Brian White | March 6, 2017 | Personal Injury
While some people crack lawyer jokes with friends and others rub shoulders with attorneys in their communities, many feel nervous about speaking with attorneys at the start of a case. The initial consultation is like an interview. Fit, ease of communication, and honesty matter and will set the tone of the attorney/client relationship.
If you’ve never hired an attorney before, use these tips to make the most of your first meeting.
- Be honest and open. You may not want to tell your yoga instructor or your accountant the nitty gritty details of your life, but you should be able to trust attorneys and physicians with full and honest information. Before he or she can evaluate the merits of a claim, an attorney needs to know what happened.
- Tell your story, including any details you remember, but try not to exaggerate or purposefully hold back potentially important information. Your attorney will determine what is and isn’t important during the case evaluation. The more facts and details you can provide, the better.
- Tell your story chronologically. Many people talk from stream of consciousness and may bounce around from memory to memory during the recounting process. We highly recommend writing down an outline of events to jog your memory. Start at the beginning, give details along the way, and finish your story with the most recent event. This will help your attorney keep the facts straight from the beginning.
- Ask questions. Consider jotting down a few questions prior to your meeting. You may want to know more about the practice, prior cases, case fees, and if the attorney will personally work on your case from start to finish. Many personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, including ours. While an attorney may follow a certain format for the meeting, prospects and clients can use the time to gain information and peace of mind about the legal process.
- Don’t bring friends or acquaintances. What you say to your attorney in private is confidential. If you introduce another party, you could lose some level of confidentiality regarding your case. Before you post information about your case on social media, invite friends or family members to a meeting, or tell your story to a reporter, ask your attorney about the risks of communicating outside of a confidential setting.
- Review documents carefully. Take your time before you sign a power of attorney document or a contract to hire your attorney. You should fully understand and feel comfortable with the terms of the arrangement. Don’t feel rushed to make a decision or sign over powers that you don’t feel comfortable giving. Ask for any clarification you need to stay informed.
- Don’t wait until the last minute. Every case falls under a statute of limitations. For most personal injury claims in Texas the statute of limitations is two years from the time of the injury. If you wait to contact an attorney, you may lose your ability to file a claim and rushed claims may not give you the best chance at a fair outcome. Give yourself and the attorney enough time to fully explore the merits of the case, compile evidence, and protect your rights.
- Use these tips in subsequent conversations. Every case relies on strong communication between a client and an attorney. Give your attorney feedback and try to prepare for each meeting or phone conversation with the evidence, information, and descriptions your attorney needs to build a strong case. Ideally, your relationship with your attorney should put you at ease and not make you feel more stressed out about medical costs, time away from work, or the status of the case.
Your attorney’s best interests lie with yours. The best way to approach a legal claim is with open and honest communication. Together, you can find a viable legal solution for any claim.