HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR INITIAL CONSULTATION WITH A LAWYER ON A PERSONAL INJURY MATTER
How can you, as a client, have the most productive initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer?
Our office will need to know the date of the accident or other occurrence for the initial consultation. Strict time limitations apply to tort cases. The client is responsible for providing applicable dates to the attorney during the initial consultation. A little preparation on the part of the client will speed up the initial consultation.
We need your full name and a mailing address to give you a consultation. We keep a record of every consult. (We like to send each and every client a letter at the conclusion of the initial consultation.) Other attorneys, clerks, and paralegals within the firm will be working on your case. Your name and address are information that will make the consultation go smoothly and assist us in processing your case. In addition, time permitting, if you obtain a copy of your medical records in advance of your consultation, this is helpful.
Likewise, the Traffic Collision Report is an important document. Memories fade, so documentary evidence is often given more weight by the trier of fact. Bring whatever documentary evidence and photographs you might have to the initial consultation.
Meeting with a lawyer before medical records and accident reports are available is good to determine if the lawyer, the law firm and the client are a good fit. Look for a lawyer who specializes in your type of case. Has the lawyer tried civil cases to a verdict before a jury? How many jury trials has the lawyer conducted? What results has the lawyer obtained in jury trials and settlements in your exact type of case? Does the prospective lawyer list his/her specialty as “personal injury?” Is the staff polite? Did you feel listened to?
Your local bar association has a referral program. Does the lawyer list his/her specialty that he/she practices as personal injury? You sometimes can get the best referrals from satisfied friends and family members who have used the lawyer or law firm in the past.
The initial consultation is generally not a chance to ask legal questions that are in depth, but instead is an opportunity to get a sense as to whether this lawyer is the right one to handle your case. You should use the initial consultation to help you decide which lawyer will be the best lawyer for your case. How long has the lawyer been in business? Is he/she familiar with the local court rules and the judges in your area?
The client should also allow the lawyer to conduct the initial consultation because there is limited time that the lawyer can devote to initial consultations. Is the client cooperative? There are some rules of the road that both clients and lawyers should observe. Is the client cooperating with the law firm’s procedures during consultation and intake? We sometimes have to struggle just to get some clients’ names and addresses for the initial consultation. We work on hard copy files that all members of our team at the law firm can easily read to facilitate our work. We are totally computerized as well. Simple cooperation from the client with their name, address and telephone number goes a long way to making the relationship smoother. We need to document all consultations. That should be obvious.
You will get to know the lawyer with whom you speak with at the initial consultation. A lawyer will be assigned to your case. It may not be the lawyer with whom you initially consulted with because it is common to have other attorneys work on the case. There are many people working on your case such as paralegals, secretaries, clerks, investigators and lawyers. Not all work will be done by the person who conducts the initial consultation.
If you would like to consult with any of our attorneys at Heiting & Irwin, we will be more than happy to arrange for a free consultation to assist you with your personal injury matter.