Lawyer Meeting Preparation
Whether you are paying for your lawyer or receiving free legal advice, be prepared and make the best use of the time you spend with your lawyer. If you have formally retained a lawyer every moment spent with them is billable time. You don’t want to spend valuable time with your lawyer searching for documents when you should be focusing on the important legal aspects of your case.
If you are receiving free (“pro bono”) legal advice, it is likely that your time with a lawyer will be limited. Generally, “pro bono” appointments are of a thirty-minute duration. It is important that you have your information organized so you can make the best use of this time.
If you follow the four steps in this guide, you will be well-prepared and know what to expect when you meet your lawyer. This will help you to make good use of your time and be in a better position to understand your rights.
Step 1: Prepare Your Story
Write out your story. Do this in the order that things happened (chronological order). Don’t worry about writing in sentences. Point form is fine.
This is your written statement. Put in all the facts that you consider important. Be specific as to the dates and who said what if you can.
This statement does not need to be long. Usually a good goal is about two pages.
This document will remain confidential, between only you and your lawyer.
- Take the written statement with you to the interview. It will help refresh your memory when you are talking to the lawyer
- If you have questions you want to ask the lawyer, write them out and take them with you. It’s easy to forget the questions if you don’t write them down. The lawyer will want to know all the details
The lawyer will want to know:
- Exact dates, if possible
- Who said what to whom – the exact words, not a summary
- Who was present during conversations and how long the conversations lasted
Important: The lawyer needs to know all the details, good and bad, about your case. If you are completely frank, the lawyer will be in the best position to handle your problem and advise you on the same.
Lawyers, even in an initial interview, have to keep what is said confidential. You can be open with your lawyer.
Step 2: Organize Your Documents
Take all letters and documents about your legal problem with you to the interview. If you are in doubt about an item, bring it anyway.
Organize your documents in a logical order, preferably according to their dates. If you have a lot of documents you may wish to create a document list with the description of each document, who created it and when. Try to put your documents in a binder and use a posit or tab to separate them.
Step 3: Go to the Interview
There are four “S’s” to a successful interview with a lawyer:
People tend to talk too fast in a lawyer interview. This is natural. Many of us are nervous when we have to see a lawyer. We want to tell all. Think about it this way: hearing your story is like eating dinner.
- If the lawyer is eating too fast, they won’t be able to digest it properly
- If you tell your story slowly, this gives the lawyer time to digest and understand your story. If you talk slowly, you give the lawyer time to ask questions. You will avoid missing important facts
The better prepared you are for the interview, the better advice the lawyer can give you.
All of us want to be seen in a good light. When we talk to other people, we usually try to emphasize the favorable things about ourselves. There is nothing wrong with this. It helps us all get along. However, when you’re talking to a lawyer, things are different. You need to give the lawyer both good information and bad information. If you did something wrong, admit it to the lawyer. It will most likely be brought to their attention later anyway, by the opposing party.
Be open and completely honest with your lawyer. The lawyer needs to know the good and the bad information at the beginning. That will help the lawyer to give you good advice and save time and possibly money in the long run. Unless the lawyer knows everything, they cannot give you good advice.
The law requires specific information. If you are asked a question such as: “On what date did this happen?”, it is best to give a specific date, e.g., March 15, 2006. If you can’t be specific, be as specific as possible. “It happened the week of March 12, 2006.” Do not summarize conversations. Instead, tell the lawyer, “Mr. Jones said…and then I said…” Repeat the exact words that were said if you can remember them. The more straightforward you are in the interview, the better advice the lawyer can give you.
When you are telling your story to the lawyer, tell it in chronological order. That is, tell it in the order that it happened. Try not to skip from one time period to another. You cannot tell everything at once, but you can get to all the important parts.
If you have papers and documents, get them in order before you go to see the lawyer. It is a waste of your time to spend several minutes looking for one letter in a pile of letters.
- Fill out the Information Sheet and take it with you
- Fill out the Document List and take it with you
- Write out your story before you go to the lawyer. If you have questions to ask the lawyer, write them down before you go. That way, you won’t forget them
- When you meet with the lawyer, remember to be slow, straightforward, specific and systematic