During your initial meeting, you will need to obtain an early sense of how the attorney evaluates your case. You also need to know what to expect in terms of fees and expenses.
Be sure to ask about the day-to-day activities of the attorney and why they chose this practice area. Additionally, it is a good idea to find out whether the attorney has any additional training or insights that could help your case.
1. What is your primary practice area?
Choosing the right practice area is one of the most important decisions attorneys make. It can have a significant impact on their personal life and career success, both now and in the future.
Typically, civil law involves disputes between people or companies, as opposed to criminal matters. Civil cases often involve torts like wrongful death, personal injury or product liability.
Health law covers the laws and regulations pertaining to healthcare. Attorneys in this field may represent patients, doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies.
Energy law covers the legal issues and policies associated with oil and gas, including regulatory work at a federal level. It can include pipeline regulation and rate proceedings. Other areas of this practice are power generation, traditional coal, natural gas and combination-fueled projects as well as electricity transmission projects. This is a very complex and sophisticated practice area.
2. What is your experience?
One of the most important aspects of any legal matter is communication. Asking about an attorney’s communication style during your first meeting can help you gauge whether or not they will be a good fit for your legal claim.
Explain how you handle difficult conversations with clients, as well as other attorneys. Your answer should emphasize the importance of maintaining a healthy client-attorney relationship and the value of open and honest communication.
If the lawyer’s practice area focuses on business law, you may want to ask about how they have handled contracts in the past. This question can also reveal how much experience they have with corporate governance, as well as their knowledge of the complexities involved in writing contracts that protect client interests. You might also like to mention any strategies you use to stay informed about changes in the legal landscape.
3. What is your fee structure?
Whether you have a flat fee arrangement or hourly billing, it’s important to understand how your attorney charges for their services. This also helps you budget your legal expenses and will prevent surprises down the road.
Some legal matters have costs associated with them such as filing fees, court reporter costs and sheriff costs that are set by third parties and cannot be controlled by the attorney. Your lawyer may charge an advance fee and then bill against it as they earn it, or they may include the upfront costs with their legal fees in a retainer agreement.
It’s also good to know whether your attorney will be the sole practitioner working on your case or if they will work on it in collaboration with others. This will help you decide if you are comfortable with them and their approach to your case.
4. How long will it take to resolve my case?
It can take a long time to resolve a case. This can be due to various factors, including the attorney’s availability and court schedule. For this reason, you want to make sure that the attorney you hire has experience handling cases similar to yours.
It’s important for an attorney to be honest with their clients. If they believe that your case is not winnable, they should tell you so upfront. However, they should also be able to give you an idea of what the most likely outcome is. This can help you plan your next steps. Moreover, it will let you know how dedicated they are to your case. They should be able to provide you with an estimate of the timeline for your legal action. This includes how long it will take for your case to be resolved if it goes to trial.
5. What is your strategy?
In most cases, you want an attorney that has a good number of wins under their belt. You also want an attorney that knows when litigation is the best option and when a different strategy would be more beneficial.
You should also ask your lawyer about how many clients they normally have on a case. This will help you understand if they are very busy and how much time they can devote to your matter. It will also give you an idea of how long it may take to resolve your case. This can be important for budgeting purposes. Additionally, you should also ask them what their overall goals are for your case. This will help you gauge whether they are a good fit. Also, it will reveal if they have a strong passion for justice.
6. Do you have any other legal knowledge or training?
The attorney you engage should be able to explain what legal resources are available and how they can help with your matter. For example, you may want to discuss what pretrial motions could be filed to suppress the use of evidence or to have charges dismissed.
You should also ask about the attorney’s experience in the courthouse where your case will be held. If the attorney has handled cases there in the past, they will likely have a good understanding of what to expect from the judge and other attorneys involved.
You should also consider whether an attorney will be working solely on your matter or if they will be assisted by paralegals or associates. If they will have additional support, you should find out who that person is and their level of expertise. This is important because it will impact how your case is managed and the outcomes.
7. Do you bill for phone calls or emails?
Generally speaking, attorneys shouldn’t be billing for their time spent answering client calls and writing emails. Some attorneys do have a policy of only returning phone calls after hours, but this should be disclosed upfront.
If your attorney is a solo practitioner, it’s important to ask about how they manage their workload. Some firms have paralegals or new associates who help manage paperwork and cases overseen by senior lawyers. If your case will be handled by an assistant or a junior attorney, confirm their hourly rates are lower than those of the senior lawyer handling your case.
Your attorney should be able to clearly explain the strategy for your case and its likelihood of success. They should also tell you if they think your goals are unrealistic and provide alternative strategies. This demonstrates pragmatism. Choosing the right attorney will make the process more efficient and cost-effective.
8. How frequently will you be available?
Ultimately, you want to know how often your attorney will be available to discuss the case and answer questions. This will help you plan your own schedule and determine if the attorney’s office hours work well for you.
In addition, if the case will be in a particular courthouse, you may want to ask how frequently your lawyer has worked in that courthouse. This can be important for several reasons, including the fact that some attorneys may have a better working knowledge of how judges interact with their cases than others.
The phrases “are you available,” “will you be available” and “would you be available” are all grammatically correct, so choose one based on your preference and the tone of your question. Asking the right questions can help you build trust and a strong working relationship with your attorney.
9. Do you have any conflicts of interest?
It’s important to ask your attorney about any potential conflicts of interest that may arise in their handling of your case. Conflicts can be real or perceived, and perceived conflicts pose the same risks as actual ones.
A financial conflict of interest occurs when you or a family member stands to gain or lose financially from a decision. There are also non-financial conflicts of interest, such as where a personal relationship, or a business connection, might be affected by a decision.
Conflicts of interest are best managed by disclosure. Disclosure allows you to be transparent about your private interests, which in turn helps you avoid any actual or perceived bias. This is a key principle in the Local Authorities (Members’ Interests) Act and other good practice guides. It’s equally important to be transparent about any potential perception of a conflict of interest, as that is difficult to address otherwise.
10. Do you collaborate with your clients?
As a client you should expect your attorney to communicate and collaborate with you throughout the case. That means establishing clear communication channels and setting up regular meetings to discuss important updates.
However, circumstances can change, and it is important to know if your attorney will adjust the plan to account for those changes. This is not only good practice but essential to a successful collaboration.
Also, if your lawyer has a team that will be working on your case, it is important to ask who you should contact with questions and concerns. For example, if an attorney has important personal or family obligations that prevent them from making it to a meeting, it is important to know who you can reach out to for assistance.