What Is a Free Law Consultation?
A law consultation is an initial meeting with a lawyer that allows you to discuss your issue and their approach before you decide to hire them to represent you. Many attorneys offer free legal consultations for prospective clients, which gives you a chance to explore your options without being charged a fee for their time. Aside from allowing you to assess lawyers before hiring them, these consultations also give attorneys a chance to determine if they can competently and legally represent you in your particular legal matter.
What Is Discussed at a Free Legal Consultation?
Because there are so many different reasons for a person to pursue legal counsel from an experienced lawyer, what you discuss during the consultation varies quite a bit. Typically, you and the attorney will talk about at least a few key details in a free legal consultation, such as:
Your Legal Matter
One of the primary topics of conversation during a free law consultation is your specific legal claim. During the discussion, you should share the facts about your situation and avoid any dishonesty or embellishments. In order for an attorney to effectively evaluate the legal issue and represent you, they need to be aware of every detail surrounding your case.
Even though the attorney may not be officially representing you yet, legal consultations are always privileged and confidential. In other words, anything you share with the attorney during this initial meeting will not be discussed with others.
The Cost of Representation
Legal consultations usually include a discussion about the attorney's fees for representing you in your legal dispute. Depending on the lawyer and the case, they could charge an hourly fee, a flat fee, or a contingency fee. If they don't bring it up during the consultation, it's imperative that you do so that you can make an informed decision about your options.
Though there are free and low-cost options for legal representation available to you, it's important to note that having a legal consultation doesn't imply that the lawyer has taken your case or is officially representing you. The attorney you meet with may provide preliminary advice for no charge, but actionable legal advice is usually reserved for paying clients.
How to Research and Evaluate Your Legal Issue
Some legal matters require professional expertise, while others can be resolved on their own. In order to fully understand your legal issue and determine the kind of help you need, you should follow these steps:
1. Define the issue
Before you can go very far, you're going to need to figure out a few specifics regarding your particular legal issue. For example, you'll need to determine whether it's a civil or criminal case, if it's under federal, state, or municipal jurisdiction, and what area of the law represents this matter. Once you're armed with this information, you can begin your research and learn about your options, next steps, and possible outcomes.
There are some matters that, though they seem wrong, aren't illegal, so you'll first need to figure out if you have an actual legal issue or just a problem. From there, you have to determine if you can and should sue the other party. Even though you can essentially sue anyone on any grounds, it's often a waste of money and time. If you're thinking about suing someone, a legal consultation can help you decide whether you could take your case to court. In some cases, you might opt for arbitration or mediation instead.
When deciding if you should sue, it can be helpful to consider the following questions:
- Do you have a written contract with the other party? If not, then an explicit agreement, even if it is unwritten, will help your case.
- Can you prove that you held up your end of the agreement and the other party did not?
- Do you think that you have a good chance of winning the suit?
- Do you believe that pursuing the suit would be a good use of your resources and time? Weigh the pros and cons, and think about whether the other party would even have enough money to pay your claim if you win.
2. Determine the facts
Breaking your legal issue up based on the facts helps you fully understand your case, but it also provides you with the keywords you'll need to conduct your own research. There's a popular legal research method called TARP that can help you determine the details. It stands for:
- Thing: This is the subject matter of the case. For example, it could be a divorce. In some cases, there are multiple subjects involved, like divorce and child custody.
- Cause of action: The cause of action refers to how you were wronged. Some examples include slander, fraud, breach of contract, or negligence.
- Relief sought: This can refer to the monetary compensation you're pursuing for your suffering, pain, or expenses, or it can be a restriction placed on the defendant to prevent them from engaging in a particular behavior in the future.
- Parties involved: This refers to the individuals involved in the legal matter and the roles that they played.
3. Decide on your next step
Based on your research, you can decide whether the matter is worth pursuing, if you think you can handle it on your own, or if you need to seek help through a free legal consultation.
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How to Prepare for a Law Consultation
Before you have a free consultation with an attorney, you should make sure that you're appropriately prepared by gathering any documents that you think could be relevant to your claim. The attorney will be able to go through the documents to determine which ones are pertinent. Here are some examples of documents you could bring with you:
- Employment records: If your case involves an employment dispute, it's important to bring any records of your employment, such as your timesheets, employment agreement, or employment contract
- Property deeds: When claims involve property disputes, you'll want to gather any documentation that directly relates to the property, namely a copy of the deed. You can also bring other relevant documents, like a gas and oil lease.
- Accident or police reports: If an accident or police report exists as a result of the incident you were involved in, you should bring that to your law consultation.
- Contracts: For claims that arise from a contract dispute, you should bring documents that are relevant to the contract, including copies of the agreement.
- Documents with evidence of damages or expenses: Some other relevant documents that you should bring with you are those that provide evidence of damages, like warranties, expenses, medical records, or any correspondence created by the person or company you're trying to sue.
If you're faced with a legal matter, it's imperative that you fully understand the issue so that you can explore your options and make an informed decision. A free law consultation can be invaluable if you're uncertain of your next steps. Not only does it help you assess possible legal representation, but it also allows you to discover whether you actually have a case that's worth pursuing.