A consultation with an attorney is your time to gather the information you need to decide whether to hire him, in addition to providing information about the case.
It is highly beneficial to the client to actively participate in the initial consultation, to the point of even controlling or guiding the meeting.
One of the ways the client can do that (without being a bully) is to ask many open ended questions of the attorney, so that the attorney can provide sufficient information about his background, training, and experience.
Ideally, the client needs to be reassured that the attorney has a lot of recent experience in the practice area.
Recommended Questions To Ask a Lawyer During a Consultation
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You don’t have to ask all of these questions. But a good number of them should elicit enough information to decide whether to hire the attorney:
What is your experience handling this kind of case?
How long have you been handling cases like mine?
How often do you handle this kind of case?
What other types of cases do you handle?
When was the most recent instance of you handling a case like mine?
When was the last time you took a case like this to trial? (If relevant–recent trial experience might be really necessary)
Can you tell me about specific cases like mine and what happened?
What strategies work in a case like mine?
What are the potential outcomes of a case like mine?
What circumstances would make a positive outcome in my case more likely?
What would be your initial plan in my case?
How long will a case like mine take?
What would make the case longer (or wrap up sooner)?
Can you estimate how much the attorney fees will cost me?
What is the fee structure? (hourly, flat fee, contingent)
What are the primary costs associated with my case, aside from attorney fees?
Are there alternative dispute resolution opportunities in my case?
Are you prepared to take my case to trial?
When was the last time you tried a case?
When was the last time you handled a jury trial?
Have you ever appeared in the court where my case is located?
Which attorney will be handling my case?
Will any other attorneys be helping with my case?
Which attorney will I be speaking with when I call to talk about my case?
What is the experience of the other attorneys assisting on my case?
How often can I expect to hear from the law firm about my case?
What will you need from me to prepare this case for settlement/arbitration/trial/resolution?
What can I do to improve the chances of success in the case?
Other Questions People Recommend
Many websites recommend that clients ask potential lawyers about their win/loss percentage.
This is a really annoying question to receive as an attorney, and it is a poor question for a client to ask.
First of all, we attorneys don’t keep track. We may have hundreds of clients a year, and tracking the win/loss record is a waste of resources.
Second, what counts as a win for an attorney and his client is often very different from a layperson’s understanding of a “win.”
For example, the layperson might think that a jury verdict of “not guilty” would be considered a win.
Or an outright dismissal of all charges.
Anything else is considered a loss.
If that is the case, then most of a criminal defense lawyers would have a TERRIBLE win/loss percentage.
Most criminal cases resolve with a guilty plea and a sentence of some kind, whether that sentence is probation, community service, or jail.
The reason? Most criminal cases are filed after they have been extensively investigated and prepared for filing by law enforcement and the district attorney.
If the district attorney doesn’t think that the case is pretty close to a slam dunk, then he won’t pursue it. The local governments cannot afford to waste time or resources on ‘maybe’ cases.
Depending on the circumstances, a defendant might be extremely excited to plead guilty and receive a specific jail sentence, or even probation.
This would be considered a win for that client, but for the potential client concerned only with an acquittal, it would be considered a loss.
Further, in certain practice areas, trials happen infrequently.
The wins might not be relevant to the case or even recent.
Instead of asking for win/loss record, it is much more helpful to ask about cases in the past 12-24 months that the attorney was primary on, and how those outcomes were “wins” for that particular client.
As the potential attorney speaks, the client should ask himself:
Is the attorney answering the questions I asked, or is he trying to get around a direct response with other related information?
Do the attorney’s answers inspire me to trust him?
Do I feel more anxious about my case or less now that I have talked to this potential attorney?
Is the attorney’s plan for my case consistent with mine?
Do I like this person?
Will I feel comfortable paying this individual a lot of money?
Does this person have the experience and skill to help me?
Will I feel good about having this person stand up and speak for me, to be my representative?
If the answers to these questions are “no” then it might be prudent to interview another firm.
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