WHAT TYPE OF INFORMATION SHOULD I BRING TO AN INITIAL CONSULTATION?
Cole Law Group is pleased to offer potential clients a free 1-hour initial consultation. In order to use this consultation with an attorney to your best advantage, you should arrive promptly and bring with you a folder of any information pertinent to your legal issue. Be prepared with paper and pencil in order to take notes or write down helpful legal advice. It is a good idea to have a list of questions you would like the attorney to answer with regard to billing policies, communication, strengths and weaknesses of your case, possible outcomes, etc. You might also include a timetable of events that caused you to seek legal counsel.
Every case is different and unique. However, listed below is a general idea of what factual material you might bring to an initial meeting. Don’t be concerned if some of the items are not applicable to your particular situation or if you do not have them currently in your possession. Take a deep breath, relax, and arrive with what you have available–additional items can be retrieved at a later date. You must always keep original documentation in a safe place, so make copies of everything. Remember, information shared with the attorney during an initial consultation is strictly confidential. Below are lists of items that you should consider bringing to an initial consultation for specific types of cases.
Family Law Divorce Action
- Prenuptial/postnuptial agreement if one exists
- Information pertinent to the reason you are seeking a divorce
- Copies of your marriage certificate
- Copies of birth certificates for you and spouse and children
- Social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers for you and spouse
- Documentation of any prior marriages, separations, marriage counseling, protective orders, modification orders
- Educational backgrounds of you and spouse
- Information regarding children’s schools, special needs, activities, welfare, paternity, previous legal proceedings
- Past employment history and current employment information for both parties, including salaries, bonuses, commissions, expense accounts, anticipated raises, 1099’s, W2’s
- State and federal tax returns for the past three years
- Checking and savings account statements, money market account statements, copies of certificates of deposit, stocks and bonds certificates, IRA or 401-K account statements, and any other monetary documentation
- A list of valuable assets and any receipts for (car titles, jewelry, artwork, furniture, furs, silver, coins, collectibles)
- Real estate assets (personal or commercial) and current value thereof plus documentation of any past real estate transactions
- Financial statements or loan applications prepared by either party during the past three years
- Credit card statements for past year
- Copies of any personal debt information, personal notes, mortgage statements, car loans, home equity lines of credit
- Copies of wills, powers of attorney, advanced directive
- Photographs, videos, DVD’s that are pertinent to your case
Personal Injury Claims
- Copies of police or accident report
- Any exchange of information provided to you at the accident scene
- Names, addresses, and telephone numbers for any witnesses to the accident
- Names, job descriptions, and contact information for any employees of the business where you were injured
- Insurance information (whatever applies, i.e. automobile insurance, group health insurance, personal health insurance)
- Copies of insurance documents (cards, copies of policies)
- Any claim numbers that have been assigned to you by an insurance company
- Medical records from any facility that has provided you with treatment (doctor, chiropractor, hospital, therapist, etc.)
- A calendar marked with date of injury, surgery, medical appointments, or therapy sessions
- Copies of any bills you have received so far
- Medical records of any previous injuries or health conditions
- Copy of “unable to work” statement from doctor
- Photographs of property damage or physical injury
- Photographs of any relevant evidence associated with your accident (vehicles involved in an accident, or scene of your accident if you were injured on the property of another person or company
- Other concrete evidence (tool, toy, device, product etc. that injured you)
- Employment records
- Document whether anyone else has contacted you (insurance adjuster, insurance company representatives, another attorney, other persons involved in accident, media, etc.) and what you have said
- Any letters, e-mails, or correspondence that you have received from an insurance company, another person, an employer, or another company involved in your legal issue
These legal issues are varied and far-reaching, so bring
anything you think might be relevant to your dispute. The following
list may be helpful.
- A calendar, diary, journal of events pertaining to your case notated
in chronological order
- Any correspondence or e-mails between you and the opposing party
- Any conversations or meetings that you have recorded or otherwise
- Any employment or severance agreements that you have signed
- Any non-compete agreement that you have signed
- List of business associates, their titles and responsibilities, with
whom you interact
- Copies of performance reviews
- Documentation of any benefit plans in which you are vested
- Documentation of any stock option plans
- Copies of any business, sales, or lease contracts
- Any bills, receipts, or financial statement relevant to your case
- Any previous court hearings or documentation regarding your case
HOW CAN I HELP TO KEEP MY LEGAL EXPENSES DOWN?
