Hiring a lawyer can be a costly business. Whether you need someone to represent you for a criminal matter, write a will or handle a divorce, it’s important to find the right lawyer for your case. But how do you know you have a case? That’s the first question everyone ready to hire a lawyer asks themselves.

Finding out if you have a case doesn’t have to be an overly expensive process. In fact, it doesn’t have to cost anything at all. Many law firms offer free consultations about your prospective case. Here are a few steps you should take to ensure that you come to your consultation completely prepared:

1) Bring All Necessary Documents

Be sure to bring with you any and all documents that might help your case. Even if you are not sure, it’s better to bring them than leave them behind. If you’re handling a divorce, bring your marriage license. If you’re dealing with a case of abuse, bring any and all police reports filed.

2) Take Notes

As you discuss your case with your potential lawyer, there will be a lot to take in. Writing notes for yourself is a great way to make sure you don’t miss anything.

3) Be Completely Honest

This may be the most important step. Make sure you are completely honest in your account of your legal problem. Your conversation with your lawyer is confidential, and cannot be shared with anyone without your explicit permission. That being said, put everything on the table, including issues you may feel sensitive about or that concern family members.

4) Ask Questions

If you want every detail covered in your consultation with a lawyer, you have to be the one to ask all the right questions. For your guidance, here are some important questions to consider:

  • Is the lawyer’s professional background/experience similar to your legal problem?
  • What is the lawyer’s proposed strategy for handling your legal problem? What are your options?
  • How will your legal problem be managed and staffed? Who will be handling negotiations and court appearances?
  • How much does the lawyer charge for his or her services? How much should you expect to pay in legal fees, and when does he or she expect for you to pay them?
  • Let’s say you have special requirements for your case – can the lawyer meet these needs?
  • How long has the lawyer been practicing law? Where and when did the lawyer graduate from law school?
  • Can the lawyer put you in touch with former clients for whom they have handled legal matters similar to yours?
  • What potential problems or obstacles might you encounter while taking your case to trial?
  • How long does the lawyer think your legal issue will take to resolve?
  • What are the possible outcomes of your case?
  • How can your lawyer be reached? When can you expect to hear reports about your case (weekly, monthly, etc.)?
  • Finally, before you leave, ask the lawyer if there are any questions that you should have asked but didn’t.

5) Read All Documents Carefully before You Sign

If you are required to sign documents, ask your lawyer to fully explain what exactly it is that you’re signing. Take your time reading the document yourself as well. If there’s anything at all that you don’t understand, ask your lawyer to explain before you sign.

6) Keep Your Own Files

Ask your lawyer for copies of any and all documents, letters and forms regarding your case. If you have to sign something, make sure you get your own copy. You should also keep the written fee agreement for your records.

7) Listen!

Of course you want to be heard when you explain your legal problems, but it is very important that you listen with the same undivided attention. Don’t let your note taking distract you from lending an ear. Remember that while your lawyer’s judgments are based on legal training and experience, he or she is not a magician. No lawyer wins every case they tackle, and sometimes the best legal advice might not be exactly what you want to hear. Just know that whatever the proposed plan of action, your lawyer has your best interests in mind and will do his or her best to carry out your legal problem effectively.

*Image courtesy of moppet65535