, they may be willing to accommodate.

5) What documentation/materials will you need from me?

Be sure to ask what will be necessary in order to facilitate the handling of your case. Have all materials in your possession pertaining to your case ready and in order.

The purpose of the initial consultation is to gain clarity with respect to your matter and to quell any fears, anxiety or confusion that you may have. A good attorney should be able to point you in the right direction, even if that requires referring you to another attorney more suitable for your case. With these preliminary questions, you will be able to efficiently navigate your way through your free consultation.

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Melissa Bernier

Principal and Managing Attorney at Bernier Legal, LLC
New York City-based entertainment, fashion and business attorney with over ten years of experience.Talent manager, entrepreneur and public speaker.
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