Hiring a lawyer can be an expensive proposition, but there are specific things you can do to help keep your legal expenses under control. One of the most important decisions you will make, and one of the best ways to ensure that you won’t pay more for legal services than you should, is to hire the right attorney from the very beginning. (Switching lawyers midstream can result in having to pay a second retainer fee and the additional cost of bringing a second attorney up to speed in the case.) Do your homework, choose carefully, and hire an attorney that you trust, that you can communicate with, and who will be a zealous advocate for the objectives that you wish to achieve.
Be sure that you understand your attorney’s rates and billing policies. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about hourly or contingent fees, costs related to discovery, or the expenses associated with depositions and mediation. Make the effort to understand your attorney’s retainer agreement. Remember, there are no dumb questions.
Organize yourself. Keep a file of any documentation you have relevant to your specific case. A separate correspondence folder should include any attorney/client letters, notes, or memos. Do a backup of all e-mail correspondence. Review any court pleadings or reports. Focus on your legal issues, keep informed, and stay active in your legal case at all times. Your attorney can offer excellent legal advice, but you will need to make some important decisions and ultimately give direction.
Attorneys do charge for travel time, phone calls, meetings and reviewing/writing correspondence. Billing time with your attorney can be lessened and your attorney’s time will be more productive if you are efficient and prepared for all communication. Compile a list of questions or concerns (with the date that the issue occurred) in a notebook to use as a reference during your next attorney/client conference. Call your attorney only when you have an urgent problem; attorneys do bill for telephone conversations. Unfortunately, even though your lawyer understands that legal issues can be stressful and emotional, he is not a licensed therapist. Your attorney will be billing while he lends a sympathetic ear, and a trained professional is better suited to help you through separation, anger and resentment issues. Stay focused on your objectives. All too often legal fees are driven up by emotional issues.
And lastly, but very important, be honest with your attorney. Hiding or misconstruing facts will only hinder your case. Your lawyer must know the good points, the bad points, and the ugly points of your case. Otherwise, it will be more expensive for him to protect your rights, and if he does not know the whole story, he may find himself inadequately prepared to defend you in court. Trust your attorney and trust your client/attorney confidentiality.
The best advice I can give you is to establish what you hope to achieve from litigation and set realistic goals to accomplish those objectives. Don’t spend your attorney’s time litigating non-essential points, and if you are going to negotiate a settlement, be confident that both parties will do so in good faith. Otherwise, only the attorneys win.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS WITH REGARD TO REPRESENTING A CLIENT?
The following are my personal and professional goals in maintaining a successful attorney/client relationship.
- To respect my client and acknowledge that I am the client’s agent. While I can bring a superior knowledge of the law to your case, help you to strategize, and represent you either in court or mediation, you are in charge of your case and the final decision-maker. I will treat you courteously and give your case all the attention you deserve.
- To discuss with my client the strengths and weaknesses of his/her
case, set reasonable goals, offer sound counsel, and be a zealous advocate. I will be committed to finding creative solutions to your legal issue and will take the time to clearly explain to you all alternative strategies and options.
- To be forthright and honest with my client. An often quoted remark is, “I demand my lawyer tell me what I need to know, not what I want to hear.” I will help you achieve success by telling you upfront what you need to know. I will provide you with an honest appraisal of the likelihood of a successful outcome to your case and the possible consequences of unsuccessful litigation.
- To be a tough litigator or a low-key negotiator–whatever fulfills my client’s needs and objectives. My need to win does not enter into the equation.
- To communicate and be responsive to my client. I will promptly return telephone calls and answer your questions. I will keep you informed with progress reports about the status of your case. I will notify you of upcoming hearings and will provide you with copies of court documents and correspondence.
- To sign a written fee agreement that spells out the financial terms of my representation. I will provide you with a written itemized bill each month. I will not exceed estimated costs and fees without your written consent and will return any unused portion of your retainer or other advanced payments.
- To adhere to my personal values and professional standards. I will respect client confidentiality. I will always strive to keep my commitments to you and to establish a long-term relationship with you based upon trust.
Disclaimer: The answers to the Frequently Asked Questions and other information on this website are only generalized statements believed to be accurate as of the time the web page in question was published. Please do not rely on any advice in this website; rather, use the information to help you formulate questions for an attorney with whom you have chosen to consult about your particular situation.