For many people, their first meeting with an attorney may be the first time in their life that they have had to meet with a lawyer. You have already experienced a range of emotions. You are probably concerned, angry, and nervous. Here are some tips for what to expect and how to make the most out of your consultation.
Expectation 1: Expect to tell your attorney your story
Before you go for your initial consult, think about what you want from your case. What are your goals and priorities? You alone know the story from your perspective. What is your philosophy? Is your top priority to just get the case resolved and move on? Is fighting tooth and nail the most important thing to you? Do you want your day in court - aka are you determined to go to trial? Be prepared to tell your attorney what the most important things are to you.
Further, be prepared to clearly tell the attorney all the important facts. Be prepared to be candid and honest with your attorney - we can not do our job effectively unless we know everything from start to finish. Communication is key. There is confidentiality with your attorney except in very limited situations - trust us. We will not judge, but we need to know the negative facts as well as the positive. The more information you can provide at your initial consultation, the more you will take away from it.
Expectation 2: Expect to get to know your attorney
You are the client and you need to get to know this person and see if you would like to work with them. What kind of law does the attorney generally practice? How many cases similar to yours has the attorney handled? How does the attorney suggest approaching your case? Feel free to question your attorney about her experience, practice and ideology.
How does your attorney make you feel? Did your attorney take the time to truly understand your situation, your family and your goals? Did your attorney explain the process and answer your questions in plan English? Is your attorney focusing on their own bottom line? If you are not comfortable with the lawyer, trust your instincts
Expectation 3: Don't expect to leave with a guarantee
Many clients want a guaranteed result - They want to know exactly what is going to happen by the end of the case. This is impossible - every case is different and results are unpredictable. Typically, an attorney will provide a range of possible outcomes but even this is a guess. You should be suspect of anyone who tries to give you a guarantee - alarms should go off and red flags should wave.
Criminal cases grind at a slow pace and often there is no way to speed them up. Expect your case to take some time before it is resolved.
Expectation 4: Have realistic expectations: result, time, and cost
Attorneys are not miracle workers. Just because you hire an attorney does not mean a criminal case goes away. I often turn away cases because the potential client has unrealistic expectations. You should approach an initial consultation with an open mind, ask about potential results, and listen to what the attorney has to say. You may get different answers from attorney to attorney. These answers can give you key incite into who is telling you the truth and who is just trying to convince you to hire them. If you have unrealistic expectations you may end up hiring whatever attorney tells you what you want to hear, not the attorney that will get you the best result.
I know that many people just want to get their criminal case behind them - they want to move on from their mistakes as quickly as possible - but the truth is, criminal cases grind at a slow pace and often there is no way to speed them up. Have a realistic expectation as to the timeline and ask questions if you are unsure. Expect your case to take some time before it is resolved.
Last, it is important to have realistic expectations as to potential costs. Defending a criminal case can require intense work over numerous hours. It is important to understand the potential costs associated with your defense. Don't walk into a consultation expecting an attorney to work for free. If you do not have the money to hire a private attorney you may qualify for representation through the public defenders office.
That being said, it is important to go into the meeting with a ball park idea about what a reasonable representation fee for your case looks like. Ask questions about potential additional fees, hourly fees, etc. Ask what amount is due up front and how long you will have to pay the remainder. It is important that you understand any contract you enter before signing on the dotted line. Most of the time you should shop around, even if you find an attorney you like and trust - this is the only real way to evaluate the attorney's quoted price. If you think the attorney is asking too much, make an offer - it may be that they are willing to negotiate.
Expectation 5: Bring all your paperwork
Bring it all. The attorney may be able to gather important information that you have overlooked or don't understand.