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Contacting a Lawyer - How to Prepare for a Meeting with a Lawyer


Client having a consultation with lawyer

Introduction

Meeting with a lawyer can be a stressful and intimidating experience, especially if you are facing a legal problem or dispute. However, you can make the most of your consultation by preparing yourself in advance and knowing what to expect. Here are some matters that you should consider before meeting a lawyer.


1.   Carry All Supporting Documents


documents client required to take to your first meeting with lawyer

One of the most important things to do before meeting a lawyer is to gather and organize all the relevant documents that pertain to your case. I am surprised at how this appears to be the exception rather than the rule. Almost all new clients inform me that they have the materials but did not bring it to the interview. This results in wasted time for two important reasons.


Firstly, timelines are usually applied to court proceedings and are also imposed for responses to lawyer letters. Bringing all documents saves time.


Secondly, to properly advise you your lawyer will usually need to review the documents related to your case.  This is important for you to get specific and accurate advice on your case.


Documents you should bring to the meeting may include contracts, agreements, receipts, invoices, letters, emails, texts, photos, videos, or any other evidence that can support your claim or defense. If you have been served with legal proceedings or received a legal letter, you should also bring those documents with you. Having all the necessary information at hand will help the lawyer understand your situation and advise you accordingly.


It is also best to bring original documents and have copies available, especially where the material is voluminous or where you have been served with legal proceedings.


2.   Have Realistic Expectations


lawyers work within the confines of the justice system be realistic in expectations accept delay in court matters

Another matter to consider before meeting a lawyer is to have realistic expectations about the outcome of your case and the legal process. In Trinidad and Tobago cases are known to drag on. While a lawyer can provide you with professional guidance and representation, they cannot guarantee a specific result or a quick resolution. Lawyers operate within the constraints of the judicial system. The law is complex and uncertain, and there may be factors that are beyond your or your lawyer's control. Therefore, you should be prepared for the possibility of delays, setbacks, or unfavourable outcomes. You should also listen to your lawyer's advice and follow their instructions, even if they are not what you want or expected to hear.


You should expect your lawyer to be open and honest with you about his assessment of your case.


3.   Ask About Bills and Charges


ask lawyer about fees invoices and payment plans retainer consultation

Enquire about consultation fees, even if they are not mentioned in your telephone conversation booking your appointment (although they should be). You should consider the costs of hiring a lawyer before meeting with them and also consider alternative sources like the Legal Aid or community mediation or the ombudsman (where applicable) if your resources do not allow for a private lawyer engagement.


Lawyers charge different fees depending on their experience, expertise, and the nature of your case. Some lawyers may charge a fixed fee, an hourly rate, a contingency fee (permitted in only specific situations), or a combination of these. You should ask your lawyer about their billing method, the estimated total cost, the frequency of invoices, and the payment options. You should also inquire about any additional expenses, such as court fees, filing fees, or expert fees. You should get a written fee agreement that outlines the terms and conditions of your lawyer's services. Bear in mind, however, that lawyers may only be able to properly assess the amount of work involved in your matter as the work unfolds. This is because one does not know what the other side’s case will be like, the quantity and evidence that will be relied upon and the exact extent of the parties’ dispute. Early estimates are likely to be just that, an estimate.


4.   Choose a Lawyer You Trust and Feel Comfortable With


client should feel comfortable with lawyer

Most people are referred to a lawyer from a friend or relative or choose popular public figures. However, you should choose a lawyer you trust and feel comfortable with. You will be sharing personal and sensitive information with your lawyer, and you will need to work with them closely throughout your case. Therefore, you should look for a lawyer who has the relevant experience and expertise in your area of law, who communicates clearly and explains legal matters in a way that you understand, and who listens to your needs and concerns. You can ask for referrals from friends, family, or other professionals, or you can search online for reviews and ratings of lawyers. You can also contact the Law Associatio of Trinidad and Tobago for a list of lawyers (available on their website) or legal aid office for assistance in finding a suitable lawyer.


5.   Be Honest


honesty is important for the client lawyer relationship

Be honest with your lawyer.  This may be embarrassing and emotional but to receive proper advice it is essential. Remember everything you tell your lawyer, even at an initial consultation, is private and confidential.


6.   Prepare a List of Questions and Concerns


client should take notes and ask questions

Finally, you should consider preparing a list of questions and concerns before meeting a lawyer. This will help you make the most of your consultation and ensure that you understand your legal situation and options. You can ask questions about your lawyer's background, experience, and approach, as well as questions about your case, such as the legal issues, the possible outcomes, the risks and benefits, the alternatives, the timeline, and the next steps. You can also express any concerns you have about your case, such as the emotional, financial, or personal impact. You should take notes during your meeting and ask for clarification if anything is unclear. It is important that you understand the process from beginning to end and feel comfortable asking your lawyer when you don’t. This can avoid serious misunderstandings and ensure that you and your lawyer work together as a team to resolve your dispute.


I believe that lawyers are as diverse and unique as the clients who retain them.  There is no ideal lawyer but there is a perfect fit for you.


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