Almost everyone needs some legal help at some point of time. Wills need to be written, persons charged with crimes need to defend the charges, or a marriage is in trouble and looks like it may end in divorce. The list is endless.
Like everyone else, sometimes employees need to hire an attorney. Do you have reason to think that you were you denied a promotion because of your gender? Maybe you were laid off or fired because you suspect the employer wanted to hire someone younger with a smaller salary. Once you've taken that important first step and contacted an attorney, there are some things you keep in mind when preparing for your meeting to make it productive and informative, for both of you.
Make a Good Impression
You want to be on-time for your appointment. Your time is valuable, and the attorney's time is too. You don't want to be in the waiting room too long "wasting" time when you could be at work or looking for a job. You may have taken a vacation or personal day. Your attorney doesn't want to wait for you, either. Time spent waiting for you is time she could be spending with another client.
Dress as nicely as you can. You want your appearance to match your goals and intentions. That is, you want to look as though you're taking the meeting seriously.
Bring the things you need or were asked to bring. Sometimes lawyers have new or potential clients fill out questionnaires about personal information, such as your name, address, telephone numbers, and maybe even your work history. You may also be asked to give a brief statement about why you contacted the attorney in the first place, covering what you think or what the lawsuit is about. Don't forget any documents the attorney may have asked for or you think are important, such as employee handbook.
Bring a list of persons who can help prove your claim, like co-workers. And, have a list of questions for your attorney to answer about the case, like :
- How many cases like yours the attorney has handled in the past and his success rate
- If the attorney prefers to reach settlement agreements or go to trial
- If the lawyer works alone or has other lawyers in her office or colleagues that may be asked to help on the case
The more interest you show in the case and your willingness to help will show the attorney that you're serious and the case is worth the attorney's time and effort.
First and foremost, be honest. Some attorneys may ask you at the very beginning of the meeting to tell him about your case, even though you may have given him a brief written statement or talked to him on the phone long before this meeting. Don't embellish the facts or your story; just give the bare facts. And when he asks you questions, give him direct and truthful answers. It's better for you both if the attorney finds out everything about your case, good or bad, at the beginning. This way the attorney can prepare your case without fear of surprises later.
Don't worry about your secrets, either. Even if you don't hire the attorney, anything you tell her about your case is confidential. So, she can't tell your employer or co-workers anything you say. An exception to this is if you told the attorney that you planned to commit some crime against the employer or a co-worker. In such a case, the attorney has a legal duty to tell law enforcement about your intentions.
If the attorney decides to take your case, she'll tell you what she'll charge you for her services, or her "attorney's fees." She'll likely give you a contract to sign that states her attorney's fees. By signing it, you promise to pay those fees. This contract is usually called a retainer agreement, legal services agreement, or similar name. The attorney should explain this contract to you in detail, and it's important that you read and understand it before you sign.
When you sign the contract, be prepared to give your attorney some money, even though she's done nothing more than listen to you and agree to take your case. This is called a retainer, which essentially is a down payment or deposit on her fees.
Don't confuse attorney's fees with court costs, or litigation costs or expenses. Filing lawsuits and going to trial costs money. You have to pay for all sorts of things, such as filing papers with a court, interviewing the other party, the defendant, which is called discovery.
These costs are separate from attorney's fees, which are strictly what the attorney is charging you for his time. You have to pay these costs on top of the attorney's fees.
After your initial meeting, you should have a good idea of what's supposed to happen next. Is the attorney going to file a lawsuit? Make sure you get any information or documents that your lawyer asks for and get them to her as soon as possible. Make sure you know how to reach the attorney and that she knows how to reach you. If anything new happens, like your employer calls you to "discuss" things or you see or hear something at work, you need to contact your attorney immediately